Day 15 – 240km out from Tokyo

Hisashiburi!!! That’s the first thing I’ll say!!! It’s been ages!!!

I’ve rested over the last couple of days, after finding a gentleman in his 40s who is working away from his family rebuilding the destroyed sea wall that once was to protect Japan from the tsunami. The tsunami was so string that it completely knocked the wall over and pushed the concrete pieces hundreds of metres off the shore, tearing up roads, train trucks, etc. He took me onto the site, showed me around, and then drove me up and down the coast showing me the damage from the tsunami. I’ve spent 2 nights with him, Ryousuke-San, and he lives with his boss, Kimi-San, as the two of them work towards completely rebuilding this small 500m segment of the sea wall, over the next two years, that will stretch hundreds of kilometres up the coast.

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Ryousuke-San and Kimi-San – hours if good conversation 🙂 many fond memories.

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Ryousuke-San giving me a tour of the machinery and processes, etc.

A little more on what Ryousuke-San is doing – he and Kimi-San are in the process of making, transporting and placing 1200 8tonne concrete blocks in the ocean to weaken the strength of any future tsunamis that might strike the area. It’s worth noting that this effort will only weaken the strength of the tsunami, but will not stop it completely. If another of a similar size does come, it will still overflow over the wall and to a large extent prevent the water from washing back out to sea. Just my observation. It’s a lot if work, and thousands of tonnes if concrete for this small 500m stretch, when maybe decking out the area with mangroves could be just as effective for tsunami weakening, which I know has been proven in India.

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The moulds for the bouhate, some 1200 need to be made for this small stretch of coast.

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About 600 have been made so far, and all of these will be dumped out a couple of metres of the coast to weaken any future tsunamis. This is being built along the coast from Chiba to Iwate.

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The previous sea wall was smashed into pieces and the concrete aided the wave in knocking down houses as it moved.

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Me on a sea wall in Ibaraki, before reaching Fukushima – this wall was effective as the wave her was only a few metres high

Something I have noticed is that the Japanese are working really really hard to try and weaken nature, to try to stop anything that might be on it’s way, when in the past, it was all about letting go and rebuilding.

But the new extra element, the radiation, is one factor many have completely left the area as a result of.

Anyway, serendipity is certainly wonderful, that I could have met them both and that they were enthusiastic enough to drive me around a large number of kilometres to show me the sights.

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The coast of Fukushima

Today I went to a festival called Somanomaoi (相馬野馬追), a festival where locals trained on horses, etc, get dressed up in traditional samurai armour, carry a flag with their family symbol on it, and walk the streets on horse back, and have races, etc.

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It was a really cool experience, especially seeing the samurai spirit within the Japanese, and that it’s still there – This burning desire for perfection and dedication to what it is they choose – especially seen in their armour, their horse riding ability, and the amount of time individuals spend training, etc.

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The detail in the armour and the decorations on the horses were really quite exquisite. It’s obvious that hundreds of hours have gone into making all of the little elements to make it just like the old days.

However, having taken yesterday off as well to see this special and rare festival, I now only have 8 days to travel 200km, which is certainly possible, but it’ll be tough. I won’t overdo it, but I won’t give up. がんばっぺ! As the locals say 🙂 Ganbatte means Do your best, but the locals, in their dialect say Ganbappe, which is everywhere you go,

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from stickers on cars and windows,

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to graffiti on walls and tsunami destroyed homes.

Keep fighting Japan! Rise up and take the power back!

You can call me what you like, but I went in as close to the nuclear reactors as I legally could without breaching the radiation boundary to observe life here. I actually had a rather interesting experience. I was able to ask around and learn that no Japanese trust the government, or their information, but they live completely normal lives just outside of the exclusion zone. People in Fukushima won’t eat the food that is grown here, nor will they drink the tap water, but they’ll live here. They’ll have festivals, stay outside, be in the rain, it’s as though no nuclear reactor exists at all. After two years, they’ve just put it to the back of their minds. Again, it’s about facing this invisible enemy that might or might not be there, they just don’t know, so it becomes easier to ignore it and live optimistically.

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Daily recordings of the radiation levels are put up to show people in the shopping malls how things are looking…

And it makes sense that they choose to ignore it though. The people in Fukushima will see the reactors on the news with minor updates most days of the week (for the past 2.5 years), to hear of more issues occurring, or “progress”, etc. it won’t leave them alone. And when they finally meet their friends or talk to someone new, the first question is: “how are you? Is the reactor ok?” The people have really had enough. And they won’t be left alone for years to come it would seem. I don’t imagine them fixing this nuclear reactor or closing down the others completely any time soon.

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Signs of “decontaminating the area” of radiation are also extremely common.

I’ve now travelled up and down the coast below Fukushima a number of times and have checked out the damage. There’s a lot. It’s all been cleared away, but there’s a large number of foundations growing weeds left behind and abandoned homes. I’ve had a couple of interviews with some interesting people on the coast, heard the stories and experiences, and seen photos of before and after of a variety of areas.

