Friday, May 31, 2013

Onagawa part 5 remnants and controversy

Two years on from the Tsunami and the main harbour of Onagawa has been cleared of rubble , the damaged buildings have in the most part all been demolished and their components recycled as part of the process to raise the level of the ground. However a striking feature in the now mostly empty landscape are three concrete multi-storey buildings lifted up and dropped on their side by a combination of ground liquefaction caused by the earthquake and the massive tsunami. Previously it was thought concrete structures such as these would withstand a tsunami as they had deep foundation poles. The unique and powerful conditions of this disaster proved that to be wrong.
These buildings have been left in situ for the time being as a reminder to future generations who live in the rebuilt town to be aware of the dangers of tsunamis. 
This decision has proved controversial with opinions in the community split. Some people who lost relatives would like the buildings removed so there are no reminders of the tragedy. Many other people including classes of school children think it is more important to have a constant reminder to warn future generations citing the memorial dome preserved in Hiroshima as a good example.
A documentary was even made about this issue and the class of children campaigning to keep the buildings and this was broadcast in the U.K. by NHK World T.V. 
During the show a respected architect offered a stark solution, he suggested the buildings should be located in small parks surrounded by a 20 meter high wall of black stone. When a tourist or resident visited the monuments they could view the damaged buildings under the shadow of an imposing wall the same height as the wall of water created by the tsunami. The buildings would be hidden from view for those that didn't want to see them. 
Having visited the town and realised it's impossible to understand the scale of the disaster and destruction  as a viewer from afar, I would tend to side with the school children after all they are the future of Onagawa .

I suppose with any major disaster and loss of life comes analysis, hindsight and controversy. If people can learn from the mistakes of this disaster and improve their chances of survival in the future then that is one of the few good things that can be gained from such an event.

This memorial on the recycled rubble stands at the site of a bank. Sadly the bank workers stayed at their posts worried about the money in the bank and obviously not realising just how large the tsunami would be. Unfortunately they all died in the bank as it was engulfed by the waves.
This incident, it was explained to me, has also proved controversial with relatives of the victims angry at the bank management for not forcing the employees to evacuate, perhaps even suggesting they were under pressure to stay at their posts to protect the money. Of course we will never know what happened on the day.

Previously in 1933 Onagawa was hit by a large  and damaging tsunami. In the aftermath of that disaster a number of monuments with inscriptions warning of the danger that tsunamis will follow earthquakes were put up in the town. However it was explained to me that people in the town had forgotten the lessons on these inscriptions especially as there were not many people left that remembered the events .
Perhaps that is why they want a more stark reminder preserved for the children of the future.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cotswold wild Orchids May 2013

All photos can be clicked once and then a second time for full detail.
All shots were taken over bank holiday weekend 26th/27th May . The Orchids were all a couple of weeks late flowering this year due presumably to the mild spring weather.

First up , Early Purple Orchids on Minchinhampton Common 

Stunning Green Winged Orchids with varied markings on Minchinhampton Common. These are often assumed to be Early Purples as you walk past them but when you get up close the flowers are quite different.

For a size reference you can see they are just taller than the short grass and a similar hight to the Cowslips. It was also a bit windy on the common so it was difficult to get sharp photos.

One of my favourite Orchids , the Bird's Nest just coming up in Buckholt Woods. These splendid flowers have no green or other pigments . They grow under beech trees amongst the dead leaves 

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kamakura 2 Engakuji Temple 15/04/2013

The temples around Kita-Kamakura station are located in wooded hillsides and make for a very green and peaceful visit. The nearest Temple to the station happens to be quite large and sprawling, climbing up the side of a hill, Engakuji Temple is also the place where Ozu is buried. I found the grave yard but had neglected to bring the explanation of how to find his grave. I didn't feel it was particularly respectful to wander at random as there were no other people in that area even though the main temple was busy with tourists. Kamakura is a very popular tourist destination and the Temples are famous which has in some ways caused a little commercialism for example all temples charged entry fees ( the first time I had encountered this in Japan ) in addition I noticed some fake bullfrog calling piped in (via hidden speakers near the ponds) presumably to add atmosphere.

It was a wonderful sunny spring day and the gardens were lush and green creating some lovely shadow and light effects.

The entrance steps just to the side of the railway 

The amazing wooden main temple gate, please click the picture twice to see the carpentry detail

The complex stretched way up into the hill

A selection of beautiful gardens and temple buildings, all pictures are clickable to enlarge

The grave yard where Ozu san is laid to rest

The temple bell

Labels: , , , , ,

Kamakura part 1 Kita-kamakura Station

For anyone familiar with the films of Yasujiro Ozu, of which I am a huge admirer, then a visit to Kamakura is essential. 
Railways and stations feature in almost all Ozu films and the little station at Kita-Kamakura is one of them . It was the perfect place to start my visit with three popular temples close by (one of which contains Ozu's grave) and the start of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) hiking trail leaving from across the tracks.
Sixty years or so have passed since Ozu filmed here and the station sign he used as a pillow shot has been replaced with a modern one but not much else has changed around the station it seems.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eating my way around Japan part 7 Onagawa, brand new friends

After travelling from Nagoya to Onagawa by myself not knowing what to expect when I arrived, and being taken on  an excellent guided tour of the town during the afternoon, I was invited out to dinner in the evening by Mayumi and her husband Yusuke. I returned to my hotel to settle in and take a short rest before they would collect me and take me to a local restaurant.

