Otsuchi, Return of a Perilous Beauty

 No1-2016-03Otsuchi

A March 2015 view of the progress of the incremental landfill operations in centrol Otsuchi that began in 2013 after debris-clearing. To the left is the district of Ando, with its fishing jetty protruding into the harbor; across the Kozuchi River to the right is Nobematsu, now connected by a temporary span that replaced the original bridge and its six-meter high floodgates.
A tsunami-battered town tries to get back on its feet: struggle, conflict, bureaucracy and, yes, hope.

 

by Charles Pomeroy

Not all has gone smoothly in the town of Otsuchi as it struggles to recover from the tsunami devastation wreaked upon it five years ago. (See my story, “The Perilous Beauty of Otsuchi,” in the April, 2011 edition of No. 1 Shimbun.) For starters, the loss of its mayor, Koki Kato, together with key department heads and the more than 30 experienced staff that made up a quarter of the town’s civil servants meant that there was no one to immediately get to work on a master plan for recovery. It wasn’t until January 2012 that a draft was finally completed, under a new mayor, Yutaka Ikarigawa.

Mayor Ikarigawa was faced with a number of tough issues, from organizing housing for survivors to sorting out land problems for the dead and missing. And over the next several years some progress was made, including a partial revival of the fisheries industry and construction of new residences to replace the temporary structures housing survivors.

But two key projects in the master plan led to discontent, as the long-range view of those who had forged the plan clashed with the more immediate desires of the survivors. One was a plan to raise the ground level in central Otsuchi by 2.5 meters; the other, to build a huge seawall 14.5 meters high.

After months of uncertainty, many displaced townspeople could not wait another six years and departed for other locales.

The plan to raise the ground level, intended as a safeguard against smaller tsunami and future rises in the sea level, will bring it up to the level of the entry road from National Highway 45 and the new town offices, formerly the burned-out elementary school. It is a six-year project, started in 2012 with debris clearing, followed by incremental landfill scheduled through 2016, and finally ending with a year of waiting for it all to settle before rebuilding can begin in 2018. But after months of uncertainty following the tsunami, many displaced townspeople could not wait another six years and departed for other locales.

THE PLAN TO BUILD the huge seawall – favored by Tokyo bureaucrats, but with the responsibility in the hands of the prefecture – has yet to get underway. Strong doubts have been expressed about its usefulness in protecting the town against future, perhaps even larger, tsunami. Critics also say that any concrete structure of this kind will deteriorate and require replacement in 50 years, which will mean another huge outlay of tax money. They prefer an enhanced system of tsunami alerts and evacuation routes, which are already included in the master plan for central Otsuchi.

In particular, opposition was voiced by the fisheries folk in Akahama, which is also home to Tokyo University’s International Coastal Research Center (ICRC). Akahama also has a walkway to Horaijima, an islet known to most Japanese from a popular 1960s NHK puppet program Hyokkori Hyotan-jima that featured a popular theme song. Many of its residents were lost in the 2011 tsunami, opponents said, because the earlier seawall at 6.5 meters had blocked their view of the “drawback” – receding water from the harbor that preceded the onslaught – that would have alerted them to seek higher ground. In their opinion, a seawall 14.5 meters high would just make such future situations even worse.

Opponents had their point made for them with the release in April, 2015, of a documentary by director Haruko Konishi, titled Akahama Rock’n Roll. The film makes a strong case for the more traditional fishery environment rather than a high seawall. Even Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife, expressed sympathy for the opponents’ cause at a UN Disaster Prevention Conference in Sendai last year, according to newspaper reports.

After losing almost 10 percent of its 15,239 citizens to the tsunami (one of the largest losses among the affected towns), Otsuchi’s population continues to drop. In fact, it had fallen by 23.2 percent by the end of 2015, according to a report in Asahi Shimbun. This is far and away the largest decrease among the coastal communities affected by the tsunami, with the next highest being Rikuzentakata at 15.2 percent. The reasons were various. Some former residents who had evacuated to inland towns just opted not to return to the gutted community. But the biggest hit came from the post-tsunami exodus of younger people looking for work or schooling elsewhere.
Today, Otsuchi has become a town occupied mostly by retirees and transient workers.

