journal, volunteer

5/4/11 notes, ojika hanto

the peninsula where we are working is called ojika hanto. or ‘o deer peninsula’ (sorry for the bad pun). it’s east of ishinomaki, renowned for oyster production, obviously a place of great natural beauty before, and was completely devastated by the tsunami.

like most of the entire tohoku coast, it’s shoreline is a jagged sawtooth line. the villages here are small.

today we are on sudachi hama. hama means beach. and this beach is completely covered with debris that seems impossibly tangled. we arrived in the back of a fisherman’s small truck, piled out, and started…picking up debris, and sorting it into piles. one of the things we will be picking up over and over again are scallop shells, some tied together with rope.

during a break, we ask one of the local ojisan (it means ‘grandpa’ in japanese, but is used for ‘old man’ but sounds friendly and respectful in japanese) what the shells are used for. they are for oyster cultivation–the oysters’ eggs stick to the shells, and grow there. it takes 2-3 years for the oysters to mature. not only have any oysters they were raising destroyed by the tsunami, but the man tells us that maybe the oysters and other sea life has disappear from the sea. he has no idea if they will be ever actually be able to revive the local fishing/oyster industry.

when you think about the people here, after suffering the disaster itself, losing family and loved ones, having the houses of entire villages destroyed, living in evacuation centers, not knowing when temporary housing will be built, not knowing where or when permanent housing will be constructed (no one knows this right now, not even government or experts), their former housing location maybe not being safe, dealing with daily floods in the afternoon because the land level sank…losing their entire business, having all their equipment washed away or laying tangled on the beach in front of us…their sons and families forced to move elsewhere to find work (these are family businesses–and right now they are not making any money; the ojisans are trying to do what they can to rebuild their businesses, but the younger generation has in a large part left for the city to seek income now)…in this condition, they are working hard to put their fishing business back together, but actually they are not sure it will be possible, when the oysters will back.

it must feel impossible. in the face of that, somehow they continue.

it was warm and sunny, we ate our lunch on the edge of the concrete near the water. one of the local ladies prepared and brought out a plate of spring vegetables to one of the volunteer groups, and it was passed around.

after lunch, i asked S san, the NF coordinator whose been working in this area since the tsunami, about this area. in sudachi hama, there were 7 households, they all survived. the next village had 20 households. 2 people are still missing; the self defense forces are searching for missing people.

the two villages have evacuated together and are staying in an evacuation shelter up the hill.
there are strong community connections in this village, and some people are also living with neighbors–if one family lost their house, they move in with another whose house survived.

last week, when the last group of student volunteers came to a nearby area, the folks from this area saw them, and asked for some help in their villages.


About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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