Before travelling to the Far East for his tour of Japan and China, Prince William had asked his aides to arrange meetings with survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. On Sunday, the royal was granted his wish as he met some of the victims of the natural disaster and heard first-hand how they had survived and moved on with their lives.
Arriving at the coastal city of Ishinomaki in Japan, William was greeted by a handful of locals. Ishinomaki alone – now known as the Bay of Destruction – had a recorded death toll of 3,275 people and in tribute to the fallen, William laid a bouquet on a hill overlooking the city.
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Prince William has completed his tour of Japan and has now headed to China
The Duke of Cambridge spoke to one couple Shinichi and Ryoko Endo behind closed doors. Mr Endo, a carpenter, and his wife lost their three children during the tragedy.
As reported by The Telegraph, William was so affected by their story that their meeting went on 17 minutes longer than planned. A royal aide said that there had been "high emotion" in the room, and that at the end of the meeting, Mr Endo gave the Duke two lucky charms, one made out of tsunami rubble and the other made out of oak.
Prince William was shown newspapers that had been hand-written in the days after the Japanese tsunami
William was also introduced to Hiroyuki Takeuchi, the now-retired former chief reporter of the local newspaper. Mr Takeuchi had encouraged his colleagues to produce hand-written newsletters in the days following the tsunami aftermath, to keep people informed.
He showed William the original hand-written newspapers that had been put up in evacuation centres around town, and also pointed out one stained wall that had an 8ft high tide mark on it – the height that the flood waters reached.
Prince William inspects the 8ft-tall tsunami high tide mark
"How long was it between the tsunami warning and the tsunami? Were many people heading to higher ground?" asked William. "Many people tried to escape to higher ground," said Mr Takeuchi. "Many couldn't make up their minds whether to flee or not. Some people made the decision too late, and they drowned."
"Because an hour's not a lot of time to make a decision," said the Duke. "Especially when you're near the coast." "That's true," replied Mr Takeuchi. "What we learned is that when there is a big earthquake we have to anticipate a big tsunami, and evacuate immediately. Immediately afterwards it was like hell. It is still raw in my memory."
Prince William lays a bouquet in honour of the victims of the natural disaster
Approximately 16,000 people lost their lives in the tragedy, with a further 2,600 unaccounted for. In Ishinomaki one elementary school lost 74 out of its 108 students, and 10 out of its 13 teachers.
The emotional visit will have struck a chord with not only William, who visited other cities affected by the disaster, but also the Japanese population as the earthquake's fourth anniversary falls soon on 11 March.
Before leaving Japan, Prince William had the chance to dress up as a samurai warrior
Earlier on his trip William carried out a more light-hearted engagement where he visited the set of TV period drama Taiga at the NHK broadcasting studios. The Duke gamely donned a gold helmet and embroidered tunic, channelling Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan's most notorious samurai warriors who ruled with an iron fist.
"How do I look?" asked William, 32, before joking: "I feel ready for action. I feel there should be a sword in my hand." The Duke, however, declined to wear the traditional Samurai ponytail wig, commenting that his younger brother Prince Harry would "never let him forget it".
William will carry on with his trip to China, where he will kick off proceedings by officially opening the GREAT Festival of Creativity at Shanghai's Long Museum on Monday.