Aside from cleanup and landfill work and rebuilding, long-term jobs that can help persuade locals to stay are in short supply to this day. Although the partially recovered fishery industry continues to offer opportunities, these jobs seem to offer little appeal for the younger generation. And though MAST – Otsuchi’s major shopping center that attracted many residents of surrounding communities – reopened in December 2011, its consumer base began eroding after 2013 as a result of increasing competition from shopping centers in nearby towns, especially the Aeon shopping center in nearby Kamaishi.

Driving home the reality of a shrinking population was the merger of three elementary schools in April 2013. Today, Otsuchi has become a town occupied mostly by retirees and transient workers.

TO ENCOURAGE REBUILDING IN Otsuchi, government subsidies totaling ¥5 million are on offer to qualifying families. But no rebuilding can take place in the town center until 2018, and those who want to build in other areas face escalating construction costs. That is assuming, of course, that a construction company can be found, for even local governments are having difficulty in obtaining bids for their projects. Costs have been rising not only from demand in the stricken areas of Sanriku, but also from the general upgrading of the national infrastructure by the Abe administration, a situation further aggravated by the decision to hold the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

These developments have fed growing cynicism among survivors all along the Sanriku coast. Many sense they are being abandoned, or at least having their futures downgraded in favor of other government projects. These feelings have only increased following the decision to hold the Olympics. And when the central government recently announced an end to the intensive five-year phase of Tohoku reconstruction and a reduction in such funds for the next five-year phase from fiscal 2016, this only added to their pessimism.

Despite these negatives, one of our family members, a brother-in-law in his mid-60s who spent most of his adult life in Tokyo, returned to Otsuchi after retiring in 2015. He now works part time to supplement his retirement income while looking for new opportunities in his hometown. So far he has found none.

Many sense they are being abandoned, or at least having their futures downgraded in favor of other government projects.

Still, all is not lost, and perhaps the long-range planning of Ikarigawa’s experts, representing central and prefectural governments as well as academia and knowledgeable locals, will see a new dawning in Otsuchi. But he won’t be in a position to lead it. Difficulties with his master plan’s implementation eventually led to his defeat in the August 2015 election. His victorious opponent, Kozo Hirano, ran on a platform calling for a review of the planned reconstruction projects.

In addition to the slow but ongoing recovery of the fisheries, positive signs include the revival of the old railway line by Sanriku Railways in 2021 and the completion of the new Sanriku coastal expressway in 2022. Both will make Otsuchi more accessible for commerce and tourism as well as much easier to live in, especially for students who had pleaded for a return of the railway to enable commuting to schools in other towns. This should also increase the town’s attraction for families with school-age children.

OUR HOME WAS AMONG the 3,359 in Otsuchi destroyed by the tsunami. My wife Atsuko and I plan to begin rebuilding in 2018 on our small parcel of land at the southern edge of the central district, which will allow us to continue our retirement that began there in 2004. It will again put us within a five-minute walk of the family gravesite at Dainenji, and give us easy access to that mountain’s scenic hiking trail.

Sadly, we will no longer be joined on these hikes by our favorite companion, Atsuko’s elder sister, Noriko, who had lived nearby. She and her husband, Yuji, were both lost to the tsunami. Her remains were not identified until August of 2011 and his were never found. The addition of her ashes to the family gravesite has made our visits for the annual Obon Buddhist observances even more poignant.

Half of our neighbors were also lost to the tsunami and, apparently, none among the surviving families will return. So we will start afresh with new neighbors, but bedrock support from Atsuko’s brother and other relatives as well as friends dating back to her childhood.

No1-2016-03Pommag
The author’s feature on Otsuchi in the April 2011 earthquake special.

