When Tamara and I came to Ishinomaki to see the tsunami damage, we had no idea that there was a memorial set up there, in remembrance of the devastation.
Information about Ishinomaki’s current condition is remarkably hard to find, even searching in Japanese. There are plenty of articles and photos in every language about the tsunami itself, and film footage all over YouTube. But for all of my searching, I never came across this information:
There is a memorial set up along the main street in Kadonowaki.. the only really drivable street along the shoreline area where the tsunami hit this town hard.
And unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s hard to spot this memorial from a distance. So, we were walking back from the school, hoping to catch a cab back to our hotel and turn in for the night, when this caught our eyes:
The sign says, “Ganbarou! Ishinomaki.” Ganbarou is one of those words that doesn’t really have a direct translation, but the general idea in this case is, Let’s do our best, Ishinomaki! or Let’s keep on fighting, Ishinomaki! A never-give-up kind of message.
I was really surprised to see the memorial, and even more so when I drew closer and realized what was going on.
It turned out that this lot had once been a store along a busy shopping street. In this case, this store used to sell bottled water contracts, I think. You know, where you rent a water cooler, and huge bottles are delivered to your house or office at regular intervals.
Do you see that short, solitary blue beam on the far left, next to the white pole?
That was part of the store facade, and by some miracle, it had survived “intact,” more or less. In this photo below, which was taped to the front of the beam, a photo of the original store is shown, with this exact beam circled in red.
The photo below that shows how the store looked inside, before the tsunami came and swept it all away.
There was also a book, waterlogged from the rain, that showed how the street looked prior to the earthquake/tsunami, and a number of photos shot after the wreckage had settled down and began to be cleaned up. Just looking at the photos, you can see how much manpower it must have taken to clear out this area.
Can you imagine being one of the cleanup crew, trying to not only get rid of wreckage, but to find the bodies decaying and buried under all the rubble and water? There were thousands of people found in the wreckage, and even a year and a half later, there are still several thousand people that were never found.
There was also a sign on the blue pole to look behind it. The white pole was erected to show how high the tsunami water came in this area. If not for the sign at eye level, you may have not known to look up..
In this area, the water alone rose 6.9 meters (22 ft 7 in) above the ground. Then there was all of the debris flowing on top of that, like whole houses, for example..
I left a message in the notebook, which was also waterlogged and filled with similar messages, like, “ganbatte, Ishinomaki!” I think mine just said something along those lines.
We left after that, but there had been something about the memorial that felt final. Like a good stopping point. I’d seen a lot of destruction, and I was more than ready to get some sleep, and head to Cat Island the next day. Kitties could make anything better!!
But there was one more thing that sort of surprised me on the way out..
In the middle of the devastation was a cluster of.. vending machines.
Japan literally has vending machines EVERYWHERE. Living here for 8 years now, it’s become commonplace, but I was still a little bit surprised by the sight.
It felt out-of-place, and maybe even a little bit rude.
..but I was really thirsty, so I bought a drink. (^o^);;;;;;;;;;;
We walked by a factory and back into the city, where we caught a cab back to our hotel for the night. It had been a long, loooooong, cold day in Ishinomaki.
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