CLEARVIEW — Stu Davidson gets called “the finder” by his family because of his knack for finding stuff and people. He proved the nickname again this past month after a family vacation on Hawaii.
On Dec. 27, at the end of their vacation, Davidson, his wife and teenage son were walking to a shopping center about a mile from their condo through rugged terrain alongside a busy road.
Drew, Davidson’s son and a senior at Glacier Peak High School, found a small camera memory card.
It was the size of a postage stamp, and it didn’t look damaged.
Davidson decided to keep it.
“I’m a photographer,” said Davidson, from Clearview and who retired as a software engineer. “I was extremely curious of what would be on it.”
They returned home the next day. Davidson downloaded 144 photographs from the card. He then started an improbable quest to find its rightful owner.
It took a couple of weeks and people in three different countries, but Davidson found them.
They are a family who live in the Chiba prefecture of Japan.
“I am amazed. I thought it was next to zero the possibility of finding them,” he said.
Davidson didn’t have much to go on. He found out most of the pictures were taken in July 2011 although some were taken in the fall and as recently as Christmas. The photos showed a young couple and three different children on trips, at restaurants and at a sporting event. Davidson thought the pictures were taken in Japan because of the written language, clothing and surroundings.
He then found a picture of what appeared to be a school visit. Behind the woman and three kids, the building had a phrase Davidson could read.
It read Masago Daiishi.
Davidson had no idea what it meant. He did an Internet search and found a website with a list of schools that included a kindergarten with that name.
The website was for the Baytown Gyoseishoshi Office, which advises and prepares legal documents for people who need a visa or want to immigrate to Japan.
Davidson sent the office an email and heard back from them on Dec. 29.
At the beginning, the company didn’t know if they should answer, because the website was new and they thought the email was a hoax, said Yuko Mori, an immigration lawyer who currently lives in Mumbai, India.
Mori decided to help because she knew the school Davidson was writing about.
“His sincere willingness to get the card back to the Japanese family touched my heart,” Mori wrote in an email. “I thought the odds of finding the family were low, but I wanted to give it a try.”
Davidson sent Mori and her legal partner, Makoto Takagi, a link to his Flickr account where he uploaded six pictures.
They recognized the school, but since it was the winter break, Davidson had to wait for parents and students to return.
“I was excited that in all the world, we had narrowed it down to one area already,” he said.
On Jan. 11, Davidson got a response. Takagi had faxed the pictures to the school, and he quickly received a phone call from a family member.
“Needless to say, she felt very happy to hear the news,” Takagi said.
The family does not speak English, so Takagi offered to contact Davidson and give him their address so Davidson to mail the memory card.
“I am so glad that the family got their memory card back,” Mori said. “Makoto and I are very happy to get to know Mr. Davidson and we really appreciate him giving us an opportunity to be a part of his good deed.”
Davidson is also happy and amazed the card is going back to its owner.
“I felt kind of compelled to find them,” Davidson said. “As soon as things started to unfold, I thought there was a chance this would work. It’s an accomplishment.”
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; email@example.com.