Much has been reported that the coastal areas of Northeast Japan were wiped out by the tsunami on March 11, 2011. And that a few cities including Miyako City 宮古市 have been erased off the map. Here is a report from Eyedoc who has decided to see it for himself:
宮古市, just like Danshui, is also a seaside town sitting next to a river that flows into the ocean. This fishing town is famous for not only fresh catches but also the scallops. It is located 90 km east of 盛岡市Morioka City, the capital of 岩手 Iwate Prefecture. It is a 2-hour bus ride from Morioka Station through the winding roads and tunnels cutting into the foot of the hills. Small patches of rice fields carved out of the sloping shores of a shallow brook abound. The entry into Miyako is far less dramatic than expected. It is simply there, an ordinary, quiet town. Although in its heyday, it was wall-to-wall tourists this time of the year. Below is the Miyako Station area where the last bus stop is with only a few pedestrians in sight:
Seeing no fallen buildings anywhere, the first question is where were all the damages. It turns out the city center has mostly been spared. The front edge of the tsunami mercifully stopped somewhere short of the train station, which was only one km away from the sea. Although along the narrow [main] street, there are still a few houses shuttered and a number of empty lots - the street had served as the conduit to the flood water. The devastation suddenly becomes clear in the bay area where the tidal wave entering the mouth of the river had overcome an entire area of houses and buildings leaving only the foundations behind. Here is one of the few remaining buildings that has sustained extensive damage:
Below: a few houses awaiting demolition and the grassy area is where residential houses used to be:
Traveling on the highway high above the shoreline from Miyako north, on the 浄土ヶ浜 Joto-ga-hama Bridge looking down, one can see a collapsed concrete bridge:
And on the other side of the highway bridge, among the utter destruction, one lone Jinga miraculously survived:
Then onto the 田老Taro area, supposed to be safe behind a 9-m tall levee system, was pretty much all gone leaving only remnants of the four walls of each house. The old Taro neighborhood is no longer:
Along this road, in front of the now disappeared houses, someone placed a few hundred rectangular boxes each packed with blooming flowers, adding color to a dreadful scene. A signal of hope, perhaps. Not too far from this spot, a gas station remains open; the pumps are manned by two gentlemen with the rest of the station in tatters. Resilience, Japanese style, it seems.
In all the flooded areas, all the debris have been removed and backhoes are still hard at work. One would expect an army of construction workers feverishly working on various reconstruction projects. This is, however, not to be, not yet anyway.
Life is of course no longer the same in Miyako. The famed Miyako scallops are now imported from Hokkaido. The fish caught here are not marketable because the rest of Japan suspects that seafood from Miyako has been contaminated with human flesh.
In talking with the residents in Miyako, one gets the impression that they are still quite hopeful in the eventual recovery of their beloved city. How long will it take, no one really knows.
The Kambaro Miyako [or Tohoku, or Morioka] signs are now everywhere urging the citizens to "Let's go!"
Let's hope the slogan shouting soon fades into memory and the area totally re-built.