11 March 2011 was truly a tragic day in Japan. Lives were changed and lives were ended. Yet, three years later, two parents who lost a daughter have just received a letter she mailed a decade ago.
"Mum and Dad, by the time you get this letter, perhaps you'll have a grandchild?" the daughter wrote. She was engaged to her high school sweetheart and, in the two-page letter, wrote, "I think I'll be married with a child, but what if I'm all alone?"
Recently, LiveDoor News and Yomiuri Online published an account of a 59 year-old father and a 51-year-old mother who received a letter from their deceased daughter. The article does not reveal the name of the young daughter. But the details, such as her job, her high school sweetheart, and how she passed away as well as the age at which she did do match up to the widely reported story of Chie Oshino (here and here, for example). This was pointed out on Japan's largest web forum, 2ch. It is, however, unconfirmed.
The daughter graduated high school in 2003 and got a job as a bus guide in Kyoto. After that, she returned to her hometown of Otsuchi and got part-time work. It was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The daughter was in Otsuchi town hall, which was swallowed by the tsunami. She was never found.
Here is what Otsuchi looked like after the tsunami and quake hit. You can see another now-famous photo of the town with a boat moored on a building's roof in the lead image.
According to article on LiveDoor, the family's house was not damaged and her parents were not hurt. The parents were grief-stricken, especially the father, who originally asked his daughter to return to Otsuchi. "There were days I didn't care if I died," he is quoted as saying.
On 12 January of this year, the father checked the mail and discovered a letter from his daughter. He wondered if she was still alive. The letter had been mailed when the daughter was still working as a bus guide in 2004 and on a trip in Aichi Prefecture. She had written the letter from Meiji-Mura, a museum dedicated to preserving Japanese architecture of the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912).
The museum has a working post office called Uji-yamada Post Office that offers a "Heartful Letter" (はあとふるレター) service. For ¥300 ($3), you can have them hold a letter and then deliver it ten years later. The daughter had used this service and posted her letter on 10 January 2004. Here is an example of a Heartful Letter (but not the actual letter the daughter mailed).
"Dad and Mum, you have taken so, so much care of me," she wrote, "From now on, I will take care of the both of you." Her parents had no idea their daughter had written this letter, nor that she had felt this way about them.
The letter, delivered 10 years after it was written and nearly three years after their daughter's death, has given her parents new encouragement. They feel proud that she was their daughter and want to live in a way that would make her happy.
Pictures: AP Photo/The Yumiuri Shimbun Lee Jin-man/AP/kaoRingo429