RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan — On an empty stretch of the Long Beach Peninsula, Russ Lewis searches for lost memories. Over the past year, he’s found various pieces of tsunami debris scattered across the beach, including everything from a large buoy to a mannequin head.
Tucked in the back of his garage was a brightly colored volleyball.
“This has been on a long voyage from a terrible disaster and it finally made landfall on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Washington State and I was lucky enough to find it, so let’s sent it back,” said Lewis.
KGW News traveled to Japan in search of the volleyball’s owner. It’s believed to be from Rikuzentakata.
On March 11, 2011, a massive tsunami literally wiped this coastal town off the map. A 62-foot high wall of water destroyed buildings. Roughly 1,800 people died in Rikuzentakata. That’s roughly one out of every ten residents.
Many of those who survived the disaster live in temporary houses.
When KGW visited Rikuzentakata, even City Hall was still a temporary box-like structure. The old building was destroyed.
One third of all city employees died in the tsunami.
Sitting in his office, the Mayor of Rikuzentakata held the volleyball in his hands to see if it was from the local high school.
After examining the ball he saw, in Japanese writing: “Takata High School.”
“Yes!” He said.