Footage and news related to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami and the damage it caused to the city of Hakodate.

Remembering March 11th

By Ben Mirin

Nothing reveals the true character and strength of a nation like a disaster. I would never wish such a horrible catastrophe on any people of the world, but as a foreigner living in Japan during the March 11th earthquake, I do consider myself lucky, lucky to have witnessed the incredible resolve of the Japanese people to such a degree as only such a disaster could reveal. Gan-bare Nihon!

Nanae Hosts Fukushima Kids’ Summer Camp

photo by Ken Ikeda

By Ben Mirin, CIR

July 27th, 2011

NANAE ONUMA—On the morning of July 26th, twenty-four of Nanae’s government employees arrived at the town office in outfits that undoubtedly broke Japan’s “casual bizz” dress code for summer.  Instead of collared shirts, slacks, and indoor slippers they tramped inside with dusty sneakers, cargo shorts, bandanas, and the occasional apron.

Moments after the morning bell rang I ran outside with this already sweaty entourage and piled into one of several cars bound for Nagareyama Onsen in the neighboring town of Onuma.  When we arrived crates of vegetables and packs of ice were already streaming across the spa’s luxurious grounds.  An early start was critical; soon, 235 children and parents from Fukushima would arrive for an all-day barbecue to kickoff the first season of Fukushima Kids’ Summer Camp, and to enjoy their first leisurely day outside in over four months.

“You are wonderful hosts!” exclaimed the Camp’s founder Toru Shinshi.  “Normally we have about 80 volunteers with us on the program, but today there is a great local turnout.”

Not thirty minutes had passed and already Nanae’s task force was greeting the first waves of students and summer camp staff.  As they arrived, so did volunteers from Nanae’s Board of Education and from the Higashi Onuma Elementary student body and Parent-Teacher Association.  Groups from all around Nanae would arrive that day to help the Summer Camp achieve its simple, heartfelt goal:

“All we want is for these kids to be able to play outside again, especially during their summer break,” Shinshi-san explained.  “Towns throughout Fukushima Prefecture have cancelled all of their student programs for the summer of 2011 because of the accident and unfolding crisis at the [Fukushima Daiichi] nuclear power plant, and children are being forced to stay indoors.”

photo by Ken Ikeda

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Reflections on Japan’s March 11th Earthquake, Tsunamis, and Their Aftermath

by Ben Mirin, CIR

What follows is the combined text of my first and second entries for “The Japan Connection,” my new bi-monthly column in The Concord Journal, the local paper in Nanae’s American sister city Concord, Massachusetts. I am currently working on my 3rd piece, which will reach print on Wednesday, May 4th.

Look for this article in the Summer 2011 issue of Concord Academy Magazine.

The Sun Will Rise Again: Japan in the Aftermath of the March 11th Earthquake

HAKODATE, Japan: Driving away from the oncoming wave, I hit Route 5 and had to stop suddenly.  No one else seemed to know that a second tsunami was coming.  For what felt like an eternity, I sat at the intersection near Jujigai as citizens waited patiently for the light to turn green.

After watching 10-meter waves destroy much of northeastern Honshu on television, I had driven downtown from my government office in Nanae, Hokkaido, upon receiving word that Hakodate–a city just 10 kilometers south of my beloved town and home to many of my coworkers and English students–had experienced flooding after the earthquake.  To what extent, I did not know.

In an explosion of debris and muddy water, the tsunami caught up with me.  It was faster now, and higher. Fishmongers dropped armfuls of merchandise and ran across the highway as an oncoming bus veered around them onto a narrow side street. I mounted the curb and careened through the city’s back roads in an effort to get to higher ground…

The next day the streets were filthy.  Storefronts near Toyokawa Wharf were in complete disarray as storeowners, government workers, and volunteers trudged through muck and piles of destroyed merchandise.  Heaps of dead and dying seafood punctuated a parade of ruined furniture, plastic bags filled with wet clothes, and fragments of shattered architecture.  King crabs worth 18,000 Yen lay worthless upon overturned wooden crates.  Even the noble squid, for which Hakodate is famous worldwide, could be seen lying dead on the pavement.

The tsunamis in Hakodate had reached an approximate height of 1.8 meters.  From what I could see, the water had pushed at least 3 blocks inland, flooding several evacuation sites where hundreds of residents and tourists were taking refuge.

“When the second tsunami hit, the first floor of our building flooded,” said volunteer and Hakodate native Toru Maruyama.  He stood outside the third-floor conference room of the O. Loisir Hotel, where a weary crowd was lining up to receive a delivery of fresh packed lunches from the Hakodate Town Office.

