Milton, Bert and I got up early and checked out of our hotel. We met Mr. Yamada, president of DIYNA City Co., at his office located near Ochanomizu Station. We gathered all the supplies that we would need and set off for the Tokyo train station where we caught a shinkansen, or bullet train, to Ishinoseki City that took us just under three hours. The train lived up to its reputation by not only being the fastest way I have ever traveled over land, but also by promptly leaving and arriving exactly on time.
At Ishinoseki station Mr. Yamada rented a car and we all piled in and set off for our destination of Rikuzentakata. The drive was very informative and I could not get over how green and lush the countryside of Japan actually is. We saw trees, streams, mountains and forests that reminded me in some form of the Pacific Northwest.
We arrived at our destination about an hour and a half later and were greeted by Mr. Konno, the community center’s leader, and his wife Kimiko. We also were introduced to Iku-chan who is Mr. Yamada’s contact and proved to be most helpful and giving. She helped with everything and seemed to be everywhere but never in the way. We were also introduced to Mr. Kimura a friend of Mr. Yamada and again proved to be a tremendous asset in our attempts to help. Mr. Kimura had built a small brick oven and quickly fired it up.
With the oven heating, Bert and Milton set out to complete making Spam Musubis. I was tasked with prepping the pizza toppings to feed at least 50 people. Bert helped, Milton helped, everyone pitched in and before we knew it pizzas were coming out of the oven. The community gathered round and soon everyone was eating, drinking and having a great time. At one point the community insisted that each of us talk and Milton got us started with an overview of who we were and what we wanted to accomplish. Bert spoke too and I as well. We were helped in translation by Dr. Sato. She is a clinical psychologist who is helping the local people overcome PTSD or post tsunami stress disorder. She proved to be so helpful both in her willingness to translate and cart us around from site to site.
With the community fed we cleaned up the area and set off for the local onsen (Japanse hot spring bath house)to get cleaned up. I was feeling rather nasty and grateful to remove the grime of the day. We traveled through the devastated section of town and constantly were going over both paved and unpaved roadways where the tsunami had wiped even the roads away. After a year and a half, weeds had started to grown in and provided some green but still there was nothing being built and the only improvement that was being done was the sorting of the rubbish in huge mountainous piles. Everywhere you could see the foundations of buildings or the remains of a rice field, but little to no improvement to rebuild, or reclaim.
The onsen was set perched on the ocean and after a good scrubbing down and a healthy rinse we all took a rest in the hot soothing water. On the ocean side there were windows and as we set with our bodies seeming to melt we could look out over the ocean and meditate on the day’s events. I could only handle so much of the heat and soon was forced out of the water and back out to the world.
Once back at the community center we found a small feast waiting for us. What a surprise! Mr. Yamada had me make some pizzas for us but soon we found these held no attraction for us. Instead, we feasted on the gifts given by the local community.
Soon the familiar faces came. Mr. and Mrs. Konno, Iku-chan, and others stopped by and brought gifts of food. We shared and laughed and I was overwhelmed with the feeling that these people have given far more than what we could give back to them. This was in truth the mission we had wanted, to touch others, but in doing so we were the ones who truly were given too and touched. It was late when we finally decided to call it a night. The tables were cleared, cleaned and put aside. The small throw pillows they sit on would become our beds and soon we all slept, some more silently than others.