The toughest man in Japan

On a day when the news about radiation levels has turned more ominous, we need something to boost morale. So here you go: Meet Hideaki Akaiwa, formerly an unknown resident of northern Japan, recently a hero responsible for saving two lives, soon to be global Internet shorthand for alpha-male bravado in the same way Chuck Norris is. I’m giving you two versions of his story. The one you should read is the memorable, much-linked telling at Badass of the Week, but since that one’s littered with F-bombs, the one I’m going to quote is this LA Times profile from a few days ago.

Your country’s just been hit by a mega-quake and your city’s almost completely underwater. Your spouse is out there somewhere, missing and possibly dead. What do you do?

Answer: You call this guy.

Akaiwa said he was at work a few miles away when the tsunami hit, and he rushed back to find his neighborhood inundated with up to 10 feet of water. Not willing to wait until the government or any international organization did, or did not, arrive to rescue his wife of two decades — whom he had met while they were surfing in a local bay — Akaiwa got hold of some scuba gear. He then hit the water, wended his way through the debris and underwater hazards and managed to reach his house, from which he dragged his wife to safety.

“The water felt very cold, dark and scary,” he recalled. “I had to swim about 200 yards to her, which was quite difficult with all the floating wreckage.”

With his mother still unaccounted for several days later, Akaiwa stewed with frustration as he watched the water recede by only a foot or two. He repeatedly searched for her at City Hall and nearby evacuation centers.

Finally, on Tuesday, he waded through neck-deep water, searching the neighborhood where she’d last been seen. He found her, he said, on the second floor of a flooded house where she’d been waiting for help for four days.

His wife was apparently trapped on the upper floor of their submerged house, almost out of air when he reached her. The last the LA Times saw of him, he was heading out on his bike into the ruins of the city, searching for more survivors — while wearing a pair of Ray-Bans. Dude. As I say, though, their report doesn’t do the story justice; read the one at Badass of the Week, unless you have a strong objection to profanity.

Exit question: Coming soon to Japanese theaters — “Godzilla vs. Hideaki Akaiwa”?

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on December 04, 2022