Communities Struggle to Rebuild: April 2011

4. April 2011

Communities Struggle to Rebuild Shattered Lives on Japan's Coast

David McNeill

Kanno Mitsuhide (36) is standing on a pile of muddy firewood where his home used to be. He has come to salvage what he can and found a single object: a hibachi, a traditional Japanese charcoal heater. "We could only locate the house because of this," he says, pointing at an old green water pump still clinging stubbornly to solid ground. The small family car is 200 meters away, upside down, across the ruined landscape of Rikuzen-Takata.

A few days ago, Mr. Kanno gave up the search for his father, Ken (68), who was washed out to sea. "We think he was in his car, trying to reach relatives when the tsunami came," he explains. "Everybody ran up there," he says, nodding up toward a temple. His mother has gone to the local makeshift morgue to identify the bloated, partly decomposed body of her husband. A few days ago the police showed her the wrong corpse. "She was terribly upset."

Rikuzen-Takata until recently was a picturesque fishing town boasting a 900-year-old festival of floats and a coastline bathed in the azure blue Pacific waters. Today it exists only in name. The quake and muddy deluge has torn the town from its roots, leaving a gaping wound of smashed cars, pulverised wooden houses and twisted metal girders.
David McNeill writes for The Independent, The Irish Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, Communities Struggle to Rebuild Shattered Lives on Japan's Coast, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 14 No 4, April 4, 2011.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT3pAXYMTC4&feature=player_embedded

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