- The most beautiful star in the sky is Mama
4-year-old boy who lost mom to tsunami: 'The most beautiful star in the sky is Mama'
RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate -- "The most beautiful star in the sky is Mama," says a young boy, repeating what his father told him, as he looks up at the clear night sky.
Four-year-old Ritsu and his 2-year-old brother Ei lost their mother, 32-year-old Kumiko Oikawa, to the tsunami. Kumiko, who liked the piano, had given her sons musical names: "Ritsu" from the word "senritsu," meaning "melody," and "Ei," meaning the chanting or singing of poetry.
An employee of the city library, Kumiko fled with her co-workers to a gym next to the library on the day of the earthquake, but it was there that she was taken by the tsunami.
At the time of the earthquake, Ritsu and Ei were at their nursery school having a nap. As the tsunami approached, the nursery school teachers told Ritsu and Ei and the other children not to stop to put on their shoes or coats as they fled the school.
"I was only wearing my socks, so my feet started to hurt and the teacher picked me up," said Ritsu. He, his younger brother, and their father Katsumasa, 33, all survived.
Now, Ritsu and Ei are staying at their maternal grandparents' house. When grandmother Mamiko, 62, was talking of her lost daughter, tears began to swell in her eyes. Nearby, Ritsu was momentarily tearful as well, but soon he was cheerful again. Ei, meanwhile, posed like superhero Ultraman and proclaimed, "I'll protect you, Grandma."
It was seven days after the tsunami that Ritsu took up a pen and drew a picture that would capture the heart of his grandmother. It was a portrait of his smiling mother, Kumiko.
"I want to get washed away so I can see Mama," said Ritsu, too young to understand the terror of the tsunami. With a sad and lonely feeling, Mamiko recorded Ritsu's words on the back of the drawing.
Kumiko had kept pictures and records of the growth of her two sons meticulously. "That was all washed away, and I have to take on that role now," says Mamiko. "I'm keeping their artwork so that one day I can tell my grandchildren about this time." She keeps the two boys' creations in a sky blue box.
Heading out to the bath, separate from the main building of his grandparents' house, Ritsu said, "I'm gonna see if Mama's out there." Outside, he looked up and searched the sky.
"That most beautiful star in the middle is Mama. I want to turn into a shining star and I want Mama to hold me and we'll look down at the city together," he says.
If he could meet his mother, Ritsu has something he would tell her: "Daddy's OK."
(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2011