A soccer ball that was lost in the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011 has travelled more than 3,100 miles across the Pacific Ocean to wash up on the shores of Alaska.
The ball's owner, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, came forward to claim one of the first pieces of debris to arrive on U.S. shores, reports ABC News. The teenager told reporters on Sunday he was "shocked" to learn the ball he received from friends when he was in third grade as a good luck gift had managed to travel halfway around the world.
Murakami was able to identify the ball because all of his classmates had signed their names in Japanese, dated it March 2005, and wrote the words, "Misaki Murakami. Work hard!” on it.
"I have no doubt that it is mine," he told The Japan Times. "To be honest, I'm surprised. I wanted to thank the person who found it as none of my sentimental items have been found."
Murakami's ball was spotted off the coast of Alaska's Middleton Island by radar technician David Baxter, who realized the significance of the find after his wife, who is originally from Japan, was able to translate the writing on the ball and traced it to the name of a school, reports the Anchorage Daily News.
"We're very happy that the owner of the ball is safe. We want to return the ball as soon as possible," Baxter told The Japan Times, adding that he and his wife have planned a month-long trip to Japan and hope to return the ball to Murakami.
Murakimi told The Japan Times how much the ball means to him. "My family lost everything to the tsunami, so I'm happy, but it also brings back sad memories. The soccer ball means a lot to me, so I want to put it in my room again when it comes back," he explained.
The discovery in Alaska comes one month after an empty Japanese fishing boat washed out to sea by the tsunami was spotted off the west coast of Canada.