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Monday, July 29, 2013

Hamaguri Hama, and its ahupua'a mentality

Hamaguri Hama is a very small village in Ishinomaki, fronting the ocean and surrounded by green mountains on all sides. Prior to March 11, 2011, nine families lived in what I assume must have been a tight-knit community. Now, only five people remain. "My job was fishing and I was away for a year," explains one of the five to our group, a man who exudes a calm determination.  "When I came back, this village had disappeared." Because the community was so small, the government didn't give any assistance for the cleanup. So, it's been tasked to the residents to clean, rebuild and figure out a new source of income in order for the community to grow. In this case, the answer is tourism.

And, my prediction is that it will be successful. Hamaguri Hama is a beautiful, quiet place where all you can hear is the ocean and the one or two cars that pass by every half an hour. A cafe has already opened in a house on top of the mountain. "I started last year, and now a lot of people have visited," he says. A restaurant and campgrounds are next.

However, today we were not there to sit and watch the view, but to help. And, we had a large army of people to assist. The Ishinomaki baseball team and their parents were there and ready to work with us when we arrived. We all immediately split into four groups: two mountain groups, a beach group and another group tasked with pulling weeds.

The importance of working on the mountain was explained so more people would help there. "In order to clean the ocean, we need to clean the mountain first or rubbish will come to the beach." Anyone who is familiar with the Hawaiian ahupua'a system would be struck by these words, as I was. Both the Japanese and Hawaii cultures are connected to the ocean and land, and understand that there must be a balance in order to achieve sustainability. It is one of the many connections I have made in Japan to Hawaii.

When the groups split, I decided to follow one of the mountain groups first, because it was an area I had not been to before when I had visited last. We hiked a short way up the mountain to where the campgrounds would be, a place under tall trees next to a stream with little waterfalls. It would also serve as Hamaguri Hama's tsunami evacuation zone. The group was tasked with raking leaves and moving piles of branches and chopped tree trunks from one location to another. It was a tough and dirty job, with many new bugs that the boys enjoyed pointing out.

Next, I went to the beach to see how things have changed. I was pleased to see that the beach had far less rubbish than when I was there last, but there was still much to clean. Plastic pieces, ropes and large pieces of tarps were found and removed from the beach, some caked deep under the sand by the force of the tsunami.

The last group was a mountain group I wish I had seen, because it would have been a sight to see. They had hiked to a bamboo forest, where the adults were given machete to chop, while others had to carry the bamboo trees away. It was a difficult, muddy and sweaty job, as I was told. Clothes had to be changed and thrown away.

When our work was done for the day, we received many thanks for our support for this small beach community. "Thanks to your help this beach will be more popular."

 

Posted on Monday, July 29, 2013 in Permalink

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About this Blog

Christine Hitt, HONOLULU Magazine's digital media manager, is traveling with the 18-player Punahou Gold Intermediate Baseball Team, the coaches and their families on a goodwill trip to the tsunami-affected areas of Ishinomaki and Minamisanriku in the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan.

Follow along as she visits the region, reports on how recovery efforts have progressed, volunteers on projects and watches the baseball games between Punahou and an Ishinomaki team.

Email Christine.

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