三陸復興 | Sanriku Fukkou

Deutsch-Japanisches Synergie Forum (DJSF) Sanriku Fukkou e.V.

三陸復興 | Sanriku Fukkou

2. Problem beim Wiederaufbau – Sozialer Wohnungsbau

In Rikuzentakata ist ein Gebäudekomplex bestehend aus 3 acht – und drei 9 geschossigen Apartmenthäusern mit 301 Sozialwohnungen. Wahrscheinlich werden davon 206 bezogen, ca. 25% werden allein lebende ältere Personen sein. 95 Wohnungen werden leerstehen. Die Vereinsamung ist vorprogrammiert.
Ein weiteres Problem ist, dass die Feuerwehr bisher nur Leitern für 15 Meter

hohe Gebäude besitzt (5 stöckige Gebäude). Diese Gebäude sind doppelt so hoch. Die Leitern müssen beschafft werden und die Feuerwehr muss geschult werden.



2016年08月01日 月曜日



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)



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.


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.)


Four years on, Tohoku towns still waiting for schools, homes, answers


“Inquiry” may be a buzzword in education these days, but for Tohoku students and parents, there are too many questions without answers.

A month before the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, triple disaster, I traveled from Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, to Rikuzentakata and back to Tokyo, via Minamisoma in Fukushima. As I drove through Natori, on the Miyagi coastline, and past the no-go zone surrounding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on my way back south, pile after pile of black waste bags stretched out before me, each seemingly begging its own unanswered question.

In Iwate coastal towns, mounds of raised dirt and clean-shaven fields of nothing mark where debris and chaos once reigned. In Fukushima, the ubiquitous bags of contaminated soil are interspersed with signposts indicating current radiation readings.

For students in many of the affected areas, a return to the mundane world of exams and matriculation has been met with conflicting emotions: a newly discovered maturity and seriousness tempered by a growing sense of entitlement and lack of discipline. Everything about the recovery process is complicated, and as I asked one question, three more arose. Yet some things remained clear.

In every town I visited, educators and parents expressed concern about students’ diminished level of physical education. In the Iwate towns of Otsuchi and Rikuzentakata, a lack of facilities and long bus rides to school or playing fields are now the norm; in Minamisoma, concerns about radiation continue to linger. Still, all agree: The students need more space if they are to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.

“Almost all of the temporary classrooms were built on school playgrounds, so the children have almost no outdoor space for sports,” explains Satoru Gamou, director of the Hakki Project NPO in Rikuzentakata. “There isn’t even enough space for a 100-meter dash on sports day.”

Residents have been complaining since the temporary schools were first erected in September 2011, but 3½ years on, much remains the same. Gamou’s fond memories of the area’s once-strong volleyball and baseball programs are now tinged with regret.

“This April, the new Takata High School will be ready, but there is no sports field, and gym classes will still be held in Ofunato, over 30 km away,” says Gamou, 51, who now helps run the temporary housing complex built on the Rikuzen Takata Mobilia campsite he managed before 3/11. “My son, who plays baseball, would have attended Takahata High School, once a baseball powerhouse. Now, nothing remains.”

Many residents voiced their enduring frustration that while there is an abundance of space in the tsunami-hit areas that could be put to use as sports fields — or where temporary classrooms could be relocated to, freeing up playgrounds and sports fields — creating such areas has not been a priority. Of the four elementary schools and one junior high school that existed in Otsuchi pre-March 2011, only one barely survived the calamity, having been flooded and then burned in the fires that razed the port area. But the repaired Otsuchi Elementary School building houses no students; instead, it is now the City Hall, with a spacious adjoining parking lot, while Otsuchi’s 500 elementary and 263 junior high school students are squeezed together in prefabricated buildings on a temporary school site, sharing one small field and a prefab gym.

Construction for a new elementary and junior high is planned on high ground next to the Otsuchi High School, which was untouched by the tsunami, but progress has been slow and completion is still years away. Locals complain that while students spend their days in cramped prefabs, city officials work in a refitted building whose restoration is rumored to have cost ¥8 billion.

