2 Nov 2011

A haunting return to tsunami-ravaged Minamisanriku

To drive into Minamisanriku by night brings back memories, which are all the more haunting because you’re looking into the blackness knowing the destruction that is out there.

No street lights puncture the darkness of this once prosperous fishing town.


Away across the night, on high ground we can see the lights of our hotel – an island of light in a sea of darkness with the Pacific beyond.

Now and then the gaunt windowless shells of the few concrete buildings that survived the tsunami are momentarily lit up by the car headlights. Grey with black holes where windows once were.

Read more: Why it’s time to return to Japan’s tsunami zone

But there is life here, albeit on the higher fringes of the town, left untouched by the enormity of that Friday afternoon eight months ago. Fishing has resumed and a crew has promised to take us out to film that fact.

We meet friends and relatives of the crew in their fish shop. The freezers humming and spotless against the dark outside, with an array of everything from salmon, tuna and mackerel steaks through to shellfish I’ve never seen and could not name.

All of it I note in generous packages, gleaming and pristine and selling for a fraction of the cost such delicacies would fetch in the west.

So we will see the fishing for ourselves in the coming days and tomorrow, as we film in the town, we’ll be able to answer at last the question: what’s happened in the vast black spaces between the ruined ghost-buildings of Minamisanriku.

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