“When I arrived at 11pm last night there were about 100 people staying here.  When the floods came, the street outside became like a river.”

As volunteers poured into Hakodate, life back in Nanae was eerily silent.  No one seemed to be mobilizing recovery teams.  They were all staying home with their families. Perhaps they were glued to their televisions, watching the news unfold:

“Route 5 is closed until further notice. Hakodate’s JR Train Station is expected to reopen this Sunday afternoon. One man, 67-year-old Teguramori Keiji of Wakamatsu-cho, Hakodate, has drowned.” Read more

Official Communication: Nanae to Concord after the Earthquake

–Translated by Ben Mirin, CIR, and Emi Kimura, Assistant CIR–

March 17th, 2011

Nanae Town Office

Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun

Hokkaido, Japan 041-1192

 

Board of Selectmen’s Office

Concord, Massachusetts 01742

 

Dear Chairman Wieand and Friends in Concord,

We deeply thank you for your expressed concerns and warm messages following the earthquake.  We are glad to inform you that Nanae did not sustain any damage.  However, the Tohoku (northeastern) and Kanto (eastern) areas of Japan are suffering from this disaster.  The earthquake and the tsunami caused massive damage to their towns and many people have died or gone missing.

This was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since the government started keeping records.  Not only did it leave mortal damage and scars, but it also made many people lose their homes and evacuate to shelters.  There are no words to express how these people are feeling now or how hard their lives have become.

We are grateful to the American government for sending teams to Japan so quickly.  We thank all of our friends in Concord and the American nation for their support.

Right now our government is working with full force for a fast recovery.  The Town of Nanae is going to contribute as much as we can in this regard.

Sincerely,

 

Yasukazu Nakamiya

Mayor of Nanae

Four Days after Record Japan Earthquake, Local Hokkaido Governments Send Aid

By Ben Mirin, CIR

March 15th, 2011

NANAE: Today, the Nanae Town Office began accepting financial donations for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief.  The Office’s Welfare Section received donations from “Rhythm Friend” Sports Club (30,000 Yen), the Town Office’s General Affairs Section (12,081 Yen), and three private donors, for a total of 63,081 Yen on the first morning.*

Until today, residents in Nanae have been donating money through collection boxes at local convenience stores and through local post offices.

“I was able to send money through Nanae’s post office on Monday,” Nanae Town employee Nami Nishizawa said.  “As long as you address your envelope to a national organization like the Japanese Red Cross, it should go through okay.”

It is also possible to make donations with credit cards, though cash donations at local shops appear to be a more popular option among Nanae residents.

For those interested in making monetary donations, the Japanese Red Cross is a good bet.  All such donations collected at the Nanae Town Office are currently being sent there.

Nanae is also taking part in an all-Hokkaido human relief effort.  The prefectural government has just assembled a team of paramedics and firefighters from towns across the island that will travel to various locations on Honshu to help prevent further loss of life.  Representing Nanae are two firefighters and an ambulance loaded with supplies.  The team departed early this morning.

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Tsunamis Flood Hakodate: The Immediate Aftermath (more live video)

By Ben Mirin, CIR

It has been roughly 35 hours since Japan suffered from a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the largest in the country’s recorded geological history.  Looking at the fault lines, it seems as if things are not over yet.

Indeed, as I write this I can feel recurring tremors in my apartment building in Nanae.  My door is open, my gas is turned off, my shelves are bare, and in a horrible transgression against Japanese etiquette…I’m wearing outside shoes indoors.

After a night of driving through Hakodate’s back roads with a tsunami at my back, I returned to the front lines this afternoon to provide an eyewitness account of the damage and ongoing cleanup efforts underway in the city’s waterfront district.
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Live Video on ConcordNanae.com

By Ben Mirin, CIR

Dear followers of Concordnanae.com,

I wanted to call your attention to the live video feed on our website.  This feed uses a cellphone application called Qik, which allows me to upload a video in real time from anywhere in Japan.  The Qik video player here on the homepage will display the latest live video from this stream, but you can see more clips on our YouTube Channel or at http://qik.com/benmirin.

More up-to-date news is also available through our Twitter feeds.  Follow me, @benmirin, or the website, @Concordnanae.

I’m publishing this information now because Japan is currently struggling in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake that struck less than an hour ago.  Nanae only experienced a magnitude 4 earthquake, but northeastern Honshu suffered one that registered 7.9 on the Richter scale. Tsunamis are currently overtaking dozens of towns in and around the city of Sendai, but more news is always on the way. I will be using my Qik channel to post more updates.

Here is my first live video about the earthquake:

Stay tuned for more updates through the various channels on Concordnanae.com.
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