“I feel especially sorry that the third-year students here have spent all of their junior high school years in this poor temporary building,” says Yasushi Goto, vice principal of Otsuchi Junior High.

Despite their physical surroundings, the students of Otsuchi Junior High greeted us cheerfully through an open window of their makeshift school, waving and practicing their English.

“The students who survived the disaster are much more positive and motivated,” Goto says. “You might think the experience of the disaster would have made student behavior worse, but in reality, it made the students stronger.”

Goto also praised the hard work and positive attitude of the teachers.

“The staff room is really cramped, but it’s brought us closer,” he says. “Since we are closer, we smile more, and these smiles are passed on to the students.”

In Otsuchi, a rural town hugging the coast of Iwate near Kamaishi, keeping kids in school has always been a struggle, as many quit after junior high to join their parents in the fishing industry, and tensions between inlanders and coastal towns regularly spill over into the schools. Before 2011, Otsuchi schools were known across Iwate for rowdy students and low educational standards, but residents agree with Goto that the students themselves possess a new maturity.

Miyako Ogayu, whose husband is head of Dainenji Temple in Sendai, has run a reading club for the last eight years serving the community in Otsuchi. Ogayu has long seen books as a gateway to new worlds, and she redoubled her efforts after the disaster, expanding the club to a wider area and helping support young mothers. She too prefers to emphasize the positives that have sprung from adversity.

“The children’s horizons have been broadened by meeting so many volunteers — people from other countries or university students from all over Japan,” she says. “I think more students are going to university now than ever before.”

At the same time, Ogayu worries about the students’ emotional health.

“Daily life is becoming easier now, with many new supermarkets or convenience stores opening up, but we are losing our sense of identity as a community. With this loss, people aren’t paying attention to the behavior of those around them anymore.”

Katsumi Sawaguchi, a longtime resident and community leader, agrees.

“Unfortunately, some of the parents receiving aid have started to take the aid for granted, and they pass this attitude on to their children,” he says. “Other parents are so concerned with making a living that they can’t think of anything else. Parents hesitate to discipline their children since the kids have been through so much, and volunteers take on the same attitude. Children have learned they will get their way, no matter what they do.”

Sawaguchi, a retired businessman and accomplished cut-paper artist, taught his art in schools in Kamaishi as a volunteer before the disaster. Since the 2011 tsunami, he has expanded his volunteer work to include Otsuchi and other areas. He also started the Sakura Project three years ago, planting cherry blossom trees along the mountain evacuation path in Otsuchi, with the dual aim of getting students outside and involved in restoring the natural beauty of their hometown. Sawaguchi echoed the sentiments of Ogayu and others I spoke to in Otsuchi and elsewhere in Tohoku: To support the students, we must support the whole community.

Community leader Katsumi Sawaguchi (right) talks with children at the Philia Cafe run by the Catholic charity Caritas Japan in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture.
Community leader Katsumi Sawaguchi (right) talks with children at the Philia Cafe run by the Catholic charity Caritas Japan in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. | KERRY SHIOYA

Minamisoma, a small seaside town only 25 km from the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and its neighbors are still reeling from the triple disaster. Driving in on the Joban Expressway, I am struck by the stretches of nothingness. Instead of speed limits, the highway signs warn us of the radiation level.

Psychiatrist Arinobu Hori moved from Tokyo to Minamisoma a year after the earthquake and tsunami, when the evacuation order was lifted, to help residents and take up a job at Fukushima Medical University’s Department of Disaster and Comprehensive Medicine. Hori also sees the lack of exercise and growing discipline problems among Fukushima children as symptoms of a larger issue: tired parents, exhausted and overprotective, have few caregivers to support them.

“Parents are torn about the risks involved with radiation exposure,” Hori says. “Some are still very conscious of and anxious about the health impact and do not let their children play outside. A lot of parents feel timid and cautious in their parenting, and are overprotective.”