And with any luck, some of our favorite local shops will restart their businesses. In particular, I would like to see the reappearance of Akabu Sakaya, which made it a point to keep my favorite gin and vermouth in stock. ❶

Charles Pomeroy retired from journalism 12 years ago. He is the author of Tsunami Reflections—Otsuchi Remembered.

http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/757-return-of-a-perilous-beauty.html

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Kinder in Tohoku, fast 5 Jahre nach dem Tsunami

Wie geht es den Kindern in den zerstörten Gebieten? Haben sie die Erinnerungen an den Tsunami und den Verlust von nahe stehenden Verwandten und Freunden verarbeitet? Wie verläuft der Alltag in den vorübergehenden Gebäuden der Ersatzschule und das Leben im Container. Es gibt keinen Platz, in Ruhe Schularbeiten zu machen.

【東北の子ども達へ、あなたができること】
津波で家を流され、学ぶ場を失った子ども達が、被災地には残されています。
東北の子ども達のために、一人ひとりができること、考えてみませんか?

Fighting to recover from the ocean’s wrath

BY

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

On April 11, Wataru Takeshita, the minister for reconstruction of the areas most seriously affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, met in Kamaishi with local government representatives to discuss the budget for Iwate Prefecture. After the meeting, the mayor of Kamaishi spoke to the press and said Takeshita told them the central government would continue paying for reconstruction work through next year, but after that he expected the prefecture and municipalities to cover part of the burden themselves.

“Please understand that the money we spend on reconstruction is from taxes levied on people nationwide,” Takeshita reportedly said during the meeting, which was closed to the media.

According to an article in the Asahi Shimbun, the local governments in attendance rejected the minister’s remarks, mainly because he neglected to go into detail about how much of a burden he was talking about and what sorts of things they would be paying for. The mayor of the city of Rikuzentakata seemed offended by the government attitude.

“They must discuss our financial situation and the reconstruction process,” he told an Asahi reporter. “Otherwise, we can’t envision a future for ourselves.”

Rikuzentakata is currently spending ¥30 billion to elevate levees and prepare higher ground for new residential housing, an amount equivalent to 2.7 times its whole annual budget. “And we still have to build schools and a new city hall,” he added.

Takeshita seemed oblivious to the resistance. He told reporters that he and the local governments “came to a common understanding” regarding division of reconstruction costs. A prefectural representative tried to point out that the municipalities weren’t saying “the central government should pay for everything and we pay nothing,” only that there had been no substantive discussion about what would happen after the current reconstruction budget expired in 2016.

As the Asahi presented the story, it read like a classic instance of official condescension, but the situation is more complicated. The report implies that the local governments formed a united front, but as the vice mayor of the town of Otsuchi said, the degree of damage suffered and the amount of reconstruction required differs from one place to another. By treating all the local governments the same way, the agency effectively demonstrates a lack of imagination and coordination, while the media gives the impression that money is the only issue.

Otsuchi, in fact, is the subject of a new documentary by Haruko Konishicalled “Akahama Rock’n Roll.” Akahama is the district closest to the sea and the one that contains the town’s fishing industry. One-10th of Akahama’s residents died in the 2011 tsunami or remain missing. The central subject of the film is the surviving residents’ objections to the central government’s plan to build a 14.5-meter-high seawall along the edge of the community. The rest of the town approved the seawall, or, at least, didn’t object to it.

The budget for construction was set in January 2012, when the town’s residents were still in shock from the disaster and hadn’t had time to think over the plans carefully. Since then, the people of Akahama decided that a better idea would be to move homes in the district to higher ground. The seawall, they contend, causes more problems than it solves. The tsunami, after all, was 22 meters high, so 14.5 meters may not do any good, but in any case, the fishermen of Akahama need to have constant visual contact with the ocean, and not just for the sake of their livelihoods. One reason so many people died in the tsunami was that they didn’t see it coming, since there was already a seawall blocking their line of sight, and that one was only 6.5 meters high.

