Visiting Miyako

I visited the city of Miyako, which was heavily damaged by the March tsunami. My mother is from Morioka, an inland city near Miyako, but I also have a few relatives who lost their lives from the tsunami. The purpose of the trip was to see the recovery efforts with my eyes and spend some cash for the tourist industry there.

I got to Morioka first, and I was actually surprised by the fact that everything seemed pretty normal. Most buildings damaged by the earthquake were already repaired, except the one across my grandparents' home. My grandparents are 88 and 86, and they also looked perfectly healthy, still riding bicycle and taking care of themselves.

On the next day, I made a day trip to Miyako. I was trying to take a train to get there from Morioka but took a 2-hour bus for schedule reason. I think it was the longest bus ride on a fixed-route local bus. Anyhow, when I got to the city, I was glad to see the city center looking perfectly normal. I almost thought it was one of those media's exaggerations to draw more viewers and readers.

But I was of course wrong. I took another bus, short one this time, to see the coastal area and visit a sightseeing spot by the area. The scene was quite horrifying, even after seeing pictures and videos of these areas. The residential area was completely wiped, and there weren't any construction workers in the area to rebuilt this area. And then, I recalled that the government is restricting the redevelopment of this area because some argue that they should rather relocate the whole community to higher ground. What do you think? I would actually disagree; it was one-in-one-thousand-year disaster. These residents are mostly fisher men (some women too) and they can't live that far away from their livelihood. The better solution in my view is to have mandatory evacuation drill frequently and make people used to such situation.

After going through such thought, I took a tiny boat to see the area from the sea. The picture shown above is the ticket for it; it is not just a ticket but the one who survived the tsunami. The whole administration building was swallowed by the tsunami, but the tickets somehow remained usable. All the boats at the dock were taken by the tsunami, but the owner/navigator said these tickets gave him determination to rebuild his business. I talked to the owner/navigator a lot, and it was actually scary to see him talking as if the town is really fine now. Maybe, that's the only way to keep going every day.

Through this trip, I realized that TVs and the Internet can tell so little things. It was great to talk to the owner/navigator of the little boating business and see his determination to rebuild everything from his town to little business. I would urge you to visit the town if you have a chance.



  1. So in your previous blog you said you are in favor of nuclear power. Does it mean you are still in favor of nuclear power in coastal cities since the chance of a massive disaster is still really rare?

  2. Chun,

    Yes, I still think it is feasible to have nuclear power in coastal cities, but the locations of the reactors obviously need to move to the higher ground. When I visited Miyako, I was amazed the changes in the magnitude of the damage caused by the tsunami with different elevation. Although the areas with very little elevation (up to 40 feet) were completely destroyed, other areas remained relatively ok.

    And yes, there is also a question of statistics. It was a one-in-one-thousand-year disaster. It doesn't mean this area will be free from such disaster for next one thousand years, but these areas could also go under water if sea-level rise by climate change happens with increased use of fossil fuel to cover the loss of nuclear power, which is happening right now in Japan. Which possibility is higher? That's a very important question a lot of people don't even think about. I will discuss this in detail in a few weeks.

  3. I'll be interested in learning your opinions about nuclear power. My opinion has been swaying between pros and cons that I have not been able to determine my mind. In the Japanese media, it appears to place more focus on cons of the nuclear power, though.

    And your comment about statistic reminded me of the book, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I've heard of people commenting that "the nuclear power is never safe because of the black swan", which I agree.