Photo/IllutrationTori Yarita shows a returned New Year’s greeting card that had been written by her eldest daughter, Emiko Tomahara, left, in the Kita district of Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, in November. (Tomomi Terasawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

ICHIHARA, Chiba Prefecture--A 92-year-old widow who survived a double natural disaster in October managed to regain one of her many cherished mementos that were blown away in a tornado.

A New Year’s greeting card penned 39 years ago was found in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, 30 kilometers from Tori Yarita’s severely damaged home in Ichihara’s Shimono district. The card was addressed to her husband, Sutekichi, and written by their daughter, who had left the family home to get married.

“This year is the year of my own (zodiac animal), so I have to work hard!” the message on the card reads.

The return of the card to Tori came at a time of misery and despair.

Hours before Typhoon No. 19 hit the Kanto area on Oct. 12, a tornado touched down in Chiba Prefecture, damaging or destroying 89 houses and killing one resident.

The second floor of Tori’s home was destroyed by the tornado, but she managed to survive in the living room on the first floor.

“A roaring sound suddenly came, and the roof was blown away and rain poured in,” Tori said. “The residence was a place where family members would gather for the New Year holidays.”

Photos of her travels with her husband, who died more than 10 years ago, a wedding ring and many other reminders went missing.

The damaged home was torn down and the site became a vacant lot. Tori now lives with her eldest daughter, Emiko Tomahara, 62, in Ichihara’s Kita district.

It was Emiko who had written the New Year’s greeting card when she was pregnant with her first daughter.

According to Tori, Sutekichi was looking forward to seeing their first grandchild “so much that he bought many children’s clothes.” Although he discarded most of the New Year’s cards he received, he kept Emiko’s missive in a room on the second floor of the home.

The day after the typhoon hit, a card whose edges were damp was found in the yard of Urayasu city-run Irifune Elementary School. Although the date listed on the card was 1981, it remained free of yellow stains from aging.

The message written in blue ink also urged Sutekichi to “call on us.”

Yasuhito Sasaki, 46, a teacher at the school, thought that the card “might belong to a tornado victim” and contacted the Chiba general office of The Asahi Shimbun. An Asahi Shimbun reporter brought the card to Tori in late October.

“Light materials like letters can be carried tens of kilometers by ascending air currents caused by tornadoes to cumulonimbi above,” said Fumiaki Kobayashi, a meteorology professor at the National Defense Academy. “The card was most likely blown away by the tornado.”

In Saroma, Hokkaido, in November 2006, a tornado carried a document more than 10 km to a lake, according to Kobayashi.

The returned New Year’s card rekindled fond memories of Sutekichi.

Tori and Emiko recalled that he usually used his light truck to pick up his granddaughter so he could spend time with her at home. They also said he was the first to realize that Emiko was pregnant.

“The card reminded me of my husband again after a long period,” Tori said, smiling.

She delicately put the card in a plastic bag and placed it in a shelf drawer.