Akahama is too small to attract the interest of the mass media, but Konishi managed to enlist one powerful supporter: Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At the U.N. Disaster Prevention Conference in Sendai in March, she raised the matter of the seawall during an awards ceremony, saying that if you have to destroy the environment in order to safeguard a community from the forces of nature, then something is wrong. Since then, the movie and Akahama have been featured in a number of newspaper articles.

Konishi divides her footage between two principals: Tsutomu Abe (no relation to the prime minister), a fisherman who went back to work a few days after the tsunami, even though it killed his father, and Hiromi Kawaguchi, chairman of the Akahama Reconstruction Committee, who spearheads the local resistance to the seawall. This dual narrative approach toggles between the political aspects of the issue and the less concrete cultural ones.

Abe the fisherman represents the community’s soul, a man whose close relationship with the sea is primal. The tsunami was a tragedy, but, as he says over and over, you can’t fight nature.

“As long as our lives are connected to the ocean,” his mother says, “we have to be here.” And what’s the point of being here if you can’t see the water? When your life is dependent on the sea, you make peace with it as best you can.

People, however, are another matter, and it’s Kawaguchi’s job to fight the powers that try to tell him and those he represents what is best for them. Once the bureaucracy has a notion in its head, it’s difficult to change, and his fellow committee members, worn down by the subtle but relentless force of authority, seem willing to compromise, but Kawaguchi isn’t.

“Life comes from the sea,” he says. “And keeping the sea separate from us destroys life.”

If Konishi’s purpose is to show how a community’s desires should not be discounted even if those desires place it at risk, her movie acutely points out how specific needs can’t be summarily dismissed by logic or taken care of by charity.

“I’m not interested in people’s sympathy,” says Abe as he shucks oysters. “I just want to sell my products.”

Ihre Freude ist unsere Freude

Konzert „Ihre Freude ist meine Freude“

Konsul Yasushi Fukagawa lud am Sonntag 15. März 2015 aus Anlass des vierten Jahrestages der gigantischen Naturkatastrophe im Nordosten Japans vom 11. März 2011 eine Vielzahl von Institutionen und Privatpersonen ein, die sich auf verschiedenste Art und Weise für die betroffenen Regionen eingesetzt hatten und mit großem Engagement japanische Landsleute in der schweren Zeit unterstützten.

Ein Bericht über die Veranstaltung mit einer Kurzfassung des Berichtes von

Frau Gesa Neuert zu Spendenprojekten in Tohoku finden Sie hier:

Ihre Freude ist unsere Freude

Untitled 26

Untitled 13Untitled 12

FOUR YEARS AFTER: Many schools still not rebuilt due to rising costs, other priorities

March 08, 2015

Students of Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, attend classes in prefabricated school buildings as reconstruction of school buildings are delayed. (Eiichiro Suganuma)

Students of Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, attend classes in prefabricated school buildings as reconstruction of school buildings are delayed. (Eiichiro Suganuma)

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the broken buildings of the Schools in Usunomai are gone, the new buildings will stand up the hill – but it will take three more years that pupils can enter it.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

For students who entered Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, they will attend classes in prefabricated buildings for six years until graduation.

The school, located near the sea, was swallowed up by the ensuing tsunami, although all the 350 students were safely evacuated to a hillside.

Unosumai is among the many elementary and junior high schools damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that have experienced delays in rebuilding.

The large number of public works projects currently ongoing in the disaster-hit areas have resulted in a rise in the costs of construction materials and a serious shortage of workers.

Priorities have also been placed on large-scale projects, such as construction of roads ordered by the central government. Subsequently, reconstruction of school buildings has been put on the back burner.

At Unosumai Elementary, 182 students are studying in prefabricated buildings, as reconstruction of their school has yet to be started.

As prices of concrete and labor costs of workers have jumped in a short period of time, the costs of the reconstruction plan worked out in spring 2014 ballooned. As a result, the central government did not approve the plan.