On the other hand, Hori is also worried about the growing dependence on television and video games to keep children quiet in temporary housing, where noise and the uncomfortable proximity of neighbors are major concerns.

“I am afraid that in 10 years’ time, both the lack of physical exercise and a dependency on gaming will be a problem,” he says.

These may seem like minor problems considering what the families have been through, but Hori believes it is these everyday struggles that are wearing residents down.

“Doctors, nurses, teachers and parents are all tired here. There are just not enough people here” to support the remaining residents, he says. “The government is spending too much money on construction and decontamination. These things are important, I agree, but the government should pay more for specialists who can come and take care of the people, and to the few specialists who are already here.”

Known for their tenacity, Tohoku residents such as Gamou, Ogayu and Sawaguchi soldier on, determined to do their best for the children, despite all the unanswered questions. Outside NPOs continue to play an important role, too. One success story has been the “collaboration schools” in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, and Otsuchi run by Tokyo-based educational NPO Katariba. Named because it is a “collaboration between local teachers, board of education, nursery school teachers and other interested adults,” the Collabo School project started with the aim of providing a quiet space to study for children living in temporary housing. Over time, the schools have become focal points for the local community.

“I tell the parents and the kids that it’s a place where students gather who want to study, but we’ve also heard from teachers that this place has really helped meet the emotional needs of the children,” explains Aya Kawai, 30, director of the school in Otsuchi. “Many children have to commute a long way to school, so as soon as classes are over they get on the school buses to go home, meaning they can’t attend after-school activities or join sports teams. Having a place where they can go after they get home to meet their friends has really helped the children emotionally, teachers have told us.”

Inside the
Inside the ‘collaboration school’ in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, run by the Tokyo-based NPO Katariba in Otsuchi. | KERRY SHIOYA

Katariba also hopes to make the nation’s student body more aware of their local communities with an initiative that began in Otsuchi called My Project, in which local high school students create and execute a community service project. Kawai’s face lights up as she shares the stories of local students who have accomplished impressive things with “minimal adult interference”: One girl created a program for preschool children to help get them outside and active; another organized the Otsuchi Starry Night Project to “convey the magnificence of the night sky in Otsuchi,” making the most of the absence of street lights after the disaster; another created a wooden monument, hoping it would inspire future generations to rebuild while still remembering the tragedy.

The process of recovery is complicated, explains Hori, especially for young and impressionable students.

“The very ordinary things are in danger: having hope for the future, believing in the community support system — just normal, ordinary things are important for their everyday lives,” she says. “Japanese believe they are focused on harmony — and maybe it is true with individuals, but groups in Japan also tend to withdraw inward, saying, ‘This is our area and we will deal with it.’ This kind of thinking makes it very difficult for broader social welfare programs to work, as they depend on the cooperation of many smaller groups, working together.”

Local residents ask: When will construction move forward on the new school in Otsuchi? With school communities fractured, how can people rebuild and reconnect in Rikuzentakata? When will the young caregivers — the pediatricians, day care workers and nurses — and teachers return to Minamisoma to provide support to overwhelmed parents? What do students need most now in the affected areas?

Four years on from the disaster, the people of Tohoku deserve some answers.

Special thanks to Kerry Shioya — guide, translator and storyteller — whose introductions and assistance were invaluable. Learning Curve covers issues related to education in Japan. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp


Finding a place to call home still plagues Japanese displaced by quake and tsunami



01/08/2015 7:00 AM

arahama_ariel1 arahama_ariel2


For Kiichi Kida, the reason he doesn’t want to leave the land where the Great East Japan Earthquake shook his home and then triggered a killer tsunami that swept it away begins 500 years ago. That’s where he starts the story of his fight to stay on his land in Arahama, a southeastern coastal district of Sendai that was devastated on March 11, 2011 when 36-foot waves — looking more like a black stew of broken trees, bobbing cars and unmoored houses than water — rushed far, far inland. His ancestors, he explains, were samurai who lived on Shikoku, an island in western Japan. After they hung up their swords five centuries ago, they moved to the Arahama area where fish were plentiful and the mountains full of game.

