Castaway narratives are a venerable sub-genre of nonfiction, even now, in the 21st century, when shipwrecks are far less common than they used to be. What distinguishes Paterniti's story from more conventional disaster narratives is its interiority. He gives us the sublime nightmare of the tsunami, but only to prepare us for the solitary trial—the guilt and regret and heartbreak and fear—that Shinkowa experiences during the two days he spends alone and adrift.
From the sea, Shinkowa fishes what he thinks of as "gifts"—a futon, a tatami mat, a marker, a comic book about superhuman soccer players. With the marker, on paper torn from the comic book, he writes messages to the living, which he scrolls into plastic canisters, also fished from the sea, and lashes to himself with string. Here in the order he wrote them are the words he thought would be his last.
On March 11, I was with my wife, Yuko. My name is Hiromitsu.
I just want to report that I am still alive on the twelfth and was with my wife, Yuko, yesterday. She was born January 12 of Showa 26.
I am sorry for being unfilial.
I'm in a lot of trouble. Sorry for dying before you. Please forgive me.