The Restoration of a Once Beautiful Town


By Futaba Kaiharazuka, (Assistant Program Director, Emergency Response, CARE Japan)

The Restoration of a Once Beautiful Town image 1
800 people have sought shelter in a high school in Yamada. In the back is the "office" of the shelter where staff sort items and distribute medical supplies. Photo: CARE/Robert Laprade

The CARE Japan team returned for the second time to the disaster zone in the northeast of Japan and have now been here for a week.Whilst setting up CARE Japan's aid program, we have had days where we have made great progress, but also some days of setbacks and few advances- this is the reality of an emergency relief site.

Yamada town in Iwate Prefecture, the chosen town for CARE Japan's new relief programme, is one of the towns to have been very badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. I had never visited Iwate Prefecture until now, and didn't know much of the area, but the first time I visited Yamada and saw the sheer devastation, I was lost for words and my heart stopped. Many of the houses had been washed away and destroyed by the tsunami. A town of rubble, as far as the eye can see, with strangely shaped fragments in every nook and cranny, cars in outrageous places and a burnt odour looming over the houses that weren't washed away but burned down. Although I can't believe I am looking at a Japanese landscape, I was reminded that this is the present undeniable reality.

I looked out beyond the tsunami-scarred coastline, and saw the contrast of the tranquil and beautiful ocean. When we first came to conduct a survey, the beauty of the ocean caught my eye. I am sure the people of Yamada must have been proud of the ocean. It is easy to imagine the sea rich in marine life, such as oysters and seaweed. Everyone we have met who lived by the sea has had their house or people they loved, and their hometown's beautiful view engulfed by the tsunami in an instant. I keep asking myself 'what on earth can I do to help?'

However, everyone here is determined to overcome the devastation; the town hall officials working 46hours straight; the mothers who despite having damaged houses themselves, go to the evacuation centres everyday to help out in the soup kitchen; the high school students moving boxes as their small contribution, the people who wrote 'Smile!' in big colourful letters to encourage the children; everyone is playing their part towards the restoration. We were very encouraged by these people as we made our preparations to begin CARE Japan's relief cooperation.

The people of this town are determined to survive. Even though they face such great insecurity as to how they will live from now on, and questioning what will happen next, they all support and care for each other living as evacuees. The CARE Japan staff, our international colleagues who came to assist us and I aim to support the admirable people of Yamada to help restore their once beautiful town and their individual livelihoods.