In a process that took six months, the Kamaishi city government decreased the construction budget by making changes, including scaling back the school buildings. It also introduced a special bidding process that selected contractors from the design stage.

Despite those efforts, the school buildings are not expected to be completed until 2017, which means classes will continue in the prefabricated buildings.

“Though the school buildings are prefabricated ones, children are enjoying their school lives,” said Chizuko Kobayashi, 41, whose three daughters are attending Unosumai Elementary School.

The school bus that transports children from temporary housing facilities to the school passes through districts that were devastated by the tsunami. Because of that, when a tsunami warning is issued, students sometimes have to stay at the prefabricated school buildings until late at night.

“I hope that the school buildings that children can attend safely are constructed as early as possible,” Kobayashi said.

According to the Iwate prefectural government, of the 15 schools damaged by the tsunami, Funakoshi Elementary School in Yamada completed reconstruction of its school buildings in spring 2014.

The school buildings of Takata High School in Rikuzentakata are also scheduled to be completed late this month.

However, students in the remaining 13 elementary or junior high schools in five municipalities are still studying in prefabricated buildings or using buildings of former schools.

The reconstruction of Otsuchi Elementary School and Otsuchi Junior High School in Otsuchi, Takata-Higashi Junior High School in Rikuzentakata, and Okirai Elementary School in Ofunato are likely to be delayed for six months or more as municipal governments have failed to secure contractors in the bidding process.

In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, 15 elementary and junior high schools are still using prefabricated buildings or other facilities. It is taking time for many of them and two public high schools to choose new sites for their schools or complete reconstruction of their buildings.

Completion of the new Yuriage Elementary School and Yuriage Junior High School in Natori are likely to be delayed until April 2018. A relocation site for Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki also has yet to be determined.

(This article was written by Eiichiro Suganuma and Masataka Yamaura.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Interview mit dem Bürgermeister von Otsuchi: Ikarigawa-san

岩手県上閉伊郡大槌町長 碇川豊さん

地震と津波の大きな被害を受けた岩手県上閉伊郡大槌町の町長をしていらっしゃる碇川豊町長にインタビューをしてきました。町長の復興への熱い想いを語っていただきました。2015.03.09

IMGP0215

Interview for 3.11 vol.3岩手県上閉伊郡大槌町の現町長、碇川豊さん。2011年に東日本大震災が起こったのち、8月に大槌町長となり現在に至る。著書に『希望の大槌 逆境から発想する町』(2013年3月 明石書店)がある。

町長としての4年間

―本日はよろしくお願いします。早速ですが、まず震災当時の大槌町の状況についてお聞かせください。

東日本大震災の直後は、まさに空襲を受けた焼け野原のような景色が広がっていました。
その中で、ゼロからまちづくりをして行くというのは、想像するのも大変な状況でした。本当にこのような状況から復興できるかどうか、不安に感じていた部分も大きかったです。でも、やっていかなきゃならないことがある。絶望の淵におとされたような、再び立ち上がることさえも難しい状況でした。人口の約1割にものぼる多くの住民が亡くなり、復興の担い手である職員も大勢亡くなりました。。
いま思うとあの状況の中で町長になろうと思ったこと自体が、無謀までとはいかないけれども、大きな決断をしたなと思います。

―「町長になろうと思った」とおっしゃいましたが、あの災害から5か月後に、碇川さんは町長選挙に立候補されています。震災後、大きなプレッシャーを受けることが予想される中で、立候補を後押ししたものは何だったのでしょうか?