The night was warm and clear and an eerie silence fell over the valley where my temporary hotel El Faro was located . Once the construction workers who are raising the ground level during the day had packed up the silence was only punctuated by the sound of the odd passing car.

El Faro just after dark

While travelling to Onagawa I was apprehensive about exactly what I would be able to do while I was there. I don't speak Japanese and I knew much of the town had been destroyed, I had read on the internet that there were still restaurants in the town so I had hoped I would find one near to my hotel and be able to eat some local food. When I had corresponded with Mayumi before my visit she had said she may be able to meet me and show me round but I had not expected the wonderful welcome and hospitality I received. I will never forget this first evening in Onagawa getting to know Mayumi and Yusuke and meeting their friends. These are people who are positive about the future of their town and have a direct involvement in it's recovery and I was privileged to be eating and drinking with them.

They drove me a short way to the site of a temporary wooden unit containing a couple of bars. We entered what I assume would be called an Izakaya ( Japanese style pub serving alcohol and food ) 
I was introduced to a couple of their friends, food and drinks were ordered and we took a table.

First up Scallops 

A selection of yakitori ( skewered grilled meat ) and sashimi arrived. Dishes are ordered throughout the evening as people feel like them rather than all at the start of the meal.

Fresh sashimi in a fishing port is rather splendid.
Octopus and Tuna plus  maybe bream and yellow tail ?

More yakitori , pork I think this time

grilled scallops 

everyone tucking in and modern technology being used to bridge the language gap

My brilliant new friends , I was so happy and relaxed to have landed in such great and interesting company when really I had expected to be eating by myself . From the left, Kota Niitsuma who opened the temporary sweet shop, Mr Beer (Biru san) who runs the fish factory and sushi restaurant in the harbour, Mr Abe ( Abe san ) who loaned land free of charge for the container village shops, Yusuke and Mayumi.

Yes we ate drank and were merry. I promised I would go back and visit them and their town again to see it rebuild and I will.

Naturally I had to finish the evening with some local sake .

Friday, May 17, 2013

Onagawa part 4 the temporary town.

I previously tried to explain the complexities of rebuilding the town of Onagawa after the tsunami. A second question that I had was what had happened to the population for a destroyed town and where had the survivors been living, working, shopping and eating for the last two years. 
Firstly some more facts from the translated guide book , the population of Onagawa before the disaster was 10,014 people . 827 people lost their lives or are still missing, only 535 bodies were ever recovered. Mayumi explained to me that the current population of the town is now roughly 5000 due to people relocating to inland cities for work etc.
However while reconstruction is carried out a set of temporary facilities has sprung up in various locations around the town including accommodation, restaurants and shops. It was remarkable to see how life was able to carry on and how people had been resourceful to start or restart businesses or create facilities for people to use.
I'll try and explain more with each picture and as always they are clickable for more quality.

Temporary housing had been constructed in several locations. In this case utilising a new design an apartment block of container style housing was constructed inside a baseball stadium on higher ground near the town.

I stayed in a temporary hotel called El Faro which was built on wheels to get around planning restrictions. This is the hotel restaurant.

On the first evening in Onagawa we ate , drank and enjoyed excellent conversation in this excellent temporary Izakaya constructed in what seemed to be a large wooden shed.

A temporary shop area mainly for construction workers, selling souvenirs, guides and snacks

We visited the amazing little Container Village Mall which was colourful and had a great friendly atmosphere. Originally the shops were in metal containers like the ones above but have since been expanded with wooden fronts to give a larger space .

The land has been given rent free to the traders by the owner Mr Abe which allows them to get around Japanese bureaucracy that states traders can only operate in temporary accommodation for two years.
I couldn't understand this rule as clearly it will take much longer than two years to rebuild the town.

The new wooden shop fronts

Inside the shops run into one giving a light airy indoor market feel

At a second location in a large car park another set of temporary shopping streets had been constructed with restaurants and coffee shops mixed in among the traders.

Mayumi introduced me to her Mother's best friend who runs a fruit and veg shop in the temporary area,
Mayumi is holding a copy of her book which features a photograph of the store and owner. 

The best sweetshop in the world opened in a container on his own land to give the children somewhere to go. Kota Niitsuma explained to me he just wanted to see their smiling faces. The area it was in had been completely destroyed but as he owns the land he can have the container there until full reconstruction starts. After that he said he would build a permanent store.

Labels: , , ,