July 27, 2013
The Punahou Intermediate baseball team stare out at what used to be houses and shops in Ishinomaki.
"Japanese people don't describe the tsunami as a wave. It was a wall of water," explained Michiko, our guide. It's raining and we're on our way to Ishinomaki City where the first wall of water hit the city at 25-feet tall. In Ishinomaki, it destroyed 23,357 homes, cost the lives of 3,520 people and 415 are still missing.
"All previous tsunamis were small, so some people thought that it would be okay to just go a little way up," she said, bringing thoughts to my mind of Hawaii's tsunami warnings. "But, this wasn't the usual tsunami, it was the kind of tsunami that comes every thousand years," she added.
Two years and four months later, the landscape looks improved since my last visit to the devastated areas in September. "More than 50% of the debris [in Miyagi Prefecture] has been cleared," says Michiko, thanks to the neighboring regions who were willing to take some of it for their landfills. The foundations of buildings, that were constant reminders of the devastation, are also being covered by tall grass. It will soon hide the physical scars of what had happened on March 2011. But, the identification of remains still continue. And, this doesn't hide that more than 30,000 people are still living in temporary housing and needing assistance, 15,644 from Ishinomaki.
Our visit was short, but the effects are long-lasting. We continue on the road again in heavy rain. The weather service has issued torrential rain and flood warnings. But, the Punahou team has a baseball game and we're hoping that it will clear within the next few hours.
Follow the hashtag #honolulu2sendai on Instagram for live updates.