Now, little remains of Arahama beyond the stone foundations of the homes once occupied by Kida, 69, and his neighbors. The city has told them they can’t rebuild on their ancestral lands because they are too close to the coast.

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake (1)

Waves of the 2011 tsunami hit residences after a powerful earthquake in Natori, Miyagi prefecture (state), Japan, March 11, 2011. It was the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history. | AP

The local government would like to buy the land and turn it into a park or other public facility, but it can’t force people like Kida to sell.That tug-of-war in Arahama points up the problems of reconstruction and rebuilding lives nearly four years since the twin wallop of the earthquake and tsunami claimed nearly 16,000 lives — 2,623 are also still listed as missing — and destroyed 127,305 homes. More than 1 million others were damaged.

In Arahama, 187 people died and six are classified as missing. It once had a population of 3,400, but now Arahama is little more than a ghost town. A wall of water that swept over the pine forest separating the community from the wide beach snapped off the trees like toothpicks and turned them into spears that came crashing into homes. “It’s the city’s opinion they should move to a safe place, rather than rebuild — expensively — on a coastal site,” said Kenichi Suzuki, who has been working with tsunami victims on behalf of Sendai’s Wakabayashi ward office. But that collides with a traditional way of thinking that some residents still embrace. “They believe that the ancestor spirits still reside in these areas and they should protect the land for them,” said Akiko Sugita, secretary general of Japan’s Foreign Press Center. “Public authorities want to encourage them to give up the land and move on, but it is taking a long time.”

Even for the third-largest economy in the world, putting communities back together is a struggle. During the disaster, 470,000 people were forced out of their homes. Some 240,000 people, including 80,000 evacuated because of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that followed the quake and tsunami, are still displaced. They live in temporary housing or bunk with relatives and friends. “Home rebuilding is our top priority,” said Yoshifumi Ayusawa, of Japan’s Reconstruction Agency. But shortages of building materials and construction workers, land ownership issues and the relocation of residents from areas no longer considered inhabitable have slowed the process. This fiscal year work is expected to be underway on 87 percent of the public housing planned for those who lost homes. Over the span of five years, the cost of reconstruction is expected to reach $220 billion. The plan is to close the reconstruction agency dealing with the triple disaster known as 3-11 by March 2021 but the expectation is that dealing with the fallout from the nuclear plant will take far longer. Some 1.35 million tons of debris were cleaned up in Sendai after the tsunami and quake and the mountains of destroyed cars were sent to the recyclers long ago.

But the memories of March 11 are everywhere.

The bridge where traffic became so congested that people couldn’t escape still stands. At the Yuriage Junior High in nearby Natori, the clock is still stopped at 2:46 p.m., the hour the 9.0 earthquake — the greatest magnitude ever recorded in Japan — hit 40 miles offshore.

Along the more than 300 miles of Japanese coastline affected by the tsunami, tide walls are being constructed or rebuilt, and the concrete barriers — the highest will be nearly as tall as a five-story building — aren’t without controversy.

Critics claim this Great Wall of Japan won’t be sufficient to protect against a tsunami of the magnitude that ravaged the coast on March 11, are an eyesore that cuts off the sea from fishing communities and could adversely affect the environment. The government says they are needed to save lives in a country that experiences 1,000 earthquakes a year.

In Sendai, the tsunami walls are being raised from almost 20 feet to 23.6 feet. Work also has begun on raising land that sank as much as three feet after the quake and elevating a 6.2-mile stretch of the Sendai Tobu highway to 20 feet. New stairways and signs indicating people should climb the highway embankments in the face of a tsunami are being put up. The highway project is expected to take five years to complete but officials say it is vital because during the 2011 tsunami elevated sections of the highway prevented waves from flowing even further inland. “We think that with these two barriers (the elevated highway and the walls), we will be able to protect against a tsunami of the once- in-100-years variety,” said Suzuki. But the waves that pounded the northeastern coast of Japan in 2011 were of the once-in-a-millennium variety. Simulations show that with the raised embankment and higher tsunami walls, flooding on the west side of the elevated road would be less than 6 1/2 feet. Through such simulations, “we’re gaining more knowledge about how tide walls can save lives,” said Katsumi Abe, of the Miyagi Harbor Restoration agency. “We expect when the repairs are complete, this area will be safer than before.”

