Day 3, Mar 2nd, Soma-Yamamoto 相馬-山元

I could hear the raindrop on the front porch all night long, and it did drizzle all day today. Temperature was 37°F (3°C). Not bad compared to the U.S. Midwest back home. The walk was manageable in general. The waterproof gears performed well, considering I was out in the open for 5 hours without a single shelter.



I went by the fish port again and made a turn to the Matsukawa Bridge, the backdrop of last night’s tsunami video. Walking through the industrial port on the north, I discovered the big chimney I’ve been seeing since yesterday was another fire power plant.




I started to see more bare house foundations. The houses seemed like been gone for long long time, but it’s only 3 years. I later learned that countless foundations were stripped away, too. An open lot could have had a building before. I’m crossing into Miyagi Prefecture, the area took the most severe damage. 10416 deaths, 1283 missing. Many places are eerily flat, a view that I will encounter a lot. The only large structure left standing turned out to be an elementary school. Tear came to my eyes when I imagined the tragic moments. Why did they build the school so close to the water? It’s probably only 100 meters away. A memorial right next to the school indicated this small village alone suffered a death toll of 137.


いよいよ宮城県に入ろうとしている。災害が最も厳しかった地域だ。死者10416人、行方不明者1283人。あまりに多くの場所が不気味なくらいに平らになっている。でもこれからこうした光景を頻繁に見かけることになるのだろう。唯一残っていた大きな建物は小学校だった。悲劇の瞬間を想像して私の目から涙があふれた。一体なぜこんなに海の近くに学校を? ここから海までは、おそらく100メートルくらいしか離れていない。学校跡のすぐそばに建てられた記念碑には、この小さな村だけで、137人の死者が出たことが記されていた。




I walked along a road that was next to the train track of Joban Line (常磐線). It was completely washed away by the tsunami. The only visible remains are foundations of bridges. I went to Sakamoto Station (坂元駅) and it was gone, too. The railroad and stations are still on the map. I thought I was silly to goggle hotels around the station. The town has 2 hotels and I stayed in Iwakiya Ryokan (磐城屋旅館, the other one is a love hotel). This family hotel is in its 7th generation of operation with 250 years history. Located 2 kilometers from the ocean, it was flooded in 4 feet of water and was closed for 9 months. The daughter of the owner, Masako, invited me to her house. I thought I heard her wrong… Just like that? A total stranger?



I joined Masako, her husband Masanori, and brother Shuichi for a nice long conversation. They were open and caring. Shuichi is an elementary school teacher. I asked him about the school I saw. He said the students were safe. They took shelter in the attic and were evacuated by helicopter the next day. I was so relieved. He started showing me photos on his phone, friends who passed away, including a little girl. He looked sad. I said I lost my daughter, too. The expression on their face told me they realized why I came. We became much closer all of a sudden.



Shuichi was fascinated by my camera and took footage all over the house. I asked them if they wanted to shoot tomorrow, but they all had to work. They phoned their friend, Izumi, and he showed up in 10 minutes. Another nice guy, with a sense of humor. They asked me if I had found a hotel for next evening, and offered to help. Masanori searched on his computer for half and hour. It was difficult even for them, but we finally made it.



The hotel does not serve meals. The closest restaurant is over a mile away. Masako drove me there. We ended up having dinner together with her son. It’s Korean BBQ. I told her it’s one of my favorite food. The other is Japanese. She was happy to hear that, and said I was like her family. She offered to make me rice balls for breakfast. I’m saving them for lunch. There will be no restaurant where I go.


Japanese translation by Michiko Owaki. 日本語訳:大脇美智子

Day 3, March 2nd, GPS Track on Google Map, 20 kilometers

2 thoughts

  1. Do and I saw few tsunami videos on You-tube this morning. It was still heartbreaking seeing those. I kept wondering what it’d be like currently on the locations we saw on the videos. Seems like you’ve met a lot of nice people along the way. What a fortune you’ve earned already!

  2. I am a friend of Shuichi’s who you met yesterday in Yamamoto. Shuichi informed me this web site by email this morning. We are in the same group to support Tohoku. We have been sending support goods to him. May be his house was full of them. Every weekend,Shuichi drives along the coast and delivers them to the peple who are in need. He is the very front of our groop. He dedicates himself to his homeland Tohoku. We all members of our group are proud of him. He is a really great man. He stood up like a lion on the land of hopeless disaster. I am very glad to see him in your web site. What you are doing is great. You connect the today’s Thoku and the people to the world. Thank you very much.

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