We returned to Minamisanriku to visit more temp housing sites. We also went further north, close to the city of Kessenuma. Every cove along the shore that had a valley or stream was affected by the tsunami. It looked like the smaller the valley, the higher the water went. There were homes about seven stories above the sea level that were totally destroyed. Train tracks and stations inland were completely washed away. We could see the tunnels that the trains went through, but no tracks remain on either end of the tunnel. Boats and cars remain in the stream beds miles inland from the coast. The city is about a month or two behind Ishinomaki in cleaning up.
We passed an elementary school where only four students and a teacher survived. The students who survived were the ones who disobeyed the staff and did what their parents had told them in case of any tsunami; they ran as fast as they could up the hill. The instructions by the school staff was to go to the rooftop. The teacher who survived felt so guilty that she eventually killed herself.
Most of the shelters at schools are shutting down. They all have to shut down by the end of August so the schools can reopen. One school that had 700 students will open with only eight, as all the other children either died or are no longer living near the school. We were told that the Japan government currently had no further plans for supporting the people who are in temp housing. The fortunate ones – picked through a lottery system – can stay in the temp housing for a maximum of two years. Minamisanriku will never be the same.
Many homeowners have probably moved away, leaving their homes as they are. I don’t know if the Japan government can afford to clean up these neighborhoods. Life for the vast majority of people in the Ishinomaki area is finally approaching normality. The shopping center reopened in May/June and all shops are open. You would never guess that water once covered the entire first floor shops.