But Kida doesn’t think so: “I’ve opposed the walls from the beginning. They are changing the land. Every time it rains, the water flows toward the sea and those flows shouldn’t be interrupted. We think Sendai City isn’t putting enough focus on nature.” As the fractious debate continues, memories of the snowy March day when coastal residents’ world went under water are still causing psychological scars. Kida is determined to hold on to his plot even as he readies a home site further inland. “My ancestors are here and I want to protect this area as long as possible,” he said. “People should have a choice where they want to live; they shouldn’t be forced. The decision to establish restricted areas is up to Sendai and the other towns and cities along the coast, Abe said. But Kida said his ancestors came “hundreds of years before Sendai was established. I am not leaving because the city says I have to.”

He heads an organization called The Group that Wants Restoration of Arahama. “We think that living on the shore is natural in an island like Japan. Modern technology should make this possible,” Kida said. On his former home site, he has put up two buildings that seem quite permanent but technically aren’t homes. One, which has electricity and cooking facilities, is the club house for the Arahama group. The other, which includes a bathroom, will be Kida’s personal office. One of his neighbors — the only one in the community to resume fishing — has built two rough fish shacks on the land where his home once stood, and Chickako Syoji, who does office work for the Arahama restoration group, has put up a tent near her former home’s foundation stones. She dreams of someday having a seaside library on the spot. It wouldn’t be a conventional library, but rather a place where local people could come together to tell their stories and bring in books they wanted to share with others. “It won’t be a big square building with a lot of books,” she said. “My son is a librarian. It’s still in the concept stage and we’re still figuring out the details.”

But despite the hopeful dreams, Arahama and Yuriage are still desolate. Here and there a lonely pine that escaped the onslaught punctuates the coastline or a battered concrete block home stands.

“When we first came back to see Arahama, it was swept clean; there was just this vast space and it was horrifying,” said former resident Adachi Tadashi, a community leader. He later found his crushed house 2.5 miles inland. Homes, businesses, boats and the top soil from farmlands also were washed away in Yuriage. Now the wide open fields make it resemble a rural area and vegetation is beginning to reclaim the roads in a 158-acre protected area where no home can be rebuilt. “Part of the reason the damage was so great here was because we weren’t acting responsibly,’’ said Koichi Sakurai, who worked in a Yuriage seafood processing plant and fish market that was destroyed by the tsunami. “People in this area weren’t expecting a tsunami or perhaps only a small one.” Instead, he said, the giant waves came five times, killing 750 people in a district that had a pre-tsunami population of 5,000. “Evacuation drills only took place once a year — and usually only elderly people participated,” said Sakurai. “But it was a drill in name only.’’

He shows a terrifying aerial video of people moving leisurely toward higher ground as, apparently unbeknown to them, a menacing wall of water just a few rows of houses away rushes toward them.

No tsunami warning was given in Yuriage, Sakurai said, because the earthquake had already knocked out emergency communications equipment. In other areas, the rising water damaged emergency equipment. “They thought all they had to do was install the devices and their job was over. Residents have lost faith in the authorities and that is one reason reconstruction is so slow in this area,’’ Sakurai said. Abe, of the Miyagi Harbor Restoration agency, said lessons were learned during the tsunami and new emergency facilities will be built on higher ground. Meanwhile, the work of repairing docks and fish packing and distribution houses continues. The ports in Miyagi Prefecture sustained damage of around $2.2 billion but all are now at least partially operational. Many people don’t want to return to Yuriage even though they still owe debt on their destroyed homes, Sukurai said. “If I had the money, I would be rebuilding elsewhere,” he added. Many former residents are still living in temporary housing far inland from Yuriage.

