The many streamers over the city’s Omagarihama district included about 100 new ones sent from across the country as a gesture of sympathy for Higashimatsushima’s losses in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The new streamers joined around 500 flown in years past.
The event was launched by 21-year-old Kento Ito, who lived in the Omagarihama district at the time of the disasters and lost four family members including a 5-year-old brother to the waves.
“I want to live positively,” with the encouragement of the people who donated the carp streamers in his heart, he said.
original link: http://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00049/
Three years have passed since the widespread devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake. How far has the nation come along its path of recovery from the earthquake, tsunami, and disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station?
On March 11 this year, exactly three years after the Great East Japan Earthquake caused unprecedented devastation across much of the northeast part of the country, a government-organized memorial service took place at the National Theater of Japan. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, and representatives of the families of those who lost their lives in the disaster gathered to pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased, and the prime minister gave a speech declaring his resolve to further hasten the pace of rebuilding efforts. But three years on from the earthquake and tsunami, how far has the nation come along the path to recovery?
As of March 10, 2014, according to National Police Agency figures, the disaster had caused 15,884 deaths, with 2,633 still unaccounted for. Reconstruction Agency statistics show that as of February 13, there were still 267,419 refugees unable to return to their homes—a drop of 47,000 from the previous year, but still a very high number. With 102,650 of these individuals still living in 46,275 temporary housing units across eight prefectures, it is clear that the effort to rehouse those affected is proceeding more slowly than might have been hoped.
Clearance of debris, meanwhile, is making somewhat smoother progress, with some 16.1 million tons, or 95% of the total wreckage, having been removed in the three years since the disaster. (This figure excludes contaminated waste from designated zones within Fukushima Prefecture.) In addition to this, 8.9 million tons of sediment washed ashore by the tsunami, or 94% of the total, has been successfully cleared.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the recovery of local businesses the picture is less encouraging. A September 2013 survey conducted by the Tōhoku Bureau of Economy, Trade, and Industry identified some sectors in which the turnover of respondent businesses was getting closer to pre-3/11 levels (most notably construction and haulage, at 66% and 42.3% of predisaster takings, respectively). Some other types of business are not faring so well, though. The food and fisheries sector, a traditional Tōhoku mainstay, had only seen a 14% recovery, and the combined turnover of businesses in the wholesale, retail, and service sectors was also languishing at 30.6% of takings before the disaster. The area also faces continuing problems arising from the damage to local business facilities, as well as the post-3/11 population drain.
This is especially the case in Fukushima Prefecture, which lags behind Miyagi and Iwate to the north in terms of recovery, mainly due to the evacuation and exclusion zones imposed in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. To restore some stability to the lives of the evacuees and other victims from the area, concerted efforts are underway to prepare permanent “restoration housing” complexes. But there is still much to do to restore normality to the lives of those affected.
At a March 10 press conference held in advance of the anniversary, Prime Minister Abe declared the national government would further increase the pace of recovery in the affected areas, stressing: “There can be no revitalization of Japan without recovery in Tōhoku.” He also touched on the goal of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics an opportunity to let the world see how fully the Tōhoku area has bounced back.
The prime minister also spoke of making the year ahead one in which the residents of the affected areas would “feel the recovery,” pledging relocation of communities in 200 areas to higher ground and the completion of a further 10,000 “restoration housing” units for evacuees. In Fukushima, where recovery has been severely hampered by the nuclear disaster, Abe announced accelerated measures to deal with contaminated water from the site and to boost the prefecture’s postdisaster infrastructure through such steps as the full reopening of the JōbanExpressway.
The following tables are based on data released by the Reconstruction Agency, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of the Environment, and local authorities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures.)
|Total||In evacuation centers||In housing units|
|March 14, 2011||Approx. 470,000||―||―|
|February 13, 2014||267,419||0||―|
Note: Combined data for Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi Prefectures
|Municipal housing, etc.||Private housing (with relatives, etc.)||Temporary prefabricated structures|
(no. of structures)
Notes: December 2012 figures are national totals. October 2013 figures are combined totals for Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba, and Nagano Prefectures.
With the exception of parts of Fukushima Prefecture, disposal of all debris is projected to be completed by the end of March 2014. In Fukushima (excepting evacuation zones), the goal is to move all debris to temporary storage locations within fiscal 2013 (ending March 2014) and safely disposed of as soon as possible within fiscal 2014.
|Estimated initial amount (tons) (A)||Amount cleared (tons) (B)||Percentage of initial total cleared (B/A)||Amount treated and disposed of (tons) (C)||Percentage treated and disposed of (C/A)|
|Rubble and debris||16.6 million||16.1 million||97%||15.2 million
|Sediment carried ashore by the tsunami||10.9 million||10.3 million||94%||8.9 million
Notes: Figures are as of the end of November 2013, based on data from 32 coastal municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. Figures in parentheses are as of the end of November 2012. This table excludes data for contaminated debris from designated zones in Fukushima Prefecture.
