We met with Koji Arisawa and Waichiro Katsuda from Civic Force in the port city of Kesennuma, on a blustery but clear day, April 4 2012. They took us through a backroad through the mountains until we saw the sea again. Like every other coastal town we had seen on this trip north from Sendai, no houses remained, but a road stretched out towards the point. So we drove down as far as we could, then scrambled along the rocky coast until we happened on a low slung building that used to house an oyster research facility. Inside were a dozen women threading baby scallops onto ropes.
Hatakeyama-san is one of 3 brothers, whose father's house was one of the only houses spared by the tsunami, because his house was up on a bluff overlooking the shallow bay area. He and his brothers had also been active in environmental preservation in the area trying to prevent deforestation and preserving water quality long before the tsunami. So when their parents' house was the only one spared in the area, and they were able to leverage their relationship with the oyster research station to arrange for an immediate lease and conversion into an ad hoc shellfish cultivation station to re-employ villagers, they jumped at the chance. Now villagers--who have to drive 30 minutes now to get to the cultivation station from the temporary housing that they have all been relocated to--are one of the few people who can point to oyster and scallop harvests for 2012, being one of the first fishermen back at the business in the week after the earthquake and tsunami.
Every single one of the survivors has a story. Hatakeyama-san's younger brother was in a boat when the tsunami struck, having tried but failed to get out to the higher seas, but managed to swim his way out to one of the many little islands dotting the bay. From there he was eventually rescued by the one boat that survived the devastation because it had been anchored far out, to be back buying seed oysters and scallops a week after 3.11.
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