community, land level sinking, livelihood, ofunato, parks, railroad, temporary housing, volunteer

day 7, the park; day off, and stories

yesterday I worked in the park, placing some bricks and digging some dirt. the park looks amazing–completely different from how it was in july, when it was still being cleaned up. it has lots of new playground equipment and structures. towards the end of the days, some kids showed up and were very excited to come into the park and play. I talked a little with the grandma that came with them. she said that they all live in the same block (they were different ages, around 6 or 7 kids), and although they had a park near their homes, it’s been use for temporary housing, so the kids have nowhere to play. as we watched them run and jump in the sand area over and over again, it was clear how much they need this kind of space, and how much they will use the park. the opening will be on nov 12, the last days of the all hands project in ofunato.

today was our day off, and I took a long long walk near the river, and back to the center of ofunato–actually where I had visited in the beginning of april with K sensei and M sensei. now it’s been cleaned up quite a bit, and bulldozers are still at work picking up rubble, mostly concrete. but because of the sunken land levels, there are large areas that are flooded there now.

although there’s progress in cleanup, the scale of damage is still overwhelming. although thinking back on the situation of new orleans 6/7 months after katrina, everything here seems more on track.

I stopped by my favorite coffee shop and chatted with the owner a bit (I had already been there in july, and heard how they opened the cafe a few months before the tsunami, and what was damaged). we talked about how the life in temporary housing will be cold in winter, especially for the elderly, and she told me how many people are now in a difficult place emotionally–up until now they have made a lot of effort to do what need to, but now they are feeling like they just want to give up, that they don’t have anything to live for really. this is what she hears from her customers. she thanked me again for coming here to volunteer, and said that it means a lot for the people here.

then I stopped in to the little community space by jr sakari station (sakari is on part of ofunato city, where all hands has its base). the railway was destroyed by the tsunami, and the train car that was sitting in the station has been used for some community activities as well, since a few months ago. they give out tea and sell some local products and crafts that are handmade by ladies living in temporary housing. I think they are supporting both the livelihood of disaster victims, and also raising money for the reconstruction of the train line. they said that it’s been decided that the train will be back up and running again in 2 years, in the same location–along the coast, but elevated in some places, which hopefully can act as a kind of barrier for future tsunamis.


About liz

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


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