It was very nice to see the Government-established temporary shops (now I call the Isatomae Community Shopping Complex = ICSC) with full of people and interesting events (Picture 1), such as singing, games, fireworks, etc. on Saturday, October 20, 2012, when I visited Isatomae in Minami-sanrikucho, Miyagi Prefecture. People there are now feeling that the community is on its way for reconstruction. I learned from the Head of our Shop Tent (also the Vice Head of the ICSC) that the last two shops in the tent moved out. Learning about such change, I went to see the Shop Tent only to find closed. On Saturday when I expected to see many activities, the tent was extremely quiet and was even locked (Picture 2). I learned that the nature school still operates there when scheduled and the tent still functions as the place for community activities and storage. But this sad situation for me was really a sign of recovery, development and our success, which we have been working for.
I went to see shop owners of the last two shops. The barber opened a very nicely decorated and modern shop a little bit off the center of ICSC only a few days ago (see Picture 3). But the pre-fabricated complex was really nice, and the barber was really happy to be able to restart her own shop. She must have saved a fairly big sum by operating in the free-of-charge Shop Tent, though she had to put up with hot or extremely cold temperature during summer or winter respectively. She decided to locate her shop in a little elevated place, since she does not have to move out to raise the ground-level two years later. Also, a sake shop owner opened a small container shop (see Picture 4), which is very easy to remove, right next to the ICSC. The two owners were extremely thankful to the operation of the tent. As a matter of fact, without a long period of tent operation, they could not have started the present shops. When they expressed deep appreciation of our help, I am firmly convinced that the tent played a key role in the early phase to help Isatomae people to move forward despite enormous difficulties they were facing.
The government will first of all build an eight-meter-high dike along the coast, but it will also raise the present roads by five meters and build a shop area right next to the ocean after raising the land level by three meters. Shops will remain close to the ocean, while houses will be built in places as high as 30 to 50 meter above the sea level. But following the government plan means that within two years or so, the ICSC has to move out of the present place again to raise the land level, and that it will take another two years before all constructions will be completed. For four more years, they will continue to use temporary facilities including our Shop Tent. The Head of Shop Tent gave me a planning map, and to my great surprise, the newly established housing area will be located very close to the Shop Tent (Picture 5). This suggests that the tent will be again fully used two years later to accommodate temporary shops and possibly long after as a community center.
Now, the present role of the DSIA is advancing to a new stage to help the ICSC alive and active. It intends to support their activities during another torturous and long period of transition. At this moment, it is very difficult for them to think two years ahead other than developing a blue print, since they are really preoccupied with making their living especially by bringing back supporters from non-disaster-affected areas and reactivating their economy. As a matter of fact, there were four or five mobile kitchen cars in the ICSC on Saturday, whose operators came all the way from Tokyo simply to make events lively and donate earnings to the ICSC. The volunteer work of such people now makes a drastic difference to support reconstruction activities.
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