Monday, 22 August 2011

Old and new in the disaster area.

A completely dead Japanese garden. It must have been so beautiful when it was all different shades of green.
Lunch break, a roof in the sea visible behind.
Devastated Edo period kura, (storehouse).
Team of sandbaggers.
Onosaki in the evening. When the tide comes in, it covers much of the road, by several inches.
Starting on the new road.
Reclaimed wood being used to put up the third gate.
Craftsman at work.
Our mountain of sandbags.
All the area on the left side was completely covered in sand.

The road to nowhere.
This Japanese girl had come alone, all the way from Osaka, on her motorbike. She was living in a tent.
The result of the earthquake.
Another bit of road, that once joined up with the bit above.

Painting the first two gates.
The third one is put up.
The boy on the right is from Tochigi and has been up here, sleeping in his car, for three months. He has become the default foreman for Ishinomaki, and all the volunteer groups follow his direction.
Finished, and a bottle of sake on top!
Still a bus on top of the community center after five months.
And a car on a house.
This valley does not even look like it is near the sea, but the sea pushed way in here, dumping these vehibles on buildings. Now it is full of these huge piles of garbage, like apartment blocks.
Two great workers.
Most of the crew!
Nature coming back and taking over.
New leaves.
And more new leaves.
Went up to Ishinomaki again on Friday night, arriving at about five in the morning. We were a mini van of ten people, representing a wide span of different nationalities and languages. We breakfasted at a local restaurant and then went and looked at the harbour area, which is better than before. It means that there is more nothing, and less garbage than before. Wrecked cars and been taken to the dumps, and many wrecked houses have been moved. There were even a few traffic lights functioning. We then drove to the volunteer center and received our assignment. It was to remove mud and sand from a street a couple of streets down from where I worked before in the village of Onosaki. It was a pretty hot day and we shovelled all day. We had a bunch of African guys with us, and at one time they all burst into song. It was wonderful to hear their joyful voices as we worked. I thought I had videoed it, but it is not on my camera. (Not very wired, me.) I worked with them on Saturday and then moved over to the IDRO team, who also happened to be working in Onosaki. There were some new members, but some I had worked with before and we hugged like old friends. New friendships have been born in this disaster.
We went back to the old school in the evening. Now there were mosquito nets up over the beds, and we had visitors roaming. A cat and her one kitten. They wander freely in and out, but help themselves to what they can scratch out of the food supplies. We have to find a way to lock the food away from their reach. The team had been repairing the torii, or shrine gate at the very end of the road. Two members of the team are experienced carpenters, and they had been doing this, while the rested of the team had been bagging the endless sand and mud. Sine my last visit the heater on the shower had broken, so there was only a cold shower, which some people took, but the guys had found a steel bath tub and put it on some bricks. Underneath they lit a wood fire, (plenty of wood everywhere), and they heated up the bath with the wood fire. It was right out there in the open, but in the dark, a hot outdoor bath is a wonderful experience. I enjoyed it so much, though the Japanese girls were too shy, and chose the cold shower.
Sunday was back to Onosaki, and I think we literally filled thousands of bags of sand. We shovelled for the whole day, whilst the carpenters worked on the shrine gates. It shows how desperate they are for carpenters, if they give this important job to foreigners from outside. There are just no carpenters in the coastal villages, (or they have lost all their tools and aren't working). Their annual matsuri at that little shrine is September 9th, so they want it cleared up for that. The old couple who we helped before, had been out fishing at 4am, and they gave us a whole box of fresh mussels. Back at the school, an English woman gave the carpenter a good massage, and he heated up the bath for us again. We sauted the mussels in butter, garlic and sake. What a treat! Mosquitoes covered my right arm with bites all the way down, but my left side is not delicious!
Monday was rainy. On the way to Onosaki we bought peaches from a seller at the road side. We bought a box of twelve and he gave us a bag of ten for free, (to eat quickly). Onosaki looked even more miserable in the rain. There were hardly any volunteers as it was a week day. As we had dug out most of the sand at the shrine, we moved onto the house next to it. Just about all the furniture in the house had been shoved out through the back wall, by the tsunami, and was left, just like that. A house with 3 walls and garbage stuck along the back to about head height. We had to get it out and sort it, and take the sand off the land. Behind the house is a concrete wall and so I worked in the narrow space in between the house and that wall. It was dark and wet, and very stinky. I was a bit scared I might find part of a body, but I put that out of my mind and just pulled out wood, textiles, plastics, motor bikes and parts, wall materials, and all kinds of disgusting stuff, that was maybe futons or clothing once, or even packages of food. by the time I had to leave, two thirds had been emptied down to the natural level. Such a lot of work, and that is just one house, in so many.
I was amazed though that some plants that had appeared dead had new leaves on them. The road, that now just goes straight into the sea, (the land has dropped), is being replaced by a new one, a few meters further inland, and the shrine has three new torii. Maybe they are the only ones in Japan built by a bunch of foreigners, and partly made out of recycled garbage! one kind member threw a few buckets of sea water over me, to clean off the smelly garbage and mud. I never want to come back to Tokyo, cos nothing is really finished, but we did a good job, with the time we had.


  1. Sorry, a default foreman for Onosaki village, not the whole of Ishinomaki city.

  2. I think those new leaves appearing are symbolic of the way the people are coping with these terrible things and making life anew. Blessings.