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Japanese Tsunami Soccer Ball Found in Alaska Belongs to Japanese Teen

A soccer ball that washed up on an Alaskan beach last week has been traced back to a Japanese teen who lost everything in last year's earthquake and tsunami disaster that rocked the small island nation of Japan.

The soccer ball is adorned with Japanese words of encouragement and was discovered last week along with a volleyball by technician David Baxter on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, 3,000 miles away from Japan.

Baxter's Japanese wife translated the writing on the soccer ball and traced it back to a school in the Japanese region hit by the tsunami.

Now a Japanese teen, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, from the city of Rikuzentakata has come forward to claim the soccer ball as his after reading news reports about the discovery.

The teen's family lost everything in the disaster and until the ball was discovered along the coast of Alaska, none of the family's belongings had been recovered. They are currently being housed in temporary housing provided by the Japanese government.

The soccer ball was a prized possession of the young boy and reportedly had been given to him as a farewell gift seven years ago by his former third grade teacher and classmates when he had to transfer schools.

Murakami told Japan's Kyodo news agency that he had kept the ball hanging over his bed.

"I have no doubt that it is mine," he said.

The ball is the first traceable debris from the devastating Japanese tsunami that occurred last March following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. The accident killed about 16,000 people and also damaged Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, marking the worst nuclear disaster the world had seen since Chernobyl.

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