Mother of ‘Japanese hero’ of Van quake lives with memories

Mother of ‘Japanese hero’ of Van quake lives with memories

Mother of ‘Japanese hero’ of Van quake lives with memories

The mother of a Japanese aid volunteer who died in the 2011 earthquake in eastern Turkey has been living with the memories of her son for the last 10 years. 

Miyazaki Atsushi came to the rescue of earthquake victims in the Van province, when it was struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Oct. 23, 2011 and extended his helping hand to people both as a doctor and an aid worker as part of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan).

But a magnitude 5.6 quake jolted the city again on Nov. 9. The second quake caused his hotel to collapse to rubble, and Miyazaki, was taken out of the pile of debris following intense rescue operations, but succumbed to his wounds at a hospital. 

His mother Miyazaki Keiko hosted Anadolu Agency at her home in Oita, southeast of Japan, and talked about her son and the emotional legacy he left behind. Her living room is decorated with photos and newspaper articles on Atsushi’s missions. 

A big picture with the Turkish-Japanese flag is exhibited both at the entrance of her house and in the memory corner for her son. Keiko also preserves the letters, books, and poems sent by the people of Van and students. An Ottoman coat of arms is placed at a corner of the family’s house, and a condolence message sent by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the death of his son is presented on a wall. 

Noting that her son loved to help the needy and has a “desire for help,” Keiko said: “He called me on the phone from [the capital] Ankara to Van, this was our last conversation.” 

“As a mother, I sometimes think ‘if he had not gone to help’ or ‘if there had been no earthquake’,” she said. “I think, ‘wouldn’t it be okay if he had slept in another hotel instead of this hotel when he went to Turkey?’ Earthquake is a natural disaster, there is nothing to do. Even if we say ‘if he didn’t,’ it was his job, his way.” The Oct. 23 and Nov. 9 quakes of 2011 claimed 644 lives and left almost 2,000 people wounded.