やまだの作文 - Essays from Yamada -
Children's Recollections of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
Yamada Rotary Club
Rotary International D2520 Feb.2012
English Version; Fukuoka Heisei Rotary Club
Rotary International D2700 Aug 2012
Contents; Essays from Yamada
|【Part I Elementary School】|
|My Dad's Advice||Neo Matsuzaki,Fumane Elementary School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P6|
|The Earthquake make me feel lonely||Daitaku Nakamura,Todoroki Elementary School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P7|
|The Gift of a Smile||Sayaka Haga,Arakawa Elementary School(4th Grade)||・・・・・||P9|
|Grandpa’s Life is a Part of us all||Shuta Okawa,Ohigashi Elementary School(4th Grade)||・・・・・||P10|
|Our Town’s Reconstruction||Miyu Sasaki,Yamada Minami Elementary School(5th Grade)||・・・・・||P12|
|Our Hometown Yamada||Izumi Horigou,Yamada Minami Elementary School(5th Grade)||・・・・・||P13|
|Eight Months of Dreaming||Maria Arakawa, Funakoshi Elementary School(6th Grade)||・・・・・||P15|
|I just can’t Forget the Disaster||Nanami Sato,Yamada Minami Elementary School(6th Grade)||・・・・・||P17|
|【Part II Junior High School】|
|I will become Stronger||Tomoteru Sasaki,Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)||・・・・・||P19|
|Supporting Each Another||Mayu Ito,Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)||・・・・・||P21|
|A changed Town and my Determination||Miyabi Fukushi,Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)||・・・・・||P23|
|Eight Months on||Ruka Kikuchi,Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)||・・・・・||P25|
|Thinking about Nuclear Power||Kouta Yamasaki,Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)||・・・・・||P28|
|Living||Akie Sato,Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)||・・・・・||P30|
|This is what I’d like to tell you||Gairu Sato,Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)||・・・・・||P32|
|What I want to Say – With my Thanks||Momoka Kanehama,Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)||・・・・・||P34|
|What I would like to Say||Tatsuya Fukushi,Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)||・・・・・||P36|
|Being Alive||Hiroo Hukushi,Fumane Junior High School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P38|
|Treasuring Life||Shinnya Horigou, Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P40|
|Among the Painful Memories of March 11||Yuuya Hukushi,Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P43|
|I will never Forget||Kanae Yamazaki, Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)||・・・・・||P45|
On the Publication of the English Version of the Booklet of Essays from Yamada
Our club, Fukuoka Heisei Rotary Club, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its establishment this fall. In marking this anniversary, we decided to run a project that would allow us to learn from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and to utilize the lessons learned for our future. As part of this project, we visited disaster-hit areas on two occasions to see what we could do.Among the many things that we encountered during our visits was a booklet of essays from Yamada. Yamada, a small coastal town in Iwate prefecture with a population of around 20,000, sustained enormous damage as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. We learned that, over the past 40 years, Yamada Rotary Club (Rotary International D2520) has been sponsoring the publication of an annual booklet of essays written by elementary and junior high school students from Yamada. As is to be expected, many students chose to write about their experiences of the disaster in their essays for this year. Each and every essay written on the disaster contained the student’s first-hand experiences and honest thoughts. We found these essays to be extremely moving – so much so that we hit upon the idea of translating them into English and introducing them to our friends overseas as a token of appreciation for all their warm support in the wake of the disaster. With this in mind, we embarked upon the translation of this booklet in the hope that it would become just one of many ways to return the favor. It is our hope that this booklet will help overseas readers understand what these young students – all of whom are trying to move on with their lives – want to say.
On a final note, we would once again like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for everyone’s warm encouragement and support following the disaster.August 9, 2012
Fumio Shibayama, President
Fukuoka Heisei Rotary Club
Rotary International D2700
1) Although Yamada Rotary Club had at one point considered canceling publication of the booklet in 2011 because of the disaster, they reconsidered and decided to go ahead with it as usual. With the strong support of local residents, they were able to overcome various hardships and were able to complete their annual project. We would like to pay our great respect for their decision and efforts.Although it has been one and a half years since the disaster, we have learned that their club activities are not yet back to normal. Our prayers go to Yamada Town for their quick recovery and to Yamada Rotary Club for a speedy return to normal operations.We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Yamada Rotary Club for their cooperation in allowing us to make an English version of the booklet.
