Japan Today

Beloved cat lost in Tohoku disaster comes home over three years later

By Preston Phro

The Tohoku disaster of March, 2011 continues to impact the daily lives of the people of the region even to this day. We have no doubt that its effects will linger in Japan for decades to come.

On Friday, one elderly couple in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture was reunited with the beloved cat they’d lost in the 3/11 disaster — just over three years since the adorable feline went missing and was presumed dead.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Takeo and Kazuko Yamagishi were delighted by the safe return of their beloved cat, Suika, who had gone missed over three years ago on the day of the 2011 Tohoku Disaster.

The elderly couple, both of whom are in their 60s, had long ago given up hope of being reunited with their pet after it disappeared. Fortunately, at least in this case, it turns out that life is more like a Disney movie than we ever realized.

Though the Yamagishis’ house was not damaged by the tsunami that devastated so much of the Japanese coastline, the day’s events were apparently enough to terrify the poor creature. The couple had been out at the time the disaster struck, and, sadly, had come home to find their pet gone. By the summer of 2011, they decided that Suika was probably lost forever and took down the house Takeo built for the animal.

However, the cat was discovered in forest in Rikuzentaka City about 15 kilometers from the Yamagishi’s home and delivered to an animal shelter in Ofunato City on April 10. Since the cat was friendly with people and was wearing a collar, workers decided that it must have owners and waited for them to turn up, not realizing the Suika had been missing for over three years.

After a month of waiting, they decided to take photos of the cat to put in the local newspaper. It was only then that they noticed the name “Yamagishi” and a phone number, now barely perceivable, written in ink on the cat’s collar, and were able to find the cat’s owners.

This is actually the second time poor Suika has been rescued. It seems that the cat had originally come into the care of the Yamagishi family 15 years ago when their eldest son found it in Ofunato City and brought it home. With both of their children grown and out of the home, Suika become the perfect pet for the empty nesters’ affection, and Takeo put his weekend carpentry skills to work building a bed, complete with a parasol to provide shade, for the cat in their garden.

In the time since Suika was missing, it seems as if the cat has had a number of adventures, though we’ll probably never know the details. However, Kazuko noted that there were new bells on Suika’s collar, though it’s not clearly who attached them or when. Though there may be another explanation: Maybe Suika had turned to piracy to survive and the bells were merely mementos of his life on the high seas. Well, maybe.

Asahi Shimbun also has a video of Kazuko embracing Suika for the first time in three years. It’s as adorable as you can probably imagine.

Well, regardless of the details, we’re just happy to see the cat reunited with his humans.

Sources: Mainichi, Asahi Shimbun

Read more stories form RocketNews24. -- Tohoku tsunami survivor’s $12K camera: heart-felt gift or PR stunt? -- 10-year-old letter arrives from daughter lost to tsunami (you might need tissues for this) -- A moving story about how meeting a “talking” cat changed one veterinarian’s life

© RocketNews24

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WOW!!! That cat has been around in more ways than just places. Based on the story, that lucky cat must be close to or already 19 years old. Not too shabby for the tabby. I'd say Suika invested well in those 'nine lives'. Glad to hear he's back home again and happy hear this couple is enjoying the return Suika.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Its not the same cat.

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

? It had the collar on with the owner's phone number....

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Well, regardless of the details, we’re just happy to see the cat reunited with his humans.


Luckily this kitty still had his collar, but collars are easily lost. Better to have all critters microchipped.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Some might say its ''just a cat'' but I think this is a really heartwarming and amazing bit of news. So happy for this couple who have been reunited with their cat. As a cat owner myself I know how much people can adore their little feline companions.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

is the cat really over 15 years old? elderly cats are usually not as energetic as the cat i saw in that video. you'd be lucky to have an elderly cat allow you to set them in your lap, much less swat at and play with you. it's also hard to believe such an old cat could sustain itself in the wild, even for a short while. it really depends on the breed and their life experience. all doubts aside it's a very touching story.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

it's also hard to believe such an old cat could sustain itself in the wild

Well Suika has new bells on his collar, so it's likely he adopted some new temporary family somewhere along the way. Could be there's now another family thinking their elderly rescue kitty has gone missing....

