March 11th

It seems almost a lifetime ago now, when I was working in Fukushima in a regular job when mother nature rudely interrupted my course in life and set me in a new direction. Maybe I should have taken advantage of living more because a lot of people, over 15,000 lost their life within close proximity of me on the same day. One day a regular Japanese landscape, with homes, schools, shops, gas stations, and the like. The next: acres of land swept away with the water.

While I briefly saw the damage a year ago, I was being driven around my my (then) girlfriends parents so didn’t really get to take any decent photos or follow my own path. This year however, I retuned in Sendai and rented a car for the day to have a look at the damage and see what progress has been made. Please note, most of these photos were taken off the coast of Miyagi prefecture not Fukushima, which is a bit more north, but still hit just as bad.


The basic tsunami defence system, and an evacuation sign


A boat where a building used to be


This shows the new sea defences and the old swept landcape


Manhole shows previous land level


The old entrance to someones house

tsunami damage of swept houses in japan

Former houses


I guess these were found during the clean up


The only house remaining in acres

tsunami-serious damage-building-photo

Inside another single building which stood up among all others

As you can see, it has mostly been cleaned up now, but no reconstruction can be seen anywhere. New defence barriers are in place, but other than that nothing. The waste has just been moved elsewhere. Japan is in a difficult situation on what to do here. I mean, who would want to live here knowing what happened? The amount of people that died. For a country without much flat land to build on, it’s quite a dilemma. I have no before photos so I can’t directly compare, but it seems like this area will remain abandoned for now.

People argue from 2 perspectives – one is to leave it and keep it as a reminder to how powerful mother nature is. The other is to build over it and show strength in community and the ability to move on. Pretty much everyone wanted it all cleared up though, which is seems like it has been now. Of course there is still a lot of people who no longer have jobs or a place to live which they earnt themselves. I am unaware of the figures of people still living in shelters/halls but I don’t think it is that great now.

Finally I’d like to end this post on a photo of the outside of the building I took a photo from inside above. It is one of the few new things in this area. A sakura (cherry blossom) tree. Because this was one of the few remaining buildings standing in the area, it only seems appropriate to use it as a symbol of hope. There is nothing more Japanese than sakura so it seemed appropriate to plant it next to this building. It hasn’t grown yet, let alone bloomed (cherry blossom only blooms once a year and for a week) but hopefully it will lead this area on to new beginnings.

Hope Sakura tree next to tsunami victim building

Sakura tree being grown next to surviving building


Everyone knows about the Great Tohoku Earthquake which hit Japan on March 11th 2011, I mentioned the tohoku earthquake previously as I was based in Fukushima so certainly felt the 9.0 shock (was previously a 8.9 but upgraded after analysis). 5 months later, a lot of damage repair and things are mostly back to normal for the majority of Japan.

Of course Sendai, the worst hit city still has issues, and I was keen to visit to see how it fared 5 months later. I was a bit surprised when I arrived via bus to see this site:

Sendai sun rise

A normal city

AER Plaza Sendai Japan

Shopping Mall in Sendai

That’s right. Like every other city in Japan. Sendai has been repaired and getting on as per normal. A few less visitors naturally, but everything functioning. Apart from the posters supporting the people and area’s effected, you wouldn’t be able to tell what happened here 5 months previous.

However out of the city (you’ll need a car, trains aren’t running to these areas) the effects are still very much there. Buildings destroyed, debris everywhere, and long queues for food at the limited places that stock now. The roads seem to mostly be cleaned up, so people can get around main areas (just not all residential areas).

There are many areas of piled up debris where things have been cleared. But it does beg the question: where does the mess go afterwards? It’s virtually unrecoverable, a mixture of concrete, plastics, ground, metals and whatever was in the sea at the time makes it difficult to recycle – this is pure waste that needs to be disposed of.

But progress seems to have stopped in terms of clear up. I didn’t see many people working to clear the area I passed through. Again though in these sorts of things, I think photos explain better than my words ever can:

Sendai factory after tsunami

Factory has significant damage but still standing

Sendai earthquake damage

A pile of debris

Destroyed Shell garage

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Not Running Away

March 31, 2011 · 12 comments

It appears I’m one of the closest foreigners to the March 11th earthquakes to talk about it and get media attention (I did an interview for BBC world news and several friends spotted me in Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe – one benefit of travelling and getting friends from around the world is they can tell you they’ve seen you when you’re on worldwide news!).

Japan is getting back on it’s feet in general, but the Sendai area is obviously still devastated. I have returned to the Fukushima area after a couple of weeks in Tokyo so I thought it’s about time I chip in and give my opinion and thoughts on the matter to the gaijin and tourists of Japan.

Japan earthquake panic

As Per Above

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