|A solitary utility pole stands almost as a monument to the massive disaster amongst the rubble of the old sea wall. Off in the distance, a new levee system is being erected. The new levees, mandated to be 7 meters high, are in themselves an ironic testimony to nature’s ultimate upper hand: the tsunami rose to a terrifying 19 meters in some places.|
|St. John’s collapsed during its demolition, roof to foundation. Too heavily damaged in the quake to be salvaged, it still provided emergency shelter for 13 residents of the neighborhood in the cold aftermath of the tsunami. It soon became a pilgrimage site for the whole of the Anglican Communion to remember the terrible disaster that befell so many.|
Hiroshi Matsumoto, our guide today, showed us up the little mountain to the shrine where residents of Shinchi fled and watched their livelihoods and homes disappear into the sea. The water rose almost literally to their feet before it receded.
|Daniel feeds chickens kept for their eggs by volunteers and local residents at the Issho ni Arukou Project Center.|
The Church, with funding from across the Anglican Communion, including aid from Episcopal Relief and Development, responded to the disaster with the Issho ni Arukou Project, setting up temporary shelters as a volunteer center in a little cluster at the edge of the tsunami destruction zone. With staff-in-residence, they offered community to the lost and destitute while governmental agencies began to lead the cleanup and build temporary housing. Even after recovering shelter and basic necessities, residents of Shinchi returned to Issho ni Arukou to raise chickens for eggs and make handcrafts to sell for community relief and rebuilding efforts: anything to feel productive for the community as a whole while the individual livelihoods of many remained uncertain.
A local artist offered his studio for Sunday worship to St. John’s, Isoyama. They are ultimately planning to rebuild on the site of the old church building, providing not only a new sanctuary for Christians, but a coffee shop, memorial garden, and community center for all of Shinchi. Stained glass from the original building has been stored away nearby to await its new home. The rice fields that St. John’s once overviewed will ultimately become part solar farm, part recreational area. Residents are rebuilding now on higher ground while dozens of workers erect a whole new levee system for the next time the sea and the earth shift. Meanwhile, rice field by rice field is reclaimed with the painstaking removal of contamination and the importation of new topsoil.
|Pinwheels bear witness to the dead in a little memorial garden at the original Fuji Kindergarten site.|
It simply means “Let us walk together.”
|Matsumoto-san shows the water line in a storage shed on the original Fuji Kindergarten property. Almost two-thirds of the student body were picked up by their parents between the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami. The remainder were loaded into buses, but couldn’t pull away from the school before the water struck.|
|The remains of the Shinchi Japan Rail Station are marked only by a foundation and a no trespassing sign. The tsunami ripped up the rails, littered the landscape with train cars, and demolished the wooden terminal. A more robustly built water treatment plant in the background survived.|
|The view from the shrine overlooking the residential neighborhood wiped out by the tsunami. Residents who fled here watched the water reach almost to their feet before it receded.|
|Foundations are all that remain in this residential neighborhood. The concrete slab in the center of the photo is not a foundation, but a bridge that was lifted, flipped, and carried nearly a hundred meters from its crossing over a canal to the wharf.|
|With volunteers and residential staff of the Issho ni Arukou Project in Shinchi.|
|Our host, The Rev. Shintaro David Ichihara (L) and Daniel look on while Hiroshi Matsumoto shows before and after aerial pictures of Shinchi.|