Photo/Illutration Seietsu Sato shows the English-language electronic edition of the book he penned for his late wife, Atsuko, in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 16. (Yusuke Hoshino)

KESENNUMA, Miyagi Prefecture--Seietsu Sato, after spending hours toiling to rescue residents as a firefighter after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, collapsed on learning that his beloved wife was among those listed as missing.

Long grief-stricken, Sato authored a book, which has been translated into English, as a way to share her memories with readers across the world and offer lessons about precautions to take against natural disasters.

Titled “Gone with the Tsunami: A Love Letter to My Wife,” the book centers on his spouse, Atsuko, who perished at the age of 58 in the towering tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake that claimed nearly 16,000 lives.

Sato, 69, found that writing the book helped him recover mentally.

“Although memories fade with time, records will not be lost,” he said. “I hope my book will help readers learn how to protect their lives and those who are precious to them by tracing my feelings, as natural disasters are frequently occurring around the world.”

Detailing his own footsteps and his encounter with Atsuko, the book was published on March 11, 2021, the 10th anniversary of the disaster. The English-language electronic edition came out on March 11 this year.

Sato paid a visit to the site where Atsuko’s body was discovered to mouth a silent message about the English version on that day.

Sato was head of the command headquarters at the Kesennuma fire department when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit the northeastern Tohoku region.

With the townscape obliterated by the tsunami and fires that had broken out, Sato threw himself into the rescue operation.

The day after the catastrophe, Sato learned Atsuko, who worked at a care facility for elderly residents, was among those missing. Her body was discovered on the Koizumi coast in the southern part of the city five days after the tsunami.

Sato was distraught that he had been unable to save the life of the person he loved the most, a bitter pill to swallow given how hard he had trained to protect residents. Filled with remorse, Sato started to give lectures on disaster preparedness in and outside Japan after his retirement.

“A Love Letter to My Wife” was translated by Noricco (Noriko) Toyoda, an associate professor of linguistics at Niigata University of Health and Welfare.

“I wanted readers around the world to retrace his thoughts and emotions,” said Toyoda, who has also interpreted when Sato gave lectures.

The first of the two-volume title centers on the day the earthquake hit, how he discovered his wife’s body and why Sato started talking in public about his experiences.

Scheduled for release this winter, the second volume will focus on Sato’s trip to Hawaii in commemoration of Atsuko because the pair had vowed to travel there together. A speech delivered at a U.S. university will also be featured.