I had a look at the video. I'm no cat expert, but when my neko-himesama makes that kind of noise, twitches her tail like that and holds up her dukes, it's usually a sign she is Not Happy and a warning that blood will flow if the situation doesn't improve soon. But who knows, with Suika maybe that's just the way he is. The couple don't seem too concerned about the warning yeowls.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can feel someone writing a script for a new Hachiko Movie with a cat version.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The bells mean nothing could have been added after he was found.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Weird story. The Japanese press managed to avoid saying whether the cat was a he or a she, so the English article is forced to stay with 'it' until right at the end when the translator suddenly goes with 'he'. Suika (Watermelon) sounds more like the name for a female cat to me, though. (?) Reminds me somehow of the robot cat Doraemon, a neutral pet first and foremost. I remember asking our elderly landlord here what their old dog's name was, and he turned to his wife to ask her. They didn't really have a name!

Incidentally in the Japanese article I read that the woman says the cat is half 'her' former size, and has lost much of 'her' fur. At the age of 15+ though, it's been a long life for a cat!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now THAT'S the kind of story I like to read about concerning the Tohoku area ! Very touching and heart-warming indeed !

6 ( +6 / -0 )

We have 11 cats at home and three of them will be 14 years next month. The three are siblings and two of them are very active and go out everyday. But Suika's survival is quite a miracle as it had to fend for him/herself. So glad she/he was able to return home, the couple are blessed!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is wonderful news! The spirits of Tohoku-jin will be soaring upon reading this. Here's hoping an enormous bronze statue of the miracle cat is erected within months in the centre of Ofunato City, to further inspire the citizens.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Even if it is the same cat as her collar would suggestbher behaviour would have changed and it is highly unlikely she would remember her former owners.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Wait a minute...60s is elderly? Oh cr@p.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Not the first time...seems to have had a few adventures...had a bit of company along the way but eventually made it home....sounds like a feline version of Tora-san!

Good news. Welcome home.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The elderly couple, both of whom are in their 60s

Wait a minute...60s is elderly? Oh cr@p.

I've noticed that in Japan people in their 50s are considered elderly. The 'elderly' ladies who clean the shinkansens, for example. Perhaps this is why Japan has an "aging population" problem. They start the numbers much too low.

Thankfully, in the West Helen Mirin is approaching 70 and is still considered youthful and hot by many. Kim Cattrall of Sex in the City is approaching 65 (but he publicist has been dialing the numbers back since she left her 40s). Nothing "elderly" about her either.

So it's not, "Wait a minute...60 is elderly? Oh cr@p," but "Sixty is elderly? That's cr@p.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It"S ME wrote:

Even if it is the same cat as her collar would suggestbher behaviour would have changed and it is highly unlikely she would remember her former owners.

I lived with three cats each of whom lived to be 19 years of age. In my experience I would say there is absolutely no doubt that a cat who had shared an abode with certain humans for 12 years (not 15 as one reader seem to have understood) would remember them after an absence of three years.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@sensei258, philly1

About 'elderly' people, I appreciate your sentiments. However, as someone who is now 59, I am kind of looking forward to receiving any benefits that materialize when I become 60. Bus passes, discounts on haircuts, whatever. And I'm about to start my worldwide campaign for discounts on tobacco and alcohol for the over-60s. Helen Mirren, however cute, is still 69. She deservers cheap booze and ciggies like anyone else of that age. So I'd appreciate it if you keep those views more low key. (to the moderators, I have a 16 year-old cat so am qualified to speak on this topic.)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

17 for a cat is nothing startling; two of my cats lived to 20.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am kind of looking forward to receiving any benefits that materialize when I become 60. Bus passes, discounts on haircuts, whatever.

Live in an area with no bus service, friend cuts hair, turning 60 provides no benefits at all. Oh, just one, I forgot - enough pension in the bank account every two months to maybe enjoy a good meal out and buy the grandkids a few toys. I'm sticking at 34. Elderly? No way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the video Kazuko has got little Suika tied up to a chair. He was probably happier in the forest.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stewart, looks like you put the spanner in the works.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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