The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27 claimed the lives of 56 hikers, leaving family members to try to understand why their loved ones had been taken so suddenly. But out of this tragedy comes a heartwarming gesture, giving the family of one victim the chance to get back a small piece of their father who never made it down the mountain that day.
The gravity of the Mount Ontake eruption is hard to convey in pictures, but the following video taken of the recovery efforts by the Ground Self-Defense Forces shows just how much damage was done:
As you can see, the entire area is covered in a thick layer of ash and cabins that were built on the mountain side have been ripped open by flying debris and rocks. The several hundred nature enthusiasts who took advantage of the autumn weekend on September 27 were completely caught off guard, many unable to flee the nightmarish scene when the mountain suddenly and violently erupted.
Sadly, 66-year-old Kazuo Wakabayashi of Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture was among the victims. An avid photographer, Wakabayashi would frequently go on fishing and photography trips, his hike up Mount Ontake just a part of his hobbies. He took a newly purchased Nikon camera with him on his hike, which was later returned to his family on October 1, broken and covered in ash.
When the folks at Nikon read about Wakabayashi’s story after it was published in the Yomiuri Shimbun, they reached out to his family and offered to repair the broken camera. Over the course of 10 days, the lens, filter and all interior parts were fixed and the red body of the Nikon camera that had been grayed with ash was restored to its original vibrant color, free of charge. The restored camera was returned to Wakabayashi’s second daughter, along with 200 photos that Nikon also managed to recover.
Although the pain of losing a loved one never truly goes away, we hope their father’s restored camera and the photos he took just before his death have helped the Wakabayashi family heal from such a tragic and sudden loss.