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February 12, 2014

Man learns diving to search for missing wife

SENDAI, Japan — Though it has been almost three years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, Yasuo Takamatsu's love for his missing wife is unchanged, prompting him to acquire a national diving license to find her remains by himself.

Takamatsu, 57, a company employee in Onagawa, plans to dive in the ocean with volunteers this summer to look for his wife, Yuko, who is believed to have been swept away by the tsunami in March 2011.

On Tuesday, a day that marked two years and 11 months since the disaster, Takamatsu was practicing diving in the waters off Ishinomaki in the prefecture with an instructor to improve his skills.

The seawater temperature was 5 C (41 F). Takamatsu, wearing about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of diving equipment, had a hard time controlling his buoyancy and struggled in the water.

"I still have a long way to go," Takamatsu said with a wry grin. His instructor, Masayoshi Takahashi, 34, encouraged him, saying, "You'll get used to it."

It was October when Takamatsu visited Takahashi, who was engaged in volunteer activities including removing debris from the seabed. Takahashi agreed to teach him how to dive as he was moved by Takamatsu's zeal for bringing his wife's remains home with his own hands.

Takamatsu was at a local hospital when the quake occurred in 2011, accompanying his mother.

He went home and waited for his wife to come back. But she never did.

An e-mail from her shortly after the quake said: "Are you OK? I want to go home."

The next day he visited the Onagawa branch office of the 77 Bank where his wife worked. There, he learned that some bank employees were swept away by the tsunami.

"I should have gone to the bank to pick her up," he said.

Such feelings of guilt prompted him to obtain the diving license.

Takamatsu acquired the license on Friday. "I want to find any trace of her, even a little piece of bone," he said.

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