Seeing the material ruin in the wake of the tsunami(s) of March 11th, allows for a better understanding of the force and strength of nature. Coastal towns like Yamada had previous experience with tsunami’s (see history page) in the past and had built seawalls over 3 stories high. The aftermath of sections of these thick cement blockades made them appear like snap-together lego pieces.
The landscape along the coast is so varied, not at all like the straight-lined California coast that I grew up knowing. Many people spoke of the second, third and fourth tsunami wave that came from different directions depending on the shape of the coastline. In some locations the waves approached from different directions and on a narrow-like peninsula section two tsunami waves came head on. There was nothing but gareki 瓦礫 (rubble) left in that area.
The clean-up efforts are at different stages depending on several factors. Not much has been done in towns that were completely wiped out. Most likely due to no local people or services left to do the work and uncertainty of where to re-build. Some places have mounds upon mounds of rubble, several stories high scattered throughout ,awaitingdisposal instructions, vehicles and assistance. Building remains and houses that have been thoroughly searched through have been marked kaitiai OK (解体), or sometimes just OK. A funny word to use to signal others to go ahead and bulldoze what’s left here. One would think that situation was anything but OK.
Most everyone has seen the footage of the tsunami on-line and on television. To me, it appeared, from a distance mind you, slow and quiet. Not so. According to the Scientific American,
the speed of the water is nearly 800 kilometers an hour (almost 500 mph), and seeing the placement of concrete, steel, vehicles and anything not bolted down, the noise must have been horrific. The distance and scattered direction that the material and people were carried was not unlike a jigsaw puzzle thrown into the air.
The home and body of Toshiaki’s cousin Takehiko was found in tact several blocks from its original location where it ironically was stopped by
the jinja 神社 (shrine) housing the god of the ocean. Yamada has a famous matsuri 祭り(festival) where the men all carry the omikoshi (container holding the sea god) ceremoniously into the ocean (and after several glasses of sake) to bless its abundance during fishing season. This omikoshi was washed away, but the shrine remained and stopped the flow of Takehiko’s house (see stories).
Toshiaki’s friend, Sasaki was neighbors with Takehiko. He said, “we all knew it was coming, we knew it… we just never imagined its size and force.”