|Percentage of debris disposed of||Municipalities|
|100%||Rifu, Matsushima, Watari-Natori Block (Natori, Iwanuma, Watari)|
|More than 90%||Hirono, Noda, Fudai, Tanohata, Iwaizumi, Miyako, Ōtsuchi, Kamaishi, Ōfunato, Kesennuma Block (Kesennuma, Minamisanriku), Ishinomaki Block (Onagawa, Ishinomaki, Higashimatsushima), Miyagi-Tōbu Block (Shiogama, Tagajo, Shichigahama), Sendai, Watari-Natori Block (Yamamoto), Iwaki|
|More than 80%||Rikuzentakata, Yamada|
|Less than 80%||Kuji, Shinchi, Sōma, Minamisōma, Hirono|
Note: Data for disposal of debris in coastal municipalities.
|Schools, nurseries, etc.||98%|
|Parks, sports facilities||95%|
|Forests (in or near areas of human activity)||8%|
|Municipal facilities, etc.||72.6%|
|Forests (in areas of human activity)||12.7%|
Notes: Data from Ministry of the Environment, except for Fukushima data, obtained from the Fukushima Prefectural Government.
|Iwate||Up to 101%|
|Miyagi||Up to 99%|
|Fukushima||Up to 85%|
|Total||Up to 94%|
Notes: Figures are for total land areas engaged in paddy-field rice cultivation, based on 2013 data for rice yields in the Tōhoku region.
|Recorded catches||Up to 69% of predisaster levels (monetary value up to 75%)|
|Reopened fish processing plants (821 damaged plants)||78% (638 plants reopened)|
Notes: Recorded catches are those landed at key fish markets in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures from November 2012 to October 2013. Damaged processing plants were in three disaster-hit prefectures; reopening figure is as of the end of September 2013.
|Currently under construction||61%|
Note: Percentages are of total proposed projects as of the end of November 2013.
|Approved project proposals||100%|
|Projects currently under construction||64%|
Notes: Work on community infrastructure, including water and sewer systems and medical and educational facilities, is more than 90% complete. In the area of housing, though, just 61% of proposed “restoration housing” projects are under construction, and only 2% are complete. For projects to relocate communities en masse to safer ground, construction has begun on 64% of the proposed projects and just 5% are finished.
When the tsunami smashed the seafood processing factory where Shoichi Sato was working, he lost his job but eventually found a new life. Three years later, Sato is among the businessmen helping to bring back the fishing industry, long a mainstay livelihood for coastal towns along Japan’s northeastern coast.
Sato’s company, Kamaishi Hikari Foods, employs only 25 people but supports hundreds more who sell their catches of octopus, squid, salmon and mackerel for processing right at the water’s edge. In Toni, whose entire port was wrecked by the tsunami, it’s about the only game in town.
Businesses throughout Tohoku region face a reality TV show’s worth of obstacles to setting up shop, from shortages of financing and construction workers and materials, to lengthy delays in administrative approvals and overburdened transport networks. For Sato, it was the Qatar Fund Foundation and other groups that pitched in with funds to buy equipment and advice on how to best run his new business.
Sitting in his second story office overlooking a wharf still being reconstructed, Sato said he got “zero” financial help from the government, which until recently wouldn’t approve subsidies for new businesses.
Across the region, the government says nearly two-thirds of damaged land has been salvaged and 78 percent of fishery processing restarted. But for the majority, sales are well below pre-disaster levels. Most damaged stores and other businesses are operating from temporary quarters such as shipping containers and prefabricated huts.
The regional economy was in trouble even before the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster that contaminated chunks of the coast with radiation. The 18,520 people dead or missing as a result of the natural disasters were remembered this week as Japan marked the third anniversary of the tsunami.
Tens of thousands of people are in limbo following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, unsure if they ever will be able to resume farming, fishing or other businesses, or even return home.
To the north, the seven biggest fish markets in Iwate and Miyagi, the two other prefectures that suffered massive damage from the tsunami, but not radiation, reported a combined catch of 303,629 tons in 2013, down from 444,894 tons in 2010, before the disaster but up from 169,786 in 2011.
It took the prefectural, or state, government over a year to approve Sato’s tiny factory, which uses an innovative freezing process to package fish, seafood and seaweed for direct sales to a Tokyo supermarket and a sushi chain, his main customers. The process causes less damage to cells in the frozen food, improving quality when they are thawed for use in sushi and sashimi.
In the northeastern Tohoku region, young workers tend to leave to seek work in bigger cities. Fishing pays poorly, costs are rising and there are few other jobs. At the same time, the jobs that do exist go begging: Sato employs three generations of women from one family, from the 63-year-old grandmother to the 18-year-old granddaughter. Some of his employees travel from homes far up the coast to get to work.
As in much of the region, about half of Toni’s 1,800 residents are still living in temporary, prefabricated huts. Fed up with delays in resettlement in new homes on higher ground, many residents are leaving.
“I need to be able to pay the fishermen more for their fish, or they won’t manage to stay in business. That’s apart from making any money here ourselves,” said Sato.
Sato is keen to improve quality through innovations such as testing the salt content of his ice and water for optimal levels for freshness. He works with Japan Fisheries, the alliance of fishery cooperatives that oversees the industry, helped coordinate the transfer of seed oysters and seaweed beds to tsunami damaged areas, hurrying along the recovery process.
