To rebuild or not? Japan`s tsunami coast wonders

Last Updated: Sunday, March 27, 2011 - 21:27

Kesennuma: When he was younger,
the carpenter picked a spot just off the Shikaori River and
built his house. Toshio Onodera chiselled the joints for the
wooden roof beams and cemented the tiles onto the front porch.

He mounted ivory-colored siding on the outside walls.
His parents moved in with him, and so did his mother`s
mother. He is the oldest son, and that is what tradition
dictates here. He lived in the house for nearly 30 years. Then
suddenly, on March 11, it was no more, it was destroyed by the
tsunami, a three-story wall of black water that followed the
course of the river and all but obliterated his neighbourhood.

Now he sleeps on the floor of a crowded junior high
school gymnasium, next to his 83-year-old mother and alongside
hundreds of neighbours, nearly all of them long past
retirement. It`s a community living beneath basketball hoops,
adrift on a sea of acrylic blankets.

At 57, Onodera is one of the gym`s youngest residents.
If he insists Kesennuma will emerge from the wreckage of the
tsunami, he also knows it faces an immense demographic
challenge.

"This is a town of old people," he says as he stands
on the foundation of his house on a cold winter morning, the
smashed remains of someone else`s roof on the ground next to
him. "Young people just don`t want to live in Kesennuma
anymore."

The beams he had chiselled were 75 feet (25 metres)
away, tangled with wreckage from across the neighbourhood. The
air stank of mud and fuel that had leaked from the
nearby port. He pointed to the remnants of house after house
where the residents are either dead or missing.

"No one will come back here," he predicts of his old
neighbourhood, saying he will stay in town but move further
inland.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011 - 21:27

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