Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sachiko MATSUKAWA, a Hero (by guest blogger Yas Yoneda)

While I was in Japan I met Yas. He was volunteering at Tome Base as well.  We wrote down several of the stories that he heard from the people he was working with.  This is just one of them that he graciously gave me to post here for you all to read.


October 31, 2011
Dear Friends and Family at Sylvan Way Baptist Church,

This is a story about a remarkable woman, Mrs. Sachiko MATSUKAWA, who saved lives after the 3-11 earthquakes and tsunami that hit the Sendai area of Japan.

Sachiko Matsukawa

Galatians 6:7-10 came to mind as I thought about Mrs. MATSUKAWA.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NIV)
Mrs. MATSUKAWA is a 61 years old Japanese woman who is bubbling with life and tells tragic stories with a strong voice and with much laughter. She fell in love with the many after school activities in her youth and they became her “boyfriends.” She had no interest in men and was perfectly willing to be single all her life. She was also happy working as an accountant at a local hospital and was well in her 40’s when a relative tricked her into meeting a man for coffee. Even after the meeting, it never occurred to her that she had participated in a match making date. She was stunned when a proposal came her way soon after the first meeting. With some reservations, she agreed to marry Yoshihiro. They are happily married and live with her mother, Mrs. Chiyoko WATANABE (91).

When the tsunami inundated the first floor of houses in the Urayashiki area of Ishinomaki city, Mrs. MATSUKAWA was home with her elderly mother. She and her mother quickly found refuge in their second story bedroom. (Her husband was at work and was never in danger.)

Mrs. “Mini URESHII”, a young mother in her 20’s, was outside when the tsunami rolled in without warning. She had her four-year old by the hand and her mother had her infant tied to her back. They were swept inland but the waves only brought back “URESHII”. The waves took her to a tree in the backyard of Mr. and Mrs. “NANIMO.” As she clung to the tree for her dear life, the elderly “NANIMOs” were unable to provide any assistance. When “URESHII’s” cries for help got unbearable to listen too, the “NANIMO’s” closed their windows without ever acknowledging “URESHII’s” plight.

In the meantime, it was still light when Mrs. MATSUKAWA heard a commotion outside one of her windows. Mr. “TONARI”, a neighbor, was trying to help a couple, “OGII–san” (74) and his wife, “OBA-san” (70), who were floating in the contaminated water. The situation was dire as Mr. “TONARI” and Mrs. MATSUKAWA struggled for hours to pull their neighbors to safety using a make-shift rope. Mrs. MATSUKAWA yelled words of encouragement and told the couple over and over again not to give up hope. She and “TONARI” were able to get “OGII-san” into her second story bedroom. They then concentrated all their effort to save “OBA-san” who was overheard saying that it was too late for her. Mrs. MATSUKAWA yelled back at the elderly neighbor telling her to have courage, that she would be saved. Mrs. MATSUKAWA and “OGII-san” were finally able to pull “OBA-san” to safety but it was too late.

After this harrowing experience, another voice pleading for help was heard in the darkness. It was, of course, “Mini URESHII” who was still stuck in the tree.




Matsukawa’s house with carport is bellow, the tree is in the center and Mrs. “Nanimo’s” house is to the right.


“URESHII” had almost lost all hope of being saved when the people in the house nearest her closed their windows and made no effort to help her. Her hope was restored when she saw Mrs. MATSUKAWA helping the elderly couple.

Mrs. “URESHII” turned all her hope onto Mrs. MATSUKAWA and pleaded for help. Mrs. MATSUKAWA responded with words of encouragement telling her that the civil authorities or the military would be there momentarily to assist her. But the reality was that except for words of encouragement, Mrs. MATSUKAWA knew she could do nothing else as the contaminated water was still 10 to 12 feet high and they were separated by about 40-50 feet of icy cold, contaminated water. The situation was complicated by the fact that Mrs. “URESHII” never learned to swim and even if she could, she did not think she could swim to Mrs. MATSUKAWA’s house because she was chilled to the bone. Icy rain and snow fell all night and the temperature was hovering around freezing; still Mrs. “URESHII” hung on for dear life due largely in part to the hope that Mrs. MATSUKAWA gave her that somehow she would be saved.

