Kamaishi: cats and catalyst

So, I've been back to Kamaishi in Iwate a few times in the last couple of months. It's the first time I've worked in that area since I was there the year after the Great East Japan Earthquake. On my previous visit I noted that, although the clear-up was almost finished, there had been virtually no rebuild... I mean really nothing at all. It seemed that there was just no heart for it. The people I spoke to there were just so dispirited, and of course it was all too clear to see why. The scars were nowhere near being healed. The scars of the people, all touched by their great loss, and the scars of the city, which for all intents and purposes, had had it's heart ripped out.

I was hoping to see dramatic changes on these recent visits, and I did, though not as dramatic as I had hoped, and not as far-reaching as I might have supposed. The first impression is still much as it was before, though time has toned it down somewhat. The huge gaps between the bigger stronger buildings that survived are still there, but now they're less desolate, less scoured-looking. Some are (underused) car parks, some have been reclaimed by nature. Some though are ring-fenced and clearly earmarked for construction in the not too distant future. There are some new builds, here and there, and there are some old shells of buildings that are being used as garages, car parks, storage areas and so on. The one shown below is a good example; it was the city's main post office and now it's a staff car park.

The biggest new build is the Aeon shopping mall which opened last year. I feel for the local business owners whose hopes of a return to the previous state may have been permanently dashed by it's coming, but I don't think anyone can deny that the city really needed the mall. It certainly seems to be acting as some kind of catalyst for the rebuilding program. The light and colour it has brought, is radiating outwards, and you can see a time when the whole city might again be as bright as it once was. Perhaps the mall is something of a new heart. Artificial to be sure, but undoubtedly better than nothing.


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