Japanese Family Thanks U.S. 7th Fleet
TOMAKOMAI, Japan – The owner and family members of a Japanese fishing vessel, found missing by the U.S. Navy during Operation Tomodachi, visited the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) to say “thank you,” in Tomakomai, Japan Feb. 5.
Shiho Orikasa and her family visited the crew to show their appreciation and gratitude for their help in locating their missing boat and helping Japan during the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“Thank you for inviting my family and I. I am happy to see you. We are appreciative of all your efforts in Japan,” said Shiho.
During Operation Tomodachi, Shiho sent an e-mail entitled “I am a 14-year-old Japanese,” to the 7th Fleet public affairs office asking for help in locating her father’s fishing ship, after seeing images of the ship named HOUKI MARU NO.23 on the 7th Fleet website, www.c7f.navy.mil.
Lt. Cmdr. Mike Morley, the public affairs officer for Commander Task Force 73, volunteered to help the 7th Fleet public affairs office on board Blue Ridge during Operation Tomodachi, replied to Shiho’s email.
Morley said 7th Fleet would look into getting details of the latitude, longitude and exact time the photographs were taken.
“We are also researching to see if there is more current information on where the ship may be now,” Morley wrote back. “We will keep you informed of what we find.”
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) had encountered the missing ship on March 13, 2011. The coordinates of the ship’s location from that day were given to the family to use with the help of the Japan Coast Guard to locate the ship.
Two weeks after Curtis Wilbur’s crew saw the missing the ship, Shiho emailed Morley that the Japan Coast Guard had located and retrieved the fishing vessel.
“'It was fantastic to hear the Japanese Coast Guard had found the ship. It was a fortunate series of events that all started when Shiho had the courage to send that first e-mail, asking for help in finding her family's ship,” said Morley.
While on board Blue Ridge, the Orikasa family received a tour of the ship’s spaces and presented crewmembers with flowers. With the help of a translator, Yoshie Ushimaru, Shiho’s father also expressed his appreciation for the Navy’s help.
“At the time when he thought he had lost his ship he didn’t have any hope but he ended up finding the ship and now he is able to (continue fishing) so once again he really wants to thank the U.S. Navy,” stated Ushimaru.
Capt. Charles Williams, chief of staff for commander U.S. 7th Fleet, also presented a thank you gift to the family for coming aboard the ship and expressed what a privilege it was to help them.
“It was a pleasure and certainly an honor to be of any help to you and of course to Japan,” said Williams.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team-Pacific (FAST-PAC) are in Tomakomai for a port visit to participate in the 63rd Sapporo Snow Festival.