"I will not stop searching until I find all of her remains." These are the heartbreaking yet determined words of 51-year-old Norio Kimura, a man whose daughter Yuna, then 7, went missing here during the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
Six years have passed since the disaster, and Kimura no longer lives in the Okuma area. He decided to move to Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture in the summer of 2011, after residents were told to evacuate. Nevertheless, despite living in a different prefecture, Kimura frequently returns to Okuma in his car -- which has now clocked over 200,000 kilometers after five years of use -- in search of his daughter's entire remains.
After five years of no trace of Yuna, a small development occurred on Dec. 9, 2016. A scarf and a neck bone several centimeters in length were discovered by a local worker on the coast, some 200 meters from Kimura's old home. Follow-up DNA analysis revealed that the bone belonged to Yuna, and Kimura was quickly contacted about the discovery.
Later on, additional bones and teeth belonging to Yuna were also found in the area, and they were handed to Kimura by Futaba Police Station in Fukushima Prefecture earlier this month. Upon receiving these tiny pieces, Kimura stated, "I am told that these are some of Yuna's remains, but it doesn't really feel that way."
Kimura's daughter was the only person in Okuma to remain missing for a long period of time. The town was subject to an evacuation order, due to its proximity to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and this has meant that a large-scale thorough search has not taken place until recently. Kimura grudgingly accepts this decision: "It was very frustrating that the authorities wouldn't look for her." However, taking into account the radiation dosage around this area, he didn't protest that aggressively.
Every month, Kimura returns to Okuma in search of Yuna's remains. In March 2017, this journalist accompanied Kimura and his acquaintances on one of his searches -- observing the flowers that had been placed in the area where Yuna's remains had been partially found.
After the first of Yuna's remains were found in December 2016, a senior official from TEPCO visited the site to pay tribute but the gesture was not enough for Kimura. "I wanted them to come here six years ago," he says in frustration. "They say that the affected areas are recovering but Yuna has just been abandoned -- despite the fact that her remains are still in this area."