Remembering the Brutal March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011: Fire Brigade Heroes of Otsuchi and Fleeing Embassies

Remembering the Brutal March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011: Fire Brigade Heroes of Otsuchi and Fleeing Embassies

Kanako Itamae and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


March 11, 2011, will forever be etched in the consciousness of Japan because of the brutal reality of the Great East Japan Earthquake that triggered a brutal tsunami. Indeed, even today over 2,5oo citizens are still deemed missing, while the death total is currently just below 16,000. On top of this, vast numbers of Japanese nationals are still deemed to be evacuees therefore for many citizens the brutal reality of March 11 is an ongoing nightmare.

It is nigh impossible to focus on any single event because the tragedy engulfed so many people and prefectures. This reality means that you have many stories that are tragic and heartbreaking. However, in all tragedies you have beacons of light where humanity is witnessed in all its beauty despite the sad reality of death and destruction.

One powerful memory that remains etched is the bravery of the fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi. Yes, it is clear that you will have many heartwarming stories of utter bravery by individuals who will never be known. Likewise, some brave Japanese souls will have passed away while trying to rescue people before being swept up by the brutal tsunami that killed so many people.

Unlike the brave fire brigade heroes of Otsuchi, some foreign embassies based in Tokyo pulled their nationals out of leafy Tokyo despite being very far from the epicenter of the earthquake. Also, the tsunami that was responsible for the vast majority of deaths was never a threat to Tokyo. This highlights both the bravery of certain nationals compared with the non-loyalty of others that ran for cover despite having nothing to fear.

Indeed, in all human tragedies created by the forces of nature you will witness the opposite. Given this reality, it shows the utter self-sacrifice given by the brave souls of the fire brigade based in Otsuchi.

The No. 2 branch of the fire brigade in Otsuchi knew full well that they were guardians on the abyss of death and destruction. Yet, the fire brigade did not flinch – unlike certain embassies and others who fled from distant Tokyo. Indeed, some foreign nationals even left Japan in panic despite being in the comfort of safety at all time. This reality highlights the utter devotion of the No. 2 fire brigade of Otsuchi because to these brave souls other people came first.

Shortly after the devastating earthquake and tsunami it soon became known that four members of the fire brigade had perished. Also, during the initial period another seven had been presumed dead. Irrespective of the final number who perished it is clear that the No. 2 branch fire brigade in the Akahama district of Otsuchi gave everything for their community.

It is known that a fire brigade hero called Fujio Koshida was still sounding the warning bell while the waves were about to engulf him and sweep him away from this world. Takeyasu Tobai, the former head of the same branch of the local fire brigade, reported that he could hear the bell that Fujio Koshida was ringing in order to warn people.

Takeyasu Tobai stated, “I guess he could see the sea” and “It was a sad sound. I can still hear it.”  

Fujio Koshida and other brave members of the local fire brigade in Otsuchi sacrificed everything in order that others could survive the devastating tsunami. Therefore, it is sincerely hoped that these brave souls will always be remembered because they showed the beauty of humanity.

In contrast, certain embassies, international workers and others fled Japan at the drop of a hat despite never being endangered.

Modern Tokyo Times states in a past article that: Fujio Koshida and all members of this fire brigade, irrespective if they died or survived, did everything in their power to help the people of Otsuchi.”


Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group

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This article is republished in the memory of the “Fire brigade Heroes of Otsuchi” – and remembering how so-called friends of Japan fled quickly. 

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