Earthquake survivor inspired by shogi pieces found under home where wife died

Six weeks after the Noto Peninsula Earthquake claimed more than 200 lives, survivors struggle to rebuild despite their grief for loved ones killed in the disaster. One man who lost his wife has found inspiration under the rubble of the home where she died.

Shioi Kazuhito, 63 years-old, and his 64 years-old wife, Kimiko, were relaxing at home in Suzu City on New Year's Day when the quake struck.

Kazuhito recalls that the first shock was not so bad compared to his past experiences. But the second was so severe that it brought the second floor of their house down upon them. Kazuhito survived because he was in an area not covered by the ceiling, but his wife was pinned and trapped.

He called out to her, but there was no response.

Shioi Kazuhito walks to his home that collapsed in the New Year's Day earthquake.

Three days later, the body of his beloved wife was recovered by the Self-Defense Forces from their destroyed home. Kazuhito told her he knew it must have been painful and cold, since it had been raining and snowing.

Bond of marriage

Kazuhito and Kimiko met thanks to the introduction of a mutual friend. They married in 1997, and raised two children together.

A photo provided by Shioi Kazuhito shows his wife Kimiko by his side.

The children grew and left home, but Kazuhito says his wife always looked forward to sending them things like rice and fruit.

Kazuhito was a devoted player of shogi, a traditional board game, having pursued it since childhood and attained a high amateur rank. Right from the start of their marriage, he frequently traveled to shogi tournaments on days off, but Kimiko never complained and always treated him warmly.

Kazuhito also supplied shogi pieces and boards to matches of a shogi title series, the Kio series, held in the city of Kanazawa. Kio is a major shogi title, established almost 50 years ago, and Kazuhito has provided pieces and boards for the match from almost every year since 2009.

Pieces found under collapsed house

Kazuhito found shogi pieces in the ruins of his house. They were covered in soil, but undamaged.

Shioi Kazuhito looking at shogi pieces that appeared undamaged

Kazuhito thought it might be better to avoid public events after Kimiko's death. But as he gazed at the urn containing his wife's ashes following her cremation, two weeks after the earthquake, he asked himself what she thought of his love for shogi.

What came to mind was Kimiko's joy when their elementary school aged son won a shogi tournament.

"Providing pieces and boards for the Kio title series has been part of my life. My wife would have been happy to see me to continue the tradition," said Kazuhito. So he decided to provide pieces for a February Kio-series tournament match in Kanazawa.

Shogi superstar Fujii Sota set to play

The star shogi player Fujii Sota, who is scheduled to take part in a match in the Kio series, recently spoke of his thoughts about the disaster-hit areas.

Shogi player Fujii Sota

Fujii says he is very grateful local people have agreed to host the match while reconstruction remains far from complete and the situation remains severe. He says he will do his best to concentrate and play an interesting game.

Kazuhito says just hearing Fujii's name makes people happy. He said he hoped the match will encourage people in their recovery from the disaster.

Shioi Kazuhito hopes to regain his life by providing shogi pieces.