It’s crazy but I have to go back to Japan


A Queenstowner who escaped with his family from a tsunami-ravaged Japanese port town is planning to return.
The Ryalls arrived in Queenstown at the weekend after a harrowing week that started with the earthquake –triggered tsunami which hammered Japan’s Sendai. 

They survived the quake and tsunami but Sendai is sandwiched between two towns at the centre of radioactive concerns and the Ryalls decided to bail. 

Richard Ryall, wife Tracey and young ones Cameron, 10, and Hannah, 9, packed into a borrowed mini and drove 600km over mountains to safety in Kyoto. 

Richard, on arrival at Queenstown, now tells Mountain Scene he’ll go back to Sendai soon. 

“This may sound crazy but I need to go back to Japan to sort out the mess we left behind. Once things settle down over there I will need to start thinking about that. 

“I have to return the car – it was borrowed from a friend. They’re not worried about it but it leaves a bad feeling in your stomach to leave the place in a mess. They have enough to sort out.” 

The Ryalls also left most of their belongings in Sendai.

“We just grabbed a few clothes but none of the things we should have. We bought home my daughters’ tutu ballet dress. What the hell do we need that for? It was a panic pack. The kids can’t believe we left their Nintendo behind.” 

Richard says for the meantime it feels good not to be there – “They don’t need us there drinking their water and using their power.” 

The family had an emotional return to Queenstown Airport on Saturday, greeted by tearful family and friends. 

Richard’s mum Maureen Ryall says: “I cried…I promised myself I wouldn’t.” 

She’d had to wait 12 hours after the quake till she first heard word they were okay, before later talking to Richard on Skype. 

“That was the the best site I’ve seen – his scruffy bearded face on Skype.” 

Richard’s Queenstown-based business partner Craig McLachlan says he just happy to see him get home safely. 

“That’s the most important thing. There are plenty of people who didn’t.” 

Richard says he’s feeling a general sadness about what they left behind, but “we’re really lucky to have this to come home to”. 

The Ryalls had been planning to staying in Japan until July whilst on a gap-year teaching at an international school.
The death toll from the devastating earthquake and tsunami is approaching 10,000 people whilst the number listed as missing is nearly 14,000. 

Meanwhile, a tennis tournament is being organised to raise money for the Red Cross appeal to help Japan’s recovery. The tournament will be this coming Monday from 10am-2pm with the $20 entry going to towards the fundraiser.

Contact Suma Ito on 021 942 188 or Michele Rein on 442 6177.