~10 Years After Tohoku Tsunami Disaster~
The Story of Horaikan
We were greeted warmly by the owner of the ryokan Horaikan, Ms. Iwasaki Akiko. With her powerful and charming voice, she told us the story of how she and the ryokan (Japanese style hotel) survived the disaster 10 years ago. During the disaster, she felt the importance of connections within the village community and international cooperation. She is very grateful for support from the international community, including from Malaysia! According to her, a group of Malaysians came to the place years before the disaster happened. When they learned about what happened in that area, they flew all the way there to help even though it was very difficult to travel over there at that time. Such sincere effort really meant a lot to her and the villagers.
The ryokan was actually a heirloom from her parents. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, Ms. Iwasaki decided to rebuild the ryokan so that it is more earthquake resistant. An evacuation path was also made behind the ryokan for guests and villagers to relocate in the event of a tsunami under the advice of an elderly person, and it saved many lives during the disaster. Ms. Iwasaki understands the importance of disaster education, and puts the knowledge into practice.
We had dinner and stayed the night at the ryokan. The meal had a nice variety of fresh sashimi made of local fish and wild plants that are rare to find. The room had a nice view of the sea, and the bed was very comfy as it was Simmons mattress. Do visit the place when we can travel safely again!
Arahama Elementary School Building
Sendai Arahama Elementary School looks just like a usual school building from the outside. In reality, the school is a ruin preserved as a museum to show the aftermath of the tsunami and record the history of the school and its community. A signboard on the second floor can be seen outside of the building, indicating the height of the tsunami that hit the school. Inside the 1st and 2nd floors of the building, we can see the destroyed classrooms with photo panels showing what they were like before being cleared. Seeing it with my own eyes gave me a better grasp on the reality that happened here. There is also a 1/500 scale of the town, with every building labeled to indicate whose house it was or which shop was there before. Even though it is our first time visiting the place, seeing the model with that level of detail made us feel a connection to the town that used to exist in the same place.
On the fateful day, all 320 refugees were saved after taking refuge at the rooftop and 4th floor. Now, the Arahama Elementary School building also functions as a shelter for tsunami disasters, equipped with emergency supplies and equipment, preserving not only memories of the disaster but also the capability to save lives.
Ms. Iwasaki mentioned in her speech that hosting the Rugby World Cup in their town gave them hope and courage to live on. She is very grateful for it, and is looking forward to the Olympics as these kinds of sports events mean a lot to the villagers of the post-disaster area. Post-disaster restoration is far from completion, and the pandemic is also making life tough. Hope that the Olympics can spread awareness about these post-disaster areas to the world.