JCIE’s managing director, Hideko Katsumata, travelled to Tohoku last week to meet with potential recipients of the long-term recovery portion of JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. Ms. Katsumata visited Kamaishi and Miyako—two port towns where many of the vivid videos the world saw on March 11 of the tsunami’s destructive force were shot. These towns suffered greatly.
- Number of dead and missing—1,256;
- Number of homes demolished or damaged—3,723;
- 3,126 temporary homes built, scattered in 50 locations, mainly in the hills;
- The tsunami swept away 2 out of 9 elementary schools and 1 of 5 middle schools.
- Number of dead and missing—646;
- Number of homes demolished or damaged—4,675;
- 2010 temporary houses built in 62 locations.
These are two towns with very high senior populations—31.2% and 26.5% of their populations respectively were at least 65 years old at the time the tsunami hit. In Miyako, the tsunami climbed 40 meters up a hill washing away a daycare center for seniors.
Ms. Katsumata arrived on August 11, the five-month anniversary of the disaster. She met with organizers of a kitchen car project and community bus project in Kamaishi, a day-care center for senior citizens deep in the Miyako mountains, and an educational project. Her visit also coincided with Obon, the week when the souls of one’s ancestors are welcomed home with candles or lanterns, offerings are made at house altars and graves, Obon dances are performed, and then the ancestors are guided back to their own world with lanterns that are floated down a river. In Kamaishi, she noted that most of the main shopping arcade had been cleared of rubble, but the area is mostly in the process of being torn down or rebuilt. Only two shops are open for business at this point. The hotel in which she stayed was under repair as well, and there was no air conditioning despite record heat. And the night she was there she felt two earthquakes—including a strong one at 3:30 a.m. It was an exhausting and yet fruitful trip, and we hope to be reporting on some of these projects in the future. Although the people in these towns have started to pick themselves up and find ways to recover from the tragedy, they definitely need outside support to rebuild their communities.