Thursday 2nd August
A yellow and white van is in the car park when I get up, no trucks or other cars and no engines left running. Later meet the owner of the van, a surfer from Kanagawa who is volunteering to help clean up beaches inbetween surfing.
More hills, more destruction as I continue south. Arrive at Motoyoshi, go down to the beach for a closer look at a solitary building there. At one time it was on dry land.
Pass through Kurauchi and Rikuzenminato.
Over another hill and stop at a Lawson. Want to see if Masuzawa Campground is closed so ask for directions. Less than 1km down Route 45 I’m told. By chance stop and see the sign so go up the hill. Up a hill means it might have escaped the tsunami.
Instead of the public park, I am greeted by rows of temporary houses. While trying to decide what to do next a lady goes past so I ask where is the campground. She laughs, says something and continues on her way. I go up the hill a bit more but cannot see any obvious place it could be, just a large car park and buildings.
So turn round to return to my journey, but people under a shade canopy wave for me to join them. They want to know what I want so I tell them my quest. I accept the offered drink with thanks.
One of the people there is bilingual, so she translates for us. They don’t know about the campground so she and I go ask at the main office. No, the camp ground is closed, but from the uncertainty of the answer I get the feeling they would say yes if pushed.
Hiroko is here as part of her university study. She has some free time before work so we both go sightseeing. We visit a shrine at Utatsu that was high enough to escape the tsunami. Amongst other things we discuss the merits of donating or not and the effects on donees of receiving something for nothing over a sustained period of time.
We go to the volunteer centre, in the temporary shopping centre. Talk to the staff Megumi and Mac. Megumi is a local resident and her home was one of those that disappeared. Mac is from Kyoto(?) and has made a DVD of the tsunami here, as filmed by a local resident, so I buy one.
Even though the railway station is high up an embankment, the tsunami over-topped it, the official height being 15m. It really is so difficult to get a proper perspective of the extent of what happened.
Continue the short distance to Minami Sanriku.
Arrive at the ruins of the Disaster Management Centre building. This is from where the tsunami warnings were broadcast. It has become famous in part due to the bravery of Miki Endo, a 24 year old crisis management official who remained at her post and continued to tell people to evacuate as the water rose around her. Only at the last minute did she join the others on the roof.
The wave eventually topped the building and she was swept away along with several others. She was found 6 weeks later.
The sequence of 3 photos below shows the building completely submerged (left) with several people hanging onto antenna and stairs, and then as the water recedes.
The ruins of the building has become a shrine – a focal point for the tragedy, where people go to leave flowers, mementos, and to pray.
While there I meet Akira from Sendai who is visiting the area to check the logistics of bringing 14 people to play cello at a concert nearby. We agree to meet in Sendai.
On the way out of town I stop at a yakitori van parked outside Hotel Kanyo. While eating a gaijin appears and we start a conversation. Mark is from North America and works for OGA for Aid, a volunteer organisation that is located in the hotel complex and supports local residents. He says the yakitori van owner was captain of the local sightseeing boat before the tsunami. His boat was destroyed and he is trying to rebuild his life. Mark kindly lets me check my email on one of their computers.
After Minami Sanriku, Route 45 leaves the coast and heads inland. It is a long but not particularly steep climb. Stop at an ice cream van on the way up to the top. After the pass drop down before arriving at Mokumoku Land Road Station, Tsuyama. There is time to go to the next road station, where I stayed at last year, but decide I like it better here.
Lots of grass, so ask if I can camp and told yes. While waiting for nightfall a couple come and start talking, they give me a drink and snack. Later another couple come over and give me another snack.