【For 3.11】 My short trip to Miyagi!  Kesennuma, where people gave me many smiles

March 11th 2011, seven years ago today, 東日本大震災(The Great East Japan Earthquake) occurred. It triggered powerful tsunami waves and caused immense damage to 東北(Tohoku) area, especially 岩手(Iwate), 宮城(Miyagi) and 福島(Fukushima) prefectures. 気仙沼(Kesennuma) in Miyagi is one of a place destroyed by the tsunami on the day.

I was a senior student at a university student and a graduation ceremony was planned soon. However, most of schools canceled their graduation ceremony in March since the they thought it was not about time to celebrate, and the university I went was not an exception. (Students went to the university and we just received the certificate of graduation at an office instead.)

I don’t feel any regrets about the cancellation of our graduation ceremony, but there was one thing I had felt regret. That was I couldn’t do any thing except putting some money into a donation box. I was busy to prepare for my new life as an office worker, but I had felt “It’s just my excuse! There must have been many things I could do for people who suffered from the disaster. Why didn’t I do anything?” for a long time. Mass medias often showed the terrible damages caused by the disaster, people who lost their beloved families were in sadness and desperate, volunteers worked to support restoration of Tohoku. I felt sorry when I heard sad news related to Tohoku, and I felt happy when I heard bright news. However, as time passed, I noticed that mass medias don’t report so much how the restoration is going, and it was difficult to know what is going on the areas seriously damaged.

I decided to visit 気仙沼(Kesennuma), one of the places destroyed by the tsunami on March 11th 2011, to see the current situation over there and spread information by posting. Actually, the time I went to Kesennuma was last year, August 2017, but I haven’t written my blog post about it since I thought the best timing is March 11th. Anyway, I’m going to talk about what I saw and what I felt in Kesennuma today.

 

There are several ways to go to Kessennuma, and I took a night bus from Tokyo to Sendai, the prefectural capital of Miyagi, and then took a different bus from Sendai to Kesennuma. It is much faster if you take 新幹線(Shinkansen = a bullet train) from Tokyo to Sendai, but I used bus services to save my money. As the bus approached the northern areas from Sendai, the scenery changed. I was shocked when I saw large plain fields and signs on some buildings showing how high the tsunami was. I felt so frightened by the power of tsunami which washed away large sections of the town.

 

The sign on the wall shows how high the tsunami was.

The sign shows how high the tsunami was.

 

But some houses and commercial facilities were rebuilt, and I could visit the place called 気仙沼海の市(Kesennuma Uminoichi). It is a commercial facility and there are some restaurants, shops, tourists information center and a museum in the same building. There used to be a “shark museum” in Kesennuma, but it was destroyed by the tsunami. On April 2nd, 2014, the museum re-opened.

You can watch some short movies about the story of Kesennuma and the tsunami. (I couldn’t help crying when I watched them…) Their displays are not only about sharks but also about things related to the tsunami caused by The Great East Japan Earthquake. The museum is not big, but it is worth visiting.

Kesennuma before 3.11

Kesennuma after 3.11

 

Just after 3.11

March 1st, 2012

 

 

 

 

There’s an unique spot in the Uminoichi, and it is “Ice Aquarium”. I don’t know if we can call it aquarium, though. There’s a room with temperature -20℃(℉) and you can see various kinds of fish in ice. You can borrow snowsuit to keep your body warm, but it was still too cold to stay in the room for a long time, and I left there in five minutes.

If your body get cold, you can warm it up by having hot drinks and food at restaurants. There’s a shop which sells seafood and you can try fresh seafood if you ask them. You can order the seafood you want to try and tell them how to cook!

 

There are some shops that you can buy various types of seafood and local food in Kesennuma. I will write about “omiyage” in Kesennuma in a few days.

 

Coincidently, there was a festival in Kesennuma when I went there. The festival is called 気仙沼みなとまつり(Kesennuma Minato matsuti) and I could see the parade of はまらいんや踊り(Hamarainya-dance). Hamarainya means “Let’s join the same party” or “Let’s be friends” in local language in Kesennuma. I visited Kesennuma alone and I felt lonely a little bit at first, but when I leant what “Hamarainya” means and saw the parade, I felt like I’m a member of them and didn’t feel lonely.

*If we say this phrase in standard Japanese, we use 一緒に仲間に入りましょう(Isshoni nakama ni hairi mashou). Isshoni hairi = join together, nakama = party, comrade or company, and mashou is a polite expression. (By the way, Minions use the word “仲間(nakama)” a lot in the movie of “Minions” released in 2015 in the US.)

People who took part in the parade looked in wide range of age groups, and most people were wearing colorful costumes. They looked having fun and their smiling made me happy too.

I was surprised when I found Pikachu (big one) at the festival, but I guess Pikachu was invited to amuse children as a professional entertainer.

 

After the festival, I went to a sushi restaurant called あさひ鮨 (Asahi-zushi). They have some branch restaurants in Miyagi prefecture. The head restaurant had to move after “The Great East Japan Earthquake”, but they could go back to the place witch they used to be in April 2017. It was my first time to go to a sushi restaurant alone and I felt half excited and half nervous before taking my seat. However, after a few minutes passed, I felt just exciting to see a sushi chef was making sushi in front of me. Fish was very fresh, and all sushi was delicious. The chef was so nice and he gave me a chance to try sashimi of unique fish. (I will also write about it in a few days.)

I took taxi twice when I stayed in Kesennuma. First was when I went to “Uminoici” and the second was when I went back from Asahi-zushi to a hotel near Kesennuma station. When the taxi drivers found that I’m a tourist, both of them started talking about many things about Kesennuma such as sightseeing spots and delicious food for me. When I told them that I came to Kesennuma because I wanted to know the current situation, they said they were glad because they’d like many people to know the restoration is still on the way, but people in Kesennuma are trying to get their hometown better place.

 

People in Kesennuma must have had very hard and sad time, but they are trying to overcome what happened on March 11st and living for their future. The people I met in Kesennuma were nice and very friendly, and they cheered me up. I hope my post will be a help for people to know more about Kesennuma.

Risa

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