A teenager who lost his home in Japan's devastating tsunami now knows that one prized possession survived: a football that drifted all the way to Alaska.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the ball with the youngster's name inscribed on it is one of the first pieces of debris from last year's tsunami to wash up on the other side of the Pacific. A man found the ball while beachcombing on an Alaskan island, and his wife, who is Japanese, talked with its owner, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, by phone over the weekend. They plan to send the ball back to him soon. Murakami, from the town of Rikuzentakata, is surprised and thankful the football, or soccer ball, has been found more than 5,000 kilometers (more than 3,000 miles) away. ”It was a big surprise. I've never imagined that my ball has reached Alaska,” Murakami told public broadcaster NHK. “I've lost everything in the tsunami. So I'm delighted,” he said. “I really want to say thank you for finding the ball.” He was particularly glad because all furniture and sentimental items in his home had been washed away in the March 11, 2011, tsunami, which devastated a long stretch of Japan's northeastern coast and killed about 19,000 people. The ball, which also had messages of encouragement written on it, was given to him in 2005, when Murakami was in third grade, as a goodbye gift when he transferred to another school.