Postbox drifts to Iriomote from tsunami-hit Miyagi town

Postbox drifts to Iriomote from tsunami-hit Miyagi town

The postbox that drifted to Iriomote Island (Photograph provided by the Iriomote Ecotourism Society).


February 9, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

On December 28, 2012, local residents found a postbox that had drifted from Minamisanriku-cho in Miyagi Prefecture to a spot near the mouth of the Yutsun River in Taketomi-cho, in the northeastern area of Iriomote Island. It must have been swept away by the tsunami that came after the Great East Japan Earthquake, on March 11, 2011. Staff of the Okinawa branch of Japan Post collected the postbox on February 4, and will transport it to their Tohoku Branch. They are considering how to use it as a memorial of the tragedy. The sign in Japanese “Seven Utatsu” is still visible, indicating that the postbox was from the 7-Eleven Miyagi Utatsu store, located in the Utatsu district of Minamisanriku. Devastated by the earthquake, the location is now vacant.

On January 4, at the Yaeyama Post Office in Ishigaki, the sign “Seven Utatsu” remains on the postbox.


Traveling in a straight line, the distance between Minamisanriku-cho and Iriomote is about 2400 kilometers. As testimony to its long time at sea, there were shellfish attached to the postbox, and it contained what looks like seaweed, but there were no postal items inside. It is made of fiber-reinforced plastic, and its dimensions are 66 x 45 x 33 centimeters. The postbox would have been knocked off by the tsunami and swept away, but it has still maintained its original shape.

According to Japan Post, 253 postboxes in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were swept away by the tsunami. Some have been found in Hokkaido.

Sadakatsu Shimanaka, the assistant manager of the Okinawa Branch that recovered the postbox, said, “I am deeply moved to think that this postbox, which has seen so many letters that people wrote, creating bonds between people, made it all the way to Okinawa.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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