In 2011 there was a huge earthquake in East Japan. As a consequence, an epic tsunami hit the Tohoku region causing monumental damage to coastal communities in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. In this article, we will focus on some of the people who bore the brunt of this disaster – the people of Minamisanriku. For almost 2 weeks the electricity in the town was completely shut down. Access to clean water was also inhibited. A week after the tsunami hit the Japanese military came to provide help for the people in Minamisanriku to support their basic lifestyle needs such as providing clean water and food. After a week, many volunteers were also allowed in to help the people of Minamisanriku get back on their feet. The water level of the tsunami was unbelieveably high, almost reaching the top of this elementary school building below:
Reconstruction began as soon as possible but it took almost 6 months to reconstruct all of the city’s main infrastructure. Right now, whilst reconstruction is continuing, there is also new construction for disaster-prevention being built. The new construction is occurring which much contention as many of the Minamisanriku locals believe the money required would be better spent rebuilding housing for those that lost their properties in the disaster. This argument has also been polemic in refute of new ideas proposed by foreign volunteers. Everybody is trying to find the best solution not only for reconstruction of the town but also to respect the wishes and mentality of the local residents.
Many of the people of Minamisanriku sold their land and moved to other cities, while some remain living in temporary housing provided by the government. They continue to work and save money to buy a new house. Although some residents have a new place to live and have moved their lives to another location, they still need interaction with other residents and volunteers in order to combat their loneliness. Although reconstruction is progressing, the numbers of tourists who visit Minamisanriku is decreasing and decreasing. This is not good news for locals as higher tourism would assist in raising tax income to build new buildings and infrastructure. Therefore, they are desperately actively trying to attract more tourists by encouraging them to visit the disaster memorials Tsunami museum in Kesennuma City and by holding events at Hotel Kanyo, Minamisanriku City.
I experienced a seminar which was held at Hotel Kanyo. On the first day, we arrived and ate our lunch by ourselves. We waited in the lobby. This hotel has a great view of the beautiful Pacific Ocean from the lobby. While we were waiting, we were welcomed by a classical music preformance (piano and flute) which made me remember my sisters in my country. After a while, we were allowed to enter the seminar room where we were introduced to the history and current reconstruction activity within the City. We also discussed what is the next best step for the people of Minamisanriku in further aiding the progress of recovery. With some foreign volunteers we could put forward our arguments for debate. At 18:00 we enjoyed a light dinner (standing party) where we could talk with other participants of the event.
After checking into our rooms, my friend and I were able to enjoy the hotspring which is one of the greatest hotsprings in Tohoku area, I believe, since it is a natural hotspring with an amazing view of the pacific ocean and surrounding environment! That was the best experience during the event I think. The day after, we enjoyed our buffet breakfast of famous food from Minamisanriku – shellfish! It was so delicious! It was then time for our tour – we went to an elementary school building which was hit by Tsunami.
What lovely informative trip to Minamisanriku! I was incredibly inspired by the stories of the people I met and the continuing recovery of the town. If you have the chance, please come to visit Minamisanriku to show your support for the bright future of the town!
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