私は町長になるための選挙が行われるまでの数か月間、いかにして復興を遂げるか悶々として考えていました。その中で、「この復興は行政が一方的に押し付けてはだめだ」と気づきました。「住民主体のまちづくりをしていかないと、この町は無くなるぞ」という思いでした。明治29年、昭和8年、昭和35年、そして今回。明治29年、昭和8年、昭和35年、そして今回。この4回の大震災津波を踏まえて、そこに住んでいた人、またこれから住み続ける地域の人たち自身が、復興を考えることが一番重要だろうと思ったのです。
したがって私は町長に就任してすぐ、『住民主体のまちづくり条例』を議会に提案し、可決したことの趣旨通りに復興を始めました。まずは、復興協議会というものを地域ごとに計10個立ち上げて、震災後の10月に全体会を開きました。そこで「地域ごとの復興計画をできるだけ早めに作ってください」とお願いしました。
震災で前町長がなくなり、トップ不在の期間が長かった大槌はその時点で他市町村に後れを取っていました。一刻も早く復興計画が必要でありながらも、町の将来を決める、とても大きくて重要な計画、しかも行政ではなく住民達が自ら作るものですから、平時であれば、一か月やそこらでできるものではありません。
しかし、この時は、年内に復興計画を完成できるという気持ちが強くありました。それは昔から大槌の集落に根付き、住民の間で育まれてきた「結(ゆい)」の精神、つまりは助け合い団結する気持ちのこと、私はそれに賭けたのでした。
そして期待通り、12月10日頃にそれぞれの集落から復興計画があがってきたのです。そして12月26日に大槌町復興計画が議会で成立しました。
あの状況において行政が先頭に出ていくのではなく、震災前から大槌にある東京大学大気海洋研究所の先生方にお手伝いを頂きながら、住民から上がってくる復興への計画を調整してもらったことが、功を奏したのかなと思っています。

写真② (2)

―では、復興計画を策定してから4年を迎えるにあたり、町長が現在の復興状況について感じることを教えてください。

大槌町は平成23年度から30年度までの8か年の復興計画を建てています。したがって今は、折り返しの時点にきていることになります。
復興状況について感じることは、水平線をゆっくり進む船のようなものだということです。
毎日この復興状況を見ている人から見ると、なかなか進んでいることがわからない。でも目を少しそらしてからその船を見ると、動いていることがわかるように、町外から来る人にとっては復興が進んでいるのが解る。そんな感じなのかなと思います。

―町長は40年以上も大槌町職員を務め、大槌の良さや魅力を今までもたくさん見てきていると思います。その中でも特に、町長の4年間を振り返って感じること、考えることはありますか?

復興を通じ、地元を思う住民のパワーや、住民の結束力が向上したことを誇りに思います。
震災以前は町の総合計画を作るような時に、懇談会を開いても参加率は高くありませんでした。しかし、震災の影響もあって、自分たちの町をこうしたい、ああしたいという懇談を何十回もやっている中で、今まで、参加しなかったり、発言しなかったりした人も参加するようになりました。今まで、我々は外の地域との交流を積極的には行っていませんでした。
しかし、震災後に多くの支援者、ボランティア、学生、外国人など、これまでにないくらい様々な人と交流を深める機会が増えました。
そのなかで、自治体だけでなく、町民の視野も広くなったように感じています。

大槌の魅力を広め、これからも忘れないために

-町長は、40年以上大槌町の職員を務めておられ、まさに大槌の町に捧げてきたといえると思います。それは、大槌町の魅力が町長を惹きつけているのではないかとも考えたのですが、大槌の魅力、地域の強みはどのようなところだと思いますか?

日本全国そうだけど、特に自然の景観が美しい街だなあと感じます。
それに大槌町には郷土芸能団体が19団体あります。神楽であったり、虎舞であったり、獅子踊りであったり、七福神であったり、さまざまな団体が現在も活動しています。
こんな小さな町で、こんなにも多くの郷土芸能がある町ってなかなかないですよね。
歴史的にも古い土地で、香り高い文化のある町だと思います。人情味があり、心の優しい人がたくさんいる、そんな町ではないかなと感じます。

ワードプレス用

―震災直後から今まで、大槌町を含め被災地域で活動しているボランティアがたくさんいます。
ボランティアの活動を見て、どのように思いますか?また、4年が経過する今、ボランティアに行く意味があるのかという声もあります。
町長はどのように考えますか?

