Kamaishi - stars and scars

...the night brings silence
but does not hide the pain...

Night had long since fallen by the time my train pulled into Kamaishi station. I dumped my stuff in the hotel and set off across town with my camera. I was heading for one place in particular, but intended to be fully flexible with the route I took. the streets were as I always find them here; cold and quiet. There are pockets of sound of course; music spilling from a local bar, too old girls chatting at a bus stop, a dog barking way off in the distance, but in general silence pervades... there just isn't the buzz of the hubbub that you normally associate with a local shopping street at this time of the day. Instead, people shuffle inaudibly towards their homes, the crossing chimes play to no one, the lights in the harbour shine along with the stars...

I did pass a group of giggly schoolgirls though, or rather they passed me as a snapped another building corpse... and their laughter filled me with warmth and hope. They did 'buzz' and I found myself thinking about 'the miracle' again... and my enduring (wishful) thought that it is the miracle that will drive the way towards this city's recovery. 

This city lost some 1250 souls to the sea on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Awful, but actually nowhere near as bad a loss (per capita) as that which some towns along this coast suffered that day. Well, that's good, we do have to be thankful for small mercies... But that's not the miracle. The miracle is that of those 1250 unfortunates who perished, only 5 were of school age... and none of those 5 were in school that day. That's right, of all those 3000 plus children who were in school on the afternoon of the 11th of March 2011, every single one of them survived. They followed the drill they had practiced a 1000 times to the letter, and they saved themselves. As they did so, they also undoubtedly saved countless others. It's easy to see how this simple but affecting fact has come to be known as the miracle of Kamaishi. It's also easy to think, as I do, that not losing the lifeblood of its youth, may very well be the thing that saves this city.

As the buzz of the schoolgirls faded, I turned my collar to the cold and headed for the Asia Symphony scar. The Asia Symphony you may recall, was the huge freighter washed up onto a pier by the tsunami and left with it's bow piercing the failed sea defence wall.

It is an iconic and enduring image of the horror of that day. As part of the rebuilding operation the old sea wall is currently being replaced by a huge structure four times the height, and I wanted a couple of shots of the scar left by the freighter before it was gone (I will take some photographs of the new defences on my next visit).



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