5 April, 2011
On the second day, the IVUSA representative, a staff member, two students and I paid a visit to a town called Minami-Sanriku. There, we picked up various required supplies, like soap, shampoo and toothbrushes. We also took 20 cases of vegetable juice and cough drops, as many of the volunteers had developed sore throats due to sleeping in the chill coastal air. When we left, our car was fully loaded.
Every single house on the coast in Minami-Sanriku had been washed away. In fact, it was hard to believe that a village had once been there. It was nothing but wreckage—demolished cars and scraps of who-knows-what covered the ground. The Self Defense Military, from which we obtained our supplies, was using cranes and bulldozers to clear the area. The police from various prefectures were also helping. It was simply too dangerous an environment for mere volunteers.
Walking around the town saw all the different ways in which various groups and institutions were providing service. A cell-phone company had set up a table for charging mobile phones. Israeli Army troops along with the Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare had set up a medical clinic, collaborating with Japanese medical teams. Big Israel soldiers walking amongst the rural, old ladies—stooped with age—somewhat took me aback. A truck with a Ramen Noodle logo painted on the body was delivering noodles to people.
One of the IVUSA members’ grandparents lived in the town, and we wanted to visit them. As the village was totally decimated, the student had trouble finding her grandmother’s house. As we travel along the beach, the impact of how horribly mangled the town was, really hit us. I couldn’t help but marvel at the power of Nature and our powerlessness in its face.
Eventually we located the house. As it was located on a hill, it had not been damaged. However, since there was no running water, they had to pump water from a well and carry it back home. When we pulled up to the house, the grandmother was standing outside. The way that the student rushed out from the car and ran to her grandmother left a heartwarming impression on me. Her grandmother had a big smile on her face. It was a slightly modest, but moving reunion. We spent some time with them, talking. Before we left, I asked the grandmother if she was receiving relief goods. She modestly answered that she had enough. However, since we were well aware that everyone was struggling with limited supplies, we left them mineral water and vegetable juice.