震災当時も今も心から感謝の気持ちでいっぱいです。
震災直後からの復旧期には全国からたくさんの方々が駆けつけて下さり、本当に助かりました。一方で、震災後3年4年と過ぎてくる中で、ボランティアも減り、震災が風化し始めているのは当然のことだと思います。
復旧期にはガレキ処理や泥の片づけなどマンパワーが必要な作業が多く、始めはボランティアに頼る部分もかなりありました。
でも今は、作業として業者の担う大きい工事が進められている状況にあります。
橋や道路を作る仕事などは、当然ボランティアじゃできません。そのかわり、復興のソフト面ともいえる住民の心のケア、例えば、応急仮設住宅の暮らしが長い皆さんを勇気づけるような存在、心の拠り所となり、被災地を励ます役割を担ってもらえるのではないかと思います。
私はいつも、「私たちはいつも大槌にいるので、来てくれるだけでありがたいです。」という話をします。そして大槌で買い物をして、ご飯を食べて、励ましてくれる、それだけでいいのです。大槌に来て感じた魅力についてほかの人へ発信してもらえれば、さらに嬉しいことです。
そして、例えば手紙などで交流が続くような大槌との繋がりを持っていただき、リピーターとなって足を運んで、長い目で復興を見守ってもらえたらありがたいですね。

―では最後に、現役の大学生や高校生に向けてのメッセ―ジをお願いします。

被災地を訪れたことのない学生は、一度来てみるべきだと感じています。
大槌は全人口の一割の方が亡くなり、いま、ゼロからのまちづくりをしています。多くの学生は、これから人生の中で、楽しいことだけでなく、様々な苦しみ悲しみにも遭遇するでしょう。
今、現実にこれほどの苦しみや悲しみに遭いながらも、再び立ち上がろうとするこの町の様子を目にし、ここに生きる人々の決意や明るさに触れることによって、視野が少し変わったり、自分を少し成長させることができたりするのではないかと思います。

http://youthfor311.com/interview-for-3-11-vol-3/

Japanese Coastal Town Still Struggling to Rebuild From 2011 Tsunami – Otsuchi

Many of the survivors of the tsunami that devastated Otsuchi, Japan, four years ago live in temporary housing like these prefabricated units on school property. Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

OTSUCHI, Japan — The spot where the town’s center once stood is now a dusty construction site filled with diggers and dump trucks toiling amid huge, man-made mesas of earth and gravel. The work is part of an $850 million project to elevate the land by seven feet and shield it behind a towering 48-foot wall.

Four years after a colossal tsunami swept away most of this remote fishing community on Japan’s mountainous northeastern coast, Otsuchi is starting to rebuild.

However, the wait is far from over for thousands of the town’s survivors, many of them still living in temporary apartments after being left homeless by the waves. Otsuchi was so severely crippled by the calamity — 1,284 people died here, including the mayor and many town hall employees, firefighters and police officers — that the town struggled for years even to put together a recovery plan. Reconstruction began only last year and will not be finished until at least 2019, the new mayor says.

Similar stories could be heard across Japan’s tsunami-struck northeast as the nation held prayer ceremonies this week to observe the anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11, 2011, that left 18,490 people dead or missing. Almost 250,000 people lost their homes in the calamity, and 87,000 still live in cramped, prefabricated housing that was originally meant to last for just two or three years.

Hiromi Kawaguchi, in his two-room apartment in emergency housing, lost his mother, wife and 4-year-old grandson. “We are still very much a disaster zone,” he said.CreditKo Sasaki for The New York Times

It is not clear when, if ever, they will move back. In Fukushima, where the tsunami caused meltdowns that destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, some areas were so contaminated with radiation that they may not be habitable for decades.

