21 Mar 2011

Japan: the town that lost its walls but kept its dignity

The town of Taro’s walls are in ruins; an earth and concrete embankment gouged and worn to nothing by the influx of thousands of tonnes of Pacific Ocean, blogs Alex Thomson from Japan.

Taro is a very small town with very big walls and they’re proud of them. Or at least they were. You can go online and see party officials praising the fact that, after 25 years, the town was finally protected forever from tsunamis when construction of the walls ended in 1958.

(Picture via Kamaishi Port Office)

This afternoon those walls are in ruins. An earth and concrete embankment gouged and worn to nothing by the influx of thousands of tonnes of Pacific Ocean.

A 20 inch high steel gate, several inches thick, blasted open by the torrent then bent and warped as if melted. You stand by these things, touch them in wander at this unimaginable force.

But enough! This is Japan. Let us not forget that. And let us now celebrate how this is taking Taro, behind its ruined ramparts.

Come with me up the hill, to the old people’s home which is a place where more than 30 Taroans are now calling home. Outside in the car park, you need to meet The Disasters Prevention Company.

Only in Japan.

It does what it says on the van – and on its understated navy blue company anoraks. But this is more than Ronseal. Today they have established tinted outdoor communal bath and shower units.

Outside the tent, check the front desk, complete with pots of immaculate flowers. Hard by, polite notices denoting men for two hours, then women for two hours across the day.

We go inside with the boss.

“You see?” he says delighted, “big baths, big baths! Enough for five Europeans – 10 Japanese!”

Clearly, this is a Company that brings style, efficiency and jokes to the business of disaster prevention. And few take personal hygiene as seriously as the Japanese.

We look on, coming and going children, parents, grandparents, each according to sex at their appointed hour. It is amazing, frankly, just to see these people coming out, still wet but happy and smiling – shiny happy people alright.

No water? No problem. The Disaster Prevention Company will simply run a hose to the nearest clear mountain stream then heat it up to the requisite temperature. And if there is no pristine mountain stream at hand? I contend this company would simply install one.

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