It was midnight when Mrs. MATSUKAWA’s elderly mother had to answer the call of nature. Mrs. MATSUKAWA’s solution was to open a window for her mother. It was then that she heard tapping on her downstairs window below the carport and a faint voice crying for help. As silly as this may sound, Mrs. MATSUKAWA’s immediate response was typical Japanese; in the most polite Japanese wording, she asked, “Who is tapping on my window, please?”

Mini Ureshii” tapped on the first floor window located above the two orange floating devices. You also have to visualize a “clean” carport. At the time of the tsunami none of the “junk” was there.


It was, of course, “Mini URESHII”. By this time, she had clung to the tree for nine hours. As she was about to lose all hope of rescue, a log floated by. She knew it was now or never. In a desperate act of survival, she grabbed onto the log and kicked herself over to Mrs. MASTUKAWA’s house. The icy cold, contaminated water had receded but it was still well over 8 feet high.

Mrs. Matsukawa pretending to be “Mini Ureshii” to demonstrate how she and Mr. “Ogii-san” talked “Mini” to the rear of the carport and then lifted her up on top of the carport. The distance between the edge of the carport and the second story windows were too much for the rescuers to overcome.

Over the course of three and a half hours, Mrs. MATSUKAWA and “OGII-san” encouraged “Mini URESHII” to one side of the carport, used the make-shift rope to pull her to the top of the carport and finally around the corner of the house to the second story bathroom window. When Mrs. MATSUKAWA was finally face to face with “Mini URESHII”, she realized the window opening was too small to pull “URESHII” to safety. Mrs. MATSUKAWA said she finally came up with a solution; she cut off “URESHII’s” clothing that was acting like an anchor around her body.

The top bathroom window is where “Mini Ureshii” finally met Mrs. Matsukawa face to face.

It was 3:30 on the morning of March 12 when “Mini URESHII’s” harrowing nightmare finally came to an end. Mrs. MATSUKAWA said that they dried “URESHII” off and placed layers and layers of clothing and all the blankets on her but she shivered all night long; never able to get warm.

Mrs. MATSUKAWA knows that she was true to her character; she never stopped giving hope to those whose plight seemed all but hopeless. Perhaps it is for this reason that she tells her story with a strong voice and laughs at her silly responses during a life and death situation.

Mrs. MATSUKAWA, her 91 years old mother, “Mini URESHII” and “OGII-san” survived by hugging her pet dogs and cats for warmth, and ate one chocolate covered macadamia nut a day without water for three days. By the third or fourth day, military personnel came by in boats but Mrs. MATSUKAWA stayed behind with her elderly mother who had injured her hip during the tsunami and could not be evacuated through the window. She and her mother were finally saved on the sixth day.

The rest of “Mini URESHII’s” family was eventually recovered. “Mini URESHII” and her husband live quietly in the neighborhood. Mrs. MATSUKAWA said she happened upon “Mini” URESHII about a week ago. She said “Mini” is still grieving.

Having heard the story, I now realized why one particular family has never come outside to meet us as we “mudded” houses around her. It also explains why Mrs. MATSUKAWA is full of life and hope. In this life and death situation, two individuals took two very different stances. I imagine one woman is not very proud of her actions and the other has a face beaming with pride.

Yes, it is true “A man reaps what he sows.” “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Yes Lord, I will pray for Mrs. MATSUKAWA’s soul; yes Lord, I will work to restore her home as if you live there. Yes Lord I will be her friend for life and yes Lord, I will respond with the Good News when she is ready.

Dear Jesus, not sure why I got to go to Japan while others more worthy are left home to pray for me. Thank you that they love you so much that they shared in the expense of sending me. Yes, Lord, I will be faithful to you and to your children back home, especially those that call Sylvan Way their home. As long it is day, let me not falter, but stay on course and “mud” homes as if you are going to live in them.


Thank You,

Yas Yoneda


Your Humble Wilderness Scout (Senior Grade)

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Bruce and I just read this together. thank you for sharing this story.

    ReplyDelete