Still, nearly a quarter of fishing-related businesses have closed since the tsunami. In Miyagi, only 18 of the 142 ports wiped out in the disaster have reopened.
In the Miyagi port of Ogatsu, oyster farmer Hiromitsu Ito lost his home, his fishing boats, and his oyster beds, just after he had taken out a loan to begin oyster processing.
Like Sato, he restarted from scratch. But Ito is innovating with an online business model. His customers pay a membership fee and can buy a share of the catch directly from Ito’s business.
Ito and his business partners used funds from the membership fees to help fishermen get back up and running. They are also training newcomers like 23-year-old Yuuki Miura, a fisherman apprentice, hoping to keep the industry alive.
“When I was small, I lived with my grandfather and I grew up watching him work,” said Miura.
In a region whose population is fast declining and aging, time pressures are felt by all, said Ito, the oyster farmer.
“This year is the real deal, it’s the make-it-or break-it year,” he said.
RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate Prefecture–A man who lost his wife in the 2011 disaster has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for what he claims were failures in the tsunami warning system.
According to Toshiyuki Omori, 63, the understated tsunami warning issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency is to blame for the inability of his wife, Sachiko, to flee in time.
He is seeking a total of 60 million yen ($583,000) in compensation from the central and municipal governments.
The lawsuit dated March 10 was filed in the Morioka District Court. It is the first lawsuit that calls into question the warning systems that were in place at the time of the disaster generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Omori, who used to run a soba restaurant here, says that clarifying the reasons behind the understated tsunami warnings will lead to improvements that could prevent future loss of life.
According to the lawsuit, at 2:49 p.m. on March 11, 2011, three minutes after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck, the Meteorological Agency issued a warning that predicted a 3-meter tsunami hitting the coast of Iwate Prefecture.
Omori’s wife died at their home, which was located about 2 kilometers from the coast.
The disaster preparedness PA system set up by the Rikuzentakata municipal government informed residents about the tsunami warning. However, a blackout at the local fire station left communications equipment inoperable, so they did not receive a subsequent warning from the Meteorological Agency at 3:14 p.m. that predicted a 6-meter tsunami. As a result, residents were not informed about the possibility of a larger tsunami striking.
Omori is calling into question the Meteorological Agency’s assessment of the likely size of the tsunami despite the fact that seismograph needles went beyond what the equipment was capable of handling.
“The agency should have issued a warning that said there was the possibility of an unprecedented gigantic tsunami striking,” Omori said.
He named the municipal government as a defendant because of its insufficient maintenance of its fire station equipment.
According to the Rikuzentakata municipal government’s report about evacuation after the quake and tsunami, the tsunami that struck the city was about 14 meters high.
“I believe there were many people who were slow in evacuating because they heard the understated warning,” Omori said. “This is not a matter that can be put aside with such words as ‘beyond the scope of assumptions’ or ‘unparalleled.'”
An official with the Meteorological Agency said, “We cannot comment because we have not yet read the lawsuit.”
An official with the Rikuzentakata municipal government also said no response could be made because the city was not yet aware of the contents of the lawsuit.
The initial 3-meter tsunami warning for Iwate Prefecture was based on the estimated magnitude of 7.9 that was calculated from the seismographs set up around Japan.
The early-measurement system in place at the time, which issued preliminary magnitude estimates in about three minutes, was unable to calculate any quake above magnitude-8.0.
The more accurate system that calculated magnitude in about 15 minutes also did not function because the needles on 19 of the 21 advanced seismographs went beyond what the equipment was capable of handling.
Using offshore wave gauges, the expected tsunami heights for Iwate and Fukushima prefectures were revised from 3 meters to 6 meters at 3:14 p.m. The tsunami height for Miyagi Prefecture was revised from 6 meters to more than 10 meters.
It was not until 3:31 p.m. that the Meteorological Agency revised the tsunami height for all three prefectures to more than 10 meters.
That revised warning came after the tsunami struck the coast of all three prefectures.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Meteorological Agency installed 80 seismographs around Japan capable of measuring even earthquakes of magnitude-9.0. New water pressure gauges have also been installed off the Pacific coast to more accurately predict the height of expected tsunami.
Tsunami warnings have also been changed from reporting expected heights to simply announcing a “gigantic” or “large” tsunami is expected.
Residents of Fukushima Prefecture affirmed their shared determination to rebuild their hometown and keep it thriving in the future through a poem written by a local high school student on March 11, the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
At a memorial event organized by the Fukushima prefectural government at the Fukushima Prefectural Culture Center in Fukushima City, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato issued the first message containing the thoughts of prefectural residents, and conveyed to people in and outside Fukushima Prefecture his determination to take solid steps toward building a new Fukushima.
Actress Sei Ashina, who hails from Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, read the student’s memorial poem at the event, with gestures of support toward survivors of the disasters.
The student’s poem reads in part:
What we can do from now
Is think of our hometown at all times and forever
People will move forward
To keep working hard toward recovery
We will inherit