Five years ago, waves from the devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s eastern coast swept Masayuki Watanabe’s 1971 Toyota Corolla from its garage. Today, he got that car back.
Prior to the tsunami, the Corolla 1400SR Coupe served as the Watanabes’ family car, which they had bought new. It was 100 percent unrestored and original. On the day of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the sea moved it by as much as 30 meters from the spot in Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, where Watanabe-san had parked it.
In the aftermath, the bright red mango was photographed perched on top of a pile of debris, damaged but surprisingly in tact, while entire houses lay beside it utterly wrecked. The old car became a symbol of hope and perseverance.
One of the photographs ended up in a magazine, and the so-called “Miracle Corolla” captured the hearts of Japan’s nostalgic car community. Enthusiasts from all over the country sent parts, money and words of support.
In a ceremony held earlier today in Miyagi Prefecture, exactly five years and a day after the natural disaster, Watanabe-san was presented with the keys to his beloved Corolla, surrounded by the classic car owners that had pitched in for the restoration.
The car wore a new license plate, 311, denoting March 11, the date of the quake. Mr. Watanabe immediately grabbed the keys and took it for a spin. Even Japan’s NHK News was present for the ceremony, and filmed the video above. According to the news network, Watanabe-san still lives in temporary housing.
When asked about his experience, he said that the disaster was painful, but he had the support and assistance of everyone who helped. Now, he doesn’t want to look back on the calamity, and just wants to move forward. That should be a lot easier now that he has his Corolla to drive.
Source: NHK. Special thanks to Hideki K.