Baby's Premature Birth Saves Dad From Japan Tsunami

Nearly a year ago today, Kenji Sato took time off from his job at a nursing home in Minamisanriku, Japan to attend the birth of his third son. Baby Haruse was born at 4 a.m. in the nearby city of Ishinomaki, a month premature and weighing only 5 pounds, 6 ounces. The baby's grandmother, Kazuko Sato, also took the day off from working in Minamisanriku's town hospital to welcome her grandson into the world.

Hours later, the only thing left of the nursing home where Kenji worked was a pile of steel pillars. To this day, a boat is still lodged at the top of the five-story Minamisanriku hospital building where Kazuko would have been.

Thanks to Haruse Sato's unexpectedly early birth, his father—and possibly his grandmother as well—survived the devastating tsunami that killed 1,300 of the 17,000 residents in Minamisanriku on March 11, 2011.


It's almost certain that Kenji Sato would have perished in the tsunami if he'd been at work, since nearly all 70 of the nursing home residents were swept away by the waves that battered the coastal town. As soon as he was able, Sato spent days on end identifying bodies and looking for evacuation centers for the elderly. He didn't see his newborn son again until April.

While little Haruse remained in intensive care, his mother dealt with the unthinkable aftermath of the earthquake—checking on relatives, trying to find food supplies, and caring for her family as weeks went by with no running water or electricity.

After his birth, Haruse, whose name means "Bright Spring," was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. His mother says that she was initially anxious about the diagnosis, but once he was released from the hospital, her fears abated:

I didn't know anything about it and was worried I won't be able to raise him properly, but we decided to bring him up just like our other two sons. The only difference is that we take him to a specialist doctor from time to time.

Today little Haruse is about to turn one year old, and thanks to his amazingly fortuitous birthday, his father is alive and well to spend the day with him. The Satos are planning a typical family party with cake and ice cream ... in order to celebrate the child that his grandmother Kazuko says “was born to save us.”

What a fantastic story coming from a town that's had more than its fair share of heartache, to say the least. From the photos, little Haruse looks just gorgeous—happy and healthy and having a ball with his older brothers. Living in Minamisanriku must be a bittersweet experience these days with so many tragic reminders of what was lost, but I can only imagine that the Sato family feels incredibly blessed to have each other.

Do you think it's at all possible Haruse Sato was born early in order to save his father?

Image via Flickr/mvphoto2008

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