This has been an expected and very emotional part of my trip to the Miyagi Prefecture. After work and visiting the competitors in the area, my colleague suddenly asked me whether I would like to go to the seaside.
Even so he is overloaded at work and has already spent the whole day with me, I felt embarrassed to take more of his time but I felt he was keen on it. So we drive across the city of Sendai about 5km and quickly reached an area where they grow rice. For us, westerners, these rice fields remind us of Vietnam and so, only seeing this and exchanging was a learning for me.
He then mentioned briefly that the rice could be grown as soon as the next season and was ready for October soon after desalinization. And I suddenly got his point, he wanted me to visit the area affected by tsunami (language barrier). I have been shocked by the 2011 earthquake like many of us since I knew the country and had friends there, it was close to me in some way. I did not dare asking questions around it as I felt it would put my colleagues at an unrest and now, he was the one offering.
The next minute, we stopped at a building and I recognised the school we could all watch on TV years ago, a nice gentlemen approached us and explained that this would remain as such and would become a memorial where people can precisely come and ask questions.
We drove another 500m and reached the seaside and then I felt overwhelmed. There is a memorial where the tsunami hit. the water was going over the head of the statue at that point, can you believe.
The house opposite has simply been washed away so as all the houses in what used to be a street from the seaside to the school. 2000 people were living there.
Can you imagine the event? Do you realise this was on a lenght of about 200km and not just the one spot. I could see a lot on TV but never realised the scale.
My colleague was remembering all these things vividly. I remembered that in 2012, during the London Olympics, our company flew over one employee to run the olympic flame at our headquarters, he had lost his daughter in the event. they explained to me that this person was actually my colleague who had been sitting next to me all day at the meeting
Now, it is all about reconstruction, you see a lot of signs for “hope”, “reconstruction” in the city and the Olympic Committee has just announced 2 possible routes for the olympic flame in 2020, one starts there precisely and I hope they will get it as it would be a great symbol of life.