Day four – Downtown Kamaishi

Sat, 24th Sep. After breakfast, Yuka and I headed back out into the downtown area to have a look around.

Badly damaged building and car with view of port beyond
View through the ground floor of a ravaged building
Crushed Bunka taxi cab
View of an ancestral photo hanging in second floor room

By this time, there was a steady stream of traffic running through the town centre and as the traffic lights were not yet working it was almost impossible to cross the road. Every shop in what had been Kamsishi’s main shopping ‘arcade’ had front shutters forced inwards by the force of water and piles of rubble and belongings still strewn within. In places, a bunch of flowers indicated where the shop owner had perished. In others, a hastily taped sign gave contact details of where the owner could now be found…

Shop on Kamaishi’s main street
More shops, Kamaishi main street
A message of thanks for everybody’s support and new contact details for the business posted on a store front

In particular, we were interested to see the apartments where the Kamaishi JETs, Kevin and Yves, had lived, and also my homestay family’s house/hospital. Yves’s block of flats had been fairly new and designated as a tsunami evacuation point even though it was right on the port. It had been hit by the tsunami up to the second floor. Kevin’s apartment building was several blocks further inland behind my hotel, and didn’t appear to have any outwards signs of damage although the houses in front of the building and the gas stand on the opposite side of the road had all been completely destroyed. The Yamazaki’s home had only suffered some broken windows and nobody had been home at the time..

Port-side apartment where Kamaishi JET, Yves lived.
Tadagoe Residence where Kamaishi JET, Kevin lived
My Kamaishi homestay family’s hospital – Yamazaki Sekkei Gekka

From downtown we made a brief visit up Aoba-doori to the hill housing a Buddhist Temple where Sano-san and most of the local shopkeepers had taken refuge. Statues marked the high water mark of the last great Kamaishi tsunami in 1933. This one had reached higher. The spot, just below the temple is now being developed into a temporary commercial centre were Sano-san and the other O-machi store owners are planning to reestablish their businesses.. We also met members of a Christian church group who had set up a temporary cafe in a tent just west of the temple. “We wanted to set up a place where people who have lost everything could come and gather and talk and forget their stress for a short time.” “However, we have been asked to move on.” they added. “There is a lot of goodwill now, but there is also a lot of politics…”.

“What can people overseas do to support the people of Kamaishi?” I asked. “Don’t forget us.” was the reply.

Steep staircase up the buddhist cemetry where Sano-san and many other O-machi residents fled the tsunami
Standing statues in the buddist cemetery

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Buddha statue marking the high water mark of the great 1933 tsunami
View back through the temple gate towards Kamaishi city centre. Workmen start construction of a new commercial district in Aoba Park in front of the temple gate
A cafe set up by a Christian group in a tent in Kamaishi to offer relief from the stresses of living under post-tsunami conditions
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