BY TAKAYUKI KIHARA STAFF WRITER
A picture of 8-year-old Erika Ueno, who perished in the tsunami, and her 3-year-old brother Kotaro, still missing, at the site of their destroyed home in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. (Takayuki Kihara)
MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Takayuki Ueno's wife Kiho gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 16, but he spends much of his time wandering among the rice paddies and along the seashore of this tsunami-hit city looking for his father and son.
The 38-year-old says he stands where his home used to be as the sun sets each day and struggles with the idea that even local residents, consumed by concerns about the accident at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, seem to be forgetting the 663 people killed or missing because of the tsunami.
He says he keeps repeating to himself: "Minami-Soma is leaving the tsunami victims behind."
Ueno's parents and two children were carried away by the tsunami. The bodies of his mother and his 8-year-old daughter Erika were recovered several days later, but the whereabouts of his father and his 3-year-old son Kotaro remain unknown.
"They are still waiting somewhere. I want to give them a hug one last time," he says.
The police and the Self-Defense Forces have withdrawn from the search, but Ueno's search continues. He uses heavy machinery to dig into mud in drainage ditches. He quit his job at an agricultural cooperative to concentrate on the task.
He cannot accept the focus of government officials and the mass media on the nuclear accident.
"They are leaving behind missing people. They say 'reconstruction' and 'hang on.' It's appalling," he says. Heated discussions about compensation for the nuclear accident grate on his nerves.
"I just wish for one thing--may my family be alive," he said.
Ueno and his wife, 35, combined one letter from the new baby's sister's name, another from her brother's name and a kanji for "life" to give her a three-kanji name, pronounced Sarii.