2) In selecting essays from the original Japanese language publication for translation in this booklet, we chose only those in which students wrote about disaster.
Part I Elementary school
My Dad’s Advice
Neo Matsuzaki,Fumane Elementary School(3rd Grade)
One day, a while after the earthquake, my dad said to me and my brother, “Listen, don’t forget this earthquake.” “I won’t,” I answered.
On March 11th, when classes had finished and we were about to go home, a big earthquake occurred. This was something I’d never experienced before. I got under the desk right away but the desk itself was moving around rapidly with the shaking. When the first quake died down a little, we took shelter in the schoolyard with our teacher. I was trembling with fear as the earth kept shaking.
I came home with Grandma and saw that all my family was safe. All except Dad. Night came but he still didn’t return home. I was worried that he might have been swallowed up by the tsunami and drowned. But Dad used to be a sumo wrestler when he was a student. He is still very big and strong. Because of this, I didn’t believe he could be beaten by a tsunami. I thought he would surely come home safe. But we couldn’t get in contact with him at all. I became more and more worried about him.
On the day of the big earthquake, Dad was working at an old people’s home near the sea. As soon as the big tsunami warning had been issued, he began to help the elderly people to safety. Holding them in his arms one by one, he managed to move three people to safety. However, when he tried to save the fourth, he was swallowed up by a big wave. Close to drowning and being washed away by the wave, he thought that this was the end. But just at that moment, he was able to grab onto something like a thick rope, which saved him.
It was toward noon two days after the earthquake that Dad came home. There were bloodstains on his wrists and back. Mom cried when she saw him. I was really relieved and thought that I never wanted to see such a thing again.
For a while after this, we lived inconvenient lives without electricity. However, this didn’t really bother me much. This is because my dad was there, my family was there, and we were all there for each other.
Nine months have passed since that day. I remembered Dad’s words when he said, “Don’t forget this earthquake.” His advice is that we have to make the most of our experiences from this earthquake if we are faced with a similar situation again. However, his words also imply that, like my dad who risked his life to save the lives of the elderly, he wants us to take care of the lives of others as well our own. I am going to do what I can to assist others and to help those who are in trouble.
The Earthquake made me Feel Lonely
Daitaku Nakamura, Todoroki Elementary School(3rd Grade)
The East Japan Great Earthquake happened on March 11th. There was no power for some time after and I had to live in the dark, which is when I understood a little how Chi-chan felt in “Chi-chan’s Kageokuri” (Chi-chan’s Shadow-sending, a story about a little girl set in Japan during World War II). From then on, the school remained closed and the power cut lasted for a long time. I couldn’t go to school and see my friends, even if I wanted to. I hated that I couldn’t do anything because of the power cut. No television. No bath. No playing my favorite baseball game. We didn’t have much food to eat, just rice and “nishime” (a simple stew in a soy flavored broth). I wondered why our lives had become like this! I was thankful that people from the Self-Defense Force came to our town with sweets. Until then, we had only been given rice and nishime, and it was the first time I’d eaten sweets since the earthquake. They tasted so good!
I was not happy even when I was playing with my friends at school. This is because I was sad that the tsunami had washed away our town. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to live here anymore. We had no gas, and Dad and Mom had to go to a nearby gas station at three o’clock in the morning and get some gas for the car. While they were gone, I felt lonely. I also felt lonely being left by myself at home all day long because Mum had to go to work at a local youth center. I stayed in my room in the dark, saying to myself “I’m lonely” over and over again. During the day, I continued to study hard. However, because I felt lonely every day, I gradually stopped feeling like doing anything, even my homework. I just stayed at home doing nothing. I couldn’t be bothered to do anything. However, when Mom came home, I felt like doing things and I became happier. I was able to finish my homework in a single day, and I became very happy. From then on, I started playing outside again and had fun playing catch with Dad. I was proud of how fast I could now pitch a ball. I always told my friends, “I can pitch a ball very fast.” Then I also started to play catch with my friends and my life was happy once more.
If we had another earthquake, I would not only take care of myself but would also like to help out with cleaning up our house. If not, Grandma would have to take care of our house by herself, which is too much for her. From now on, I will try to help out at home as much as I can.