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The first day in Fukushima, immediately saw damage…

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Deserted homes – for fear of another tsunami while the previous sea wall is still destroyed, or fear of impact by the radiation.

One woman in particular, Haru, told me her story about her experience of the tsunami. She, her partner and 2 children are the only family remaining in an area that once held several hundred homes. Some 30 homes remain, abandoned, while her home was on stilts and fortunately suffered little damage from the tsunami. They live on a slight hill and very close to the sea wall (防波堤 bouhate) but have now received an eviction notice because the local council wants to expand the size of the sea wall for added protection to the other homes. Despite them building their own home, and even extending it since the tsunami, they now need to move within the next 8 months.

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Other foundations have sunflowers planted to lift away the dark energy and leave behind something beautiful 🙂

What else to chat about I wonder? Hmm… Japan’s financial situation. Not looking good. Recently reading that most of the funds raised for Japan during the tsunami didn’t actually go to helping the people (whether that is reliable or not), it’s hard to move past the fact that the government is providing temporary accommodation for the hundreds of thousands of people that lived within the 20km evacuation zone, I’ve also heard they are also paying the temporary accommodations or those who lost their homes along the cost to the tsunami, not to mention the costs for decontamination around Fukushima, and rebuilding the lost infrastructure and thickening the sea walls. And I’ve seen, these sea walls are a huge job. And to think that Japan is thinking of holding the Paralympics next year, while facing an aging society that’s running out if jobs, with homeless on the rise and social stress increasing under the heightened strain, where is Japan getting the money to do all of this? The situation in Japan is getting really interesting. It seems just a matter of time before it cracks.

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Beware of Tsunami – 4m above sea level
These signs were everywhere in Ibaraki but quite scarce out here in Fukushima (lower population).

This is just some of what I’ve learnt over the week, but every step has been interesting.

The weather has changed dramatically, when I last spoke it was hot and humid. Now that I’ve entered Fukushima Prefecture, I’m no longer in Summer but am in Tsuyu, the period of heavy rain just before Summer. A lot of people told me not to walk in the rain while I’m in Fukushima, but now it can’t be helped, and I’m possibly far enough away from the reactor to not be at threat, though that depends on your sources. I’ll keep pressing on though. Me not achieving my goal of reaching Sendai by the 6th will do more damage to my spirit than the rain, so I’ll press on.

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But the rain certainly won’t dampen my spirits 😀 I’m having too much fun!!!! It will however decrease the number of photos I take while outside 😛
At the 199.1km mark from Tokyo.

I heard some wonderful news a few days ago!!!! Depapepe, an incredible guitar duo, are actually going to be performing in Sendai on the 7th of August!!!! A day after I arrive in Sendai!!!! Fate? I think so 🙂 they’ll be holding a free concert that I’ll definitely be attending 🙂 thanks for telling me Moeko 😀

My feet have rested and are doing quite well 😀 so, to date, I’ve run at least 150km, and that was barefoot, and the rest with shoes and walking 🙂 I’ve bought a new pair of shoes a few days ago, and shaped them to fit, but I’ve developed some blisters after not really wearing shoes for the last few weeks.

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Beard update – looking good. Longest beard to date, some 4 months growth, and getting plenty of compliments 😛 taken just outside if Oarai in Ibaraki, just before I reached the east coast.

Photo time 😀 I obviously have countless incredible memories 🙂 but here’s some of the beautiful people I’ve met over the last week 🙂

Day 6

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Takeshi-San!!!! Drove past me one day, told me to stay over but he lived 40km away – so I ran to his house over the next 2 days and met him 🙂 amazing conversations, eating traditional Japanese food 🙂 thank you for the precious memories and conversations 🙂

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Takuya-San!!! Thanks for being with me as I finally made it to the coast!!!!

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I am a bit of a popular item here in Japan, the beard, the style, the grace, the fashion!

Day 7

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Kajima-San(left) and Satomi-San (right) – a wonderful conversation as the sun set, talking about tsunami experiences, the wars of days gone and life how it used to be.
I’ll hopefully see you in Australia soon Satomi 🙂

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The famous Sunflower ferry that travels from Ibaraki to Hokkaido

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The beautiful sunset that day 🙂

Day 8

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Nature showing off it’s intricacy on the beach 😛

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Thanks for the Dango Kazue-San 😀

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Katsumi-San – we lit my first fireworks on the beach that night and cheered!!! I’m almost at Sendai 😀 my dream is becoming a reality!

Day 9

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Beach Festival in Hitachi-city 🙂

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Yumi-San, Moto-San, thank you both so sooooooo much for the incredible conversations, and for the letting me stay with you both.

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Some cheers and encouragement from the locals 😀

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Momoko-San, it was a pleasure to meet you, and thank you so much for introducing me to your beautiful grandparents 🙂 they are amazing people, extremely caring, and just what I needed 🙂

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You too Asami!!!! It was a pleasure to meet you 🙂

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And Mum, I keep seeing these beautiful Lilies and am thinking of you every step of the way 🙂

Time for me to go guys!!!! The road is waiting for my company 🙂 And I’m really glad to have some a welcoming companion 🙂

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