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Girl who lost father in last year’s deadly Hokkaido blizzard pens heart-wrenching thank-you letter

By Scott R Dixon

While Tokyo’s recent blizzard showed us the lighter side of natural disasters with amusing snow sculptures and insane images of overly panicked urbanites, these kind of storms have the potential to be very deadly and serious if you are caught outside. Last March, a violent storm hit the northeast part of Hokkaido and took the lives of nine people.

One of the most tragic stories to come out of this storm was a young girl who lost her father after he used his own body to protect her from the freezing temperatures and strong winds. On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, the girl asked one of Japan’s biggest newspapers, the Yomiuri Shimbun, to publish a heart-breaking letter thanking the country for the huge outpouring of support over the past year.

On March 2, 53-year-old Mikio Okada and his then nine-year-old daughter Natsune were driving down a road in Yubetsu Town, Hokkaido when their minitruck became stranded in the deep snow. The pair decided to abandon the truck to find shelter, but found themselves stranded out in the elements. With no way to keep warm, Okada hunched over his daughter and held her tight, shielding her from the wind and snow. The next morning, local police found the girl cradled in the arms of her father who had frozen to death overnight.

The girl received more than 400 pieces of mail, stuffed animals and other notes of support from people around Japan who heard her heart-breaking story. Since Natsune could not reply to everyone, she wanted to publish a letter in a national newspaper to thank everyone who had reached out to her during the very difficult year.

In the letter, she said that she “cried a river of tears when I found out that my father had died protecting me,” but that the overwhelming amount of support from strangers “surprised me and made me so very happy.” She wrote that the kind words of people from all over Japan have inspired her to “become a person that thinks of others.”

Natsune, whose mother died several years earlier, now lives with a relative in a nearby area, who told a local newspaper that she hopes to raise the young girl “to not forget the kindness of others and look for ways to repay that in the future.”

The bereaved elementary student told her supporters in the letter that she is living a happy life and enjoys “walking to school through snowy roads with my friend.” But even though a year has passed since her father died, Natsune said she can still see his “kind face” sometimes at night and the tears still come.

Japanese Internet commenters were blown away by this now 10-year-old girl’s decision to publish such a thoughtful letter despite her very tough situation. Many on Twitter said that reading the story drove them to tears, even if they were reading it in the middle of a crowded train. For readers that had children, this story hit them hard and wondered if they could do the same thing in such a situation.

"What a wonderful father and he raised an amazing daughter to want to thank her supporters even during her grief."

"This is something you can’t forget. I think she will become a wonderful woman under her father’s watchful eye from heaven."

"There’s no greater love than to sacrifice your life for your child’s. I won’t stop praying for Natsune."

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News, Hokkaido Shimbun

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Hospital Restages Daughter’s Wedding for Bedridden Father -- 12 tales of true hospitality from Japanese hotels and inns -- Hiroshima Elementary School Girl Killed by Own Abusive Mother

© RocketNews24

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Ever stop praying for both of them? Not possible.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Bless her. It was her father's greatest act and even joy to save his daughter's life.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

A remarkable young girl who is here today through the selfless actions of her father.

One tragic BTW in this story is the father didn't follow the "rules" of the conditions.

In a freezing blizzard never, ever leave your vehicle. Inside might well be -2 but outside will surely be -20c.

Sadly, there is the great possibility he never had to die.

I wish her all the best for a challenging life.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Honestly brought some tears to my eyes.

3 ( +4 / -1 )


It's possible that the snowfall was so heavy that he may have been afraid that his car would be completely buried in snow, in which case he and his daughter would suffocate. So I guess he though they could find some shelter somewhere.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He sang to her as he died. You can read her letter in Japanese here http://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/news/donai/522333.html

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Brainiac -

Yes it is possible the car may well be covered in snow, but a few minutes outside clearing away the snow - even multiple times - would surely be better than all night exposed to the elements with zero protection.

As I recall he knew the area well and he thought they could foot-slog it to his friends house. Sadly in raging blizzard conditions this was not to be.

If one lives in areas subject to such hazardous conditions (it's not rare in Hokkaido) you need to keep survival items in your vehicle such as thermal blankets, lights, biscuits, water etc.

And my comments in no way are meant to diminish the tragedy of the the young girl and her father.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Undeniably a great father and it sounds like his daughter is a wonderful human being even at such a young age too.

browny1 does have a point about keeping things in your car. We have emergency stuff at home, and also in our car, because you never know where problems may occur and having a backup supply is good insurance.

That said, I won't fault the dad. He got caught out, it happens. He showed his worth protecting his daughter to the last. A true hero.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ah jesus I'm getting emotional.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

i have never cried reading a news story before until i read this one. what a selfless act of love. if there is a heaven, then that man definitely deserves to be in it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It takes a lot to bring tears to my eyes but this story surely did!! There is no greater love than the love of and for your children..This father is truly a hero may he RIP !!

@browny1 - Do u live in Hokkaido? I do , been here for 10yrs and the winters are brutal!! It's easy to judge from the outside looking in .. I remember this storm last yr and some people did follow your aforementioned rule and died of carbon monoxide poisoning !!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

HB714 - thanks for your comments.

No I don't live in Hokkaido.

Did the people who sadly died last year have their engines running?

If yes, Did they open their windows regularly for a minute or 2?

Or Did they go outside at intervals to clear away snow from exhaust pipes?

If no, Did they open their windows regularly for a moment or 2?

Or did they have safety/survival gear in the car?

My point before was about the difference in temperatures inside a vehicle (without the engine running) as opposed to outside temperatures where wind chill factors (it was a blizzard) will drop the temp by 30c in an instance.

Common sense will tell us that the best option is to stay inside.

It may well not be perfect and there could be a level of risk involved, but balanced with the horrendous alternative prevailing conditions, I know what I would choose.

In Australia my home country, similar things occur at the other extremity - severe heat conditions. People in isolated places in temps over 45c leave their cars after breaking down and sadly perish trying to make it to a house/town/help etc. Having enough survival goods and staying with the car, in many cases would have seen these people survive.

I agree - when using hindsight it is easy pass comment. So I wish people would use more foresight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@browny1-I get where your coming from.. And I couldn't agree more as far as the best alternative being to just stay inside.. As that is what I did myself last year during the aforementioned storm.. Quite a few froze to death or died do carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars.. Unfortunately, even in the worst of conditions many Japanese go about business as usual..I do remember trying to clear snow last year during that storm and it was a losing battle, conditions were horrendous !! It is always best to be prepared for whatever nature or life might throw at us but in my experience many are not.. Had it been me stuck , I would have definitely stayed with my car and tried to do what u mentioned above but it's still no guarantee ..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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