In small coastal communities farther north like Otsuchi, far enough away to escape most of the nuclear fallout, many survivors have simply given up and moved elsewhere, accelerating the depopulation of rural areas in this rapidly graying nation. Those who want to stay worry they could face additional waits as memories of the tragedy fade in the rest of Japan, where attention is now turning to events like the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“Everyone seems to think that life has gone back to normal here, but we are still very much a disaster zone,” said Hiromi Kawaguchi, 66, a retired town employee who lives alone in a tiny two-room apartment in refugee housing after losing his wife, mother and 4-year-old grandson, Shoya, to the tsunami.

“Does this mean more delays if the nation has lost its sense of urgency about us?” he said. “Even big construction companies are starting to leave to get a piece of the Olympics.”

To help in the rebuilding, the central government in Tokyo pledged 25 trillion yen, or about $206 billion, to pay for reconstruction and radiation cleanup as part of a “concentrated recovery program” that was supposed to end in 2016. However, local governments have been so overwhelmed by the task of rebuilding that many have fallen behind schedule and proved unable to even spend all the recovery money made available to them.

Otsuchi is a case in point. Once a quiet community of 15,200 residents on a picturesque bay between rugged mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Otsuchi was struck by seething 50-foot waves that destroyed more than 80 percent of the town’s structures, including the town hall, fire department, police station and main hospital. The tsunami killed the mayor and almost 50 town employees, leaving Otsuchi leaderless in the months after the disaster.

“The town was paralyzed by the chaos,” Otsuchi’s new mayor, Yutaka Ikarigawa, said in an interview in the temporary town hall, which occupies a former elementary school that was damaged in the disaster.

Survivors said it took a year to erect temporary housing and supply all the units with electricity and water; the cleanup of a half-million tons of crumpled cars, shattered wooden beams and other debris was completed only last year.

Survivors also struggled to reach a consensus on what they wanted their reconstructed town to look like. Some favored the huge, expensive wave walls that officials in Tokyo urged them to build. Others pointed out that such walls had failed to save residents in other towns. They argued that the safest thing to do would be completely rebuild the town on higher ground.

In the end, the town settled on a compromise in which commercial structures like factories and stores would be rebuilt on the site of the old town center, which would be elevated and protected behind a wall as wide as half a football field at its base. Most residents will move to new housing at higher elevations, including on flattened hilltops.

Today, the neighborhoods that had been left in ruins are being covered by thick layers of fresh soil. The three-story concrete town hall, its insides gutted by the tsunami that almost completely submerged it, is the only building left standing in the town center. Buddhist statues have been placed in front, turning it into a memorial for those who perished inside.

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But the start of construction has brought new delays. Otsuchi has struggled to find construction companies to even bid on its contracts, as a boom in post-tsunami rebuilding has created a shortage of contractors. That shortage has been made worse by Olympic-related construction projects in Tokyo, said the mayor, Mr. Ikarigawa.

As a result, Otsuchi has been unable to spend all the money allocated to its recovery by the central government. In 2012, Otsuchi was able to spend just 28 percent of the $178 million made available to it. Last year, with a new reconstruction plan finally in hand, it did better, spending 62 percent, Mr. Ikarigawa said.

“It doesn’t make sense to have to return unused recovery funds when so much of the town still needs rebuilding,” said Keiichi Sasaki, 53, the head of a neighborhood committee in Otsuchi whose home was washed away by the tsunami.

Until their homes can be rebuilt, about 3,700 residents live in temporary housing, waiting. Thousands of others have already given up: The town hall estimates that Otsuchi has lost at least a quarter of its population to the disaster and the exodus that followed.

Mr. Kawaguchi, the retired town employee, said the number who left may be even higher. He said many lost hope after the construction boom started to drive up the cost of labor and building materials, making it more than twice as expensive to rebuild now as just two years ago.

Nor has the central government provided much relief: It offers subsidies of $40,000 to $60,000 to help rebuild homes that now cost $300,000 to $450,000 to rebuild.

“The country has no problem putting huge sums into big public works projects like wave walls, but it won’t help average people,” Mr. Kawaguchi said. “The longer it takes to recover, the more our town will wither away.”