Kamaishi, Japan -
Japan 4 Years Later
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck in the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles off of the Northeastern Japanese coast of Honshu and produced a series of waves, or tsunamis, that reached 30 feet or higher. These waves slammed into a protective seawall built by the Japanese government at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion. The seawalls failed.
Along the coast, more than 15,000 people lost their lives. 230,000 either lost their homes or were displaced. About 87,000 still live in temporary housing four years later.
In the temporary housing near Kamaishi, Japan, about half the former residents are gone now. The Japanese government has offered subsidies of $40,000 to $60,000 to help rebuild homes that now cost $300,000 to $450,000 to rebuild, due to the shortage of construction workers and the cost of building materials. Some have moved in with relatives; others moved into permanent apartments and manyhave simply left the area for good.
Tokyo has set aside $155 billion to rebuild, and yet many in Kamaishi wonder where the money is going. Some of it is spent on schemes to literally raise the ground up to 15 feet in devastated towns like Otsuchi and Rikuzentakata City, which were practically flattened by the tsunami. Even more is being spent to repair the failed seawall.
Despite efforts by Tokyo to raise the ground level and repair the sea walls, many people in the area are losing hope of having their lives back. Takemi Wada, who lost her home and mother at Rikuzentakata City, said she’ll never move back even with the elevated land. “Who wants to live on top of a graveyard?” she asked.
Photo shows: The 'Miracle Pine' statue towers over the leveled Rikuzentakata. The statue is an exact replica of the only surviving pine tree of the tsunami of 2011 from the tens of thousands at the former scenic Takata-Matsubara forest. Today, it serves as a memorial for the area that was devastated by the tsunami.