News / Asia

In Japanese Port Town, Hope Rises Amid Devastation

The 6,000-ton 'Asia Symphony' was washed onto the Kamaishi docks by the tsunami
The 6,000-ton 'Asia Symphony' was washed onto the Kamaishi docks by the tsunami

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

Japan's prime minister has vowed to "rebuild the nation from scratch" as estimates of the cost of last week's earthquake and tsunami reach upward of $120 billion. The massive wave wiped out a whole swathe of coastline, taking with it factories, farms, roads, railways, houses and thousands of victims.

The devastated port of Kamaishi in Iwate prefecture has a long history of rising from the ashes of disaster. Henry Ridgwell visited the town, and found hope amid the wreckage and the reconstruction effort underway there.

The 6,000-ton freighter Asia Symphony lies beached on the docks at Kamaishi.  The tsunami lifted her over the harbor and into the town. The looming bow of this huge vessel now sits within touching distance of a quayside house.

The surreal presence has become a symbol of the damage inflicted on Kamaishi.  Along with the estimated 450 residents killed, the tsunami has ripped the industrial heart from this busy port.

Wandering among the twisted remains of the dockyard is construction worker Mazakatsu Sano.  He says everything still feels unreal, like a dream.

Sano says it will take at least a year to reconstruct this place.  He says everything - water, gas, electricity - will have to be re-built from scratch.  

Looming over the port lies the Nippon Steel factory. It is a major employer in town and makes a large percentage of the world’s steel wires and rods for vehicle tires and bridges.  The plant’s monthly output of 60,000 tons has been cut to zero.

Taking a walk through their devastated hometown are old friends Ayako Ito and Sei Obara. At 84 and 82 years old, respectively,  they remember when Kamaishi became a target for Allied warships during World War II, because of its important steelworks. "The warships out in the bay fired shells 300 meters inland," said Ito. "It was terrifying!"

Ito says when the shells were fired, many people hid behind a huge wooden shelter. But a bomb landed behind it, and many people died. She says it still shocks her.  She says every day people put rice and beans in their bags so they had food in case their homes were destroyed.

Sei Obara remembers the war, and is optimistic that Japan will again recover. "If we got through that," he says, "we can get through this. We will work hard, we will fight!"

The warships now anchored off Kamaishi carry Japan’s own self-defense forces, which are using the town as a base for relief efforts.

Downtown Kamaishi is a wasteland, it’s streets lined with the former fixtures of normal life. The clock in the town square is twisted and contorted out of shape. Hundreds of cars are crumpled in the rubble. The contents of a children’s toy store are broken and strewn across the street. All will soon be carted away in the endless stream of dump trucks that throw up clouds of choking dust.

In their midst, disoriented survivors, a steady trickle of tsunami refugees, wander through the wreckage.

The economic impact will be felt hardest by the estimated half a million homeless. People like Isao Nozawa and his family, who are searching the remains of their wrecked house. It was lifted off its foundations - and now sits on top of the family car. "I am not insured for this," he says.  "I did not take out tsunami or earthquake insurance because it is too expensive."

Back at the docks, Mazakatsu Sano looks out across the landscape that has been his lifelong workplace. "Maybe all the reconstruction work will provide us with jobs," he says, adding, "maybe."

The tsunami has wrecked Kamaishi. But the survivors insist that soon the now silent cranes and warehouses will once more ring out with the sound of industry.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid