We had a very early morning that day as Mr. Konno had invited us to go on his boat for a short tour of the bay. The view from the ocean was breathtaking. Rikuzentakata has one major bay which is flanked by many small coves along the shore. It was a clear day with blue skies and lots of green trees stretching from the shoreline up to the mountain peaks. The TREE (replica) stood out, as it was the only one along the entire oceanfront.
After our cruise, we went to Mr. Konno’s scallop lines and pulled up nets filled with the shellfish. We also went to another set of floaters and picked up mussels and hoya (sea pineapple). We returned to our home base, and the party group prepared lunch for us. The main dishes were the fresh scallops and hoya that we had just pulled up from the ocean. The scallops were so huge, plump and DELICIOUS. Some were grilled over the fire and also served in a soup. The hoya was also so good. The taste was so refreshing and as Derek kept shouting, “OISHI”.
After lunch, Mr. Konno took us to where his house once stood. There, we learned that his house was the second one that was totally destroyed due to a tsunami. We saw the foundations of both his first and second house. We then went to his new house (3rd one) that is presently being built. His apple orchard sits right next to his house. We were about a month before the peak harvest period, but were still able to taste some of the Fuji apples and other varieties that were ripening. Even though the apples were a little early, they were so sweet, juicy and bright red!
As I mentioned earlier, this trip was a very rewarding and happy one. The group that made this trip will always have a special bond, memories of the laughter and smiles we brought to these people. Watching them eating the food we prepared and not holding back in asking for more servings of poke and pineapple brought joy to all of us. From the young boy who ate over four servings of chicken long rice (his mouth continuously stuffed to the max) to the elderly man who went to his unit and came back to share with us his special dish of ikura, these are the lasting images we will take back with us forever.
The government has extended the stay to the people living in relief camps for another two years. Most of the people are definitely moving forward in their lives. A few of them are moving into their new homes, while the homes of others are in different stages of completion. Others have plans of moving in with their children who now live in nearby cities. I believe most will have moved out by the time these housing units are closed. Plans are already being made for another return visit. This one would be a farewell party. Mr. Konno said having a farewell party would be so meaningful for them, as it would bring closure to this part of their lives on a very positive note. I hope they remember the times of laughter and happiness, because I know I always will.