The Gift of a Smile
Sayaka Haga, Arakawa Elementary School(4th Grade)
We went to the shelter at Fumane Junior High School and visited people as volunteers. We had practiced our performance day after day in preparation for this day. It took us 40 minutes to walk from our school to the school. The walk made us tired, but we stuck at it so that we could make the people in the shelter smile. As I was walking, I felt my heart beating rapidly because I was worried whether we could make them smile.
At last, we arrived at the shelter. Inside, there were many elderly people. They didn’t look happy. All was silent and there were a lot of things packed in cardboard boxes.
I looked at a book on tsunamis, and many things came into my mind. I wished I’d been able to save them. If only I could… But it was impossible; instead, we wanted to give everyone here a gift: a message of smiles. We wanted to make all of these elderly people smile.
Those of us who went to the shelter included 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. The 2nd graders began by reading out loud a play called “Dandelion’s Wisdom.” I thought that this play would certainly cheer them up. I looked at the people in the shelter, and they seemed to be having a good time.
At last, it was the turn of us 3rd and 4th graders. I was nervous, and wondered whether we would be able to cheer them up and make them smile. We sang them a song called “Don’t Give Up!”, which we sang using gestures. I remembered what we had practiced and smiled as I sang. We heard everyone beating time with their hands. Gradually, they began to smile. This encouraged me to try even harder to cheer them up.
Finally, we all came together to sing our last song, called “A Gift.” By this time, I was feeling refreshed. They clapped very loudly, which made us feel happy.
After our performance, we massaged their shoulders for them. I wanted to give them a nice long massage if it would help cheer them up. I gave a massage to an elderly woman. Through my massage, I wanted to tell her that I was sorry she had lost her home, and that I hoped she would feel better soon. After the massage, she smiled and thanked me for the good massage. I smiled too. We went there to cheer them up; however, in the end, they cheered us up. I’ll never forget their smiles. As volunteers, we gave them the gift of a smile. I hope they keep on smiling.
Grandpa’s Life is a Part of us all
Shuta Okawa, Ohigashi Elementary School(4th Grade)
Grandpa was a fisherman. When the earthquake happened, he took Mom and Grandma to higher ground and then rode his bike to the sea to see his fishing boat. When he got to the sea, he found that his boat was alright. There were three other men there. Unfortunately, those three men were all swallowed up by the tsunami.
Grandpa pedaled away at once but was washed away just as he arrived home. However, by a miracle, he was able to grab a broken piece of roof and called out for help. When the tsunami died away, he was rescued by a friend’s father, and was carried to the school. My mom told me later she called me there because she thought that grandpa would die. When I went to grandpa’s side, he was very cold and was bleeding from his shoulder and toenails.
The next day, as the road was opened, Grandpa was taken to Miyako Central Hospital. He had to stay in bed all the time because the hospital staff were so busy that he couldn’t have treatment or rehabilitation. On March 20th, he was transferred to the Prefectural Central Hospital. Here, he had treatment for tetanus for two months, followed by an operation on his shoulder and three months of rehabilitation at the Medical School. Finally, he was moved to Matsuzono Hospital to continue with his rehabilitation.
When he was at home, Grandpa and I used to do many things together, such as watching TV or taking a bath together, so I missed him very much during the half a year he was away. When he came home, I was very happy that I was able to take a bath with him again.
Mom and Grandma said that Grandpa was foolish and I agreed with them. He went to the sea despite knowing that a tsunami was coming. It makes me sad to think he might have died. I said to him, “It’s just as they say, Grandpa: you reap what you sow.” “That’s right,” he replied. “Run away at once when a big earthquake occurs.”
I want him to be well from now on, and I guess he also wants the same for me. Grandpa is putting a lot of effort into his rehabilitation. I want him to be as well as before the earthquake. Grandpa’s life is not only his own but also his family’s and his friends’.
Our Town’s Reconstruction
Miyu Sasaki, Yamada Minami Elementary School(5th Grade)
We 5th graders investigated how Yamada has been carrying out reconstruction since the earthquake, and wrote a play to be performed at a school event based on what we found out. When I heard we were going to produce a play about the earthquake, I wanted to play the roles of people who were holding out against the earthquake, which is why I was looking forward to it being completed.
As we tried to find out about Yamada’s reconstruction, we were relieved to learn that although the damage was great, little