“My mother is 85 years and she says she doesn’t plan to have a funeral in temporary housing,’’ Sakurai said. “I’m grateful for temporary housing but now very few people are appreciating it.” Scattered around Sendai, a city of 1.7 million, are 20 temporary housing sites with 1,500 units. Many more families, said Suzuki, have rented apartments on their own. Around 130 families live in temporary quarters on a city-owned site earmarked for the Arai elementary school. Some residents have tried to brighten up their low portable dwellings with plants and flowers but others have fallen into depression. Teams of mental health workers visit periodically. “Some are really depressed and for them, small problems can seem very big. Everyone is feeling stress but some people are annoyed by the very trivial,” said Tadashi, 72, who is a leader at temporary housing as he was in Arahama. “They complain their neighbors are too noisy or they hear pigeons and sparrows walking around on the tin roofs because people are feeding them,” he said. “We listen to their stories even if we can’t solve them. I do think this has helped me grow as a person.” To keep spirits up, there is karaoke and dancing at the community center, and a group of women has learned to play songs, such as Orange Tree on the Hill on the koto, a traditional instrument.

Katsuyoshi Hayasaka, 74, who headed the Arahama Residents’ Association has taken up a similar role at the Arai community. During the tsunami, he helped to organize community residents who sought refugee at the Arahama Elementary School and were rescued by helicopter from the roof. At the school, he tried to keep his neighbors together and drew up lists of who was there and who wasn’t. “It was very cold and the teachers tore down the curtains and wrapped the children in them,’’ he said. Now he feels a similar sense of responsibility for the people at Arai. Syoji also lives there with her 89-year-old mother Tsumeko. They are packed in but the tiny apartment does have air conditioning and everyone was given a refrigerator, microwave, rice cooker, small television, washing machine, blankets and a pot to boil water. Still, Tsumeko is happy. When the family’s home was swept way, the wooden memorial plaque for her ancestors was lost. It later turned up in a lost-and-found and she beamed as she displayed the nicked but still intactihai to a visitor.

Syoji had hoped to only be in temporary quarters for two years but she said there have been delays in finishing the public housing where she hopes to move. Sendai plans 3,200 units of new public housing but in October, just 660 units had been completed.At Arai-higashi, where a new 197-unit building recently opened, residents gathered at the community center on a rainy afternoon after the remnants of a typhoon had blown through. Even though the complex hasn’t been fully completed, they were moved in anyway because the need was so great. The rent varies at Arai-higashi depending on income, but it is about one-third the cost of regular public housing.About a third of the residents used to live in Arahama, and about 40 percent are 65 years or older — an age when change comes hard. With Suzuki’s help, they had just formed a residents association. “We’re planning on building a community here,” said Kimio Oyashi, 71, the newly minted association president. “We’re pretty satisfied to be here. The size of our apartments is about double what it was in temporary housing. And there you could hear everything the neighbors were doing.” “We’re making efforts to get our lives back together. We just have to keep trying,’ said Teruko Sumi, who recently move in with her two chihuahuas. Unlike most public housing buildings, pets are allowed at Arai-higashi.

Tani Endo, who used to live in Arahama, is feeling much better since the first traumatic days after the tsunami. “It was almost like watching a movie — not our real lives. People were all stacked together after the disaster and we all had to sleep in the same room. “I try to forget but when I look from this building I can see the place where all the pines trees were in Arahama and now there is nothing there,” she said. “But this is a nice place and we have our privacy. Now we are smiling again.” “More than 3 1/2 years have passed,” said Oyashi. “Many people who are here lost everything and we think living in a safe place is most important. Only a small percentage of people want to return — mostly the rice farmers. But for former office workers, it is just too scary.” Sokichi Shoji, 78, and his wife Sachiko have done their best to make their new apartment seem like home even though it is only about a third of the size of their former house. They have brought in plants, artificial turf and stones to recreate the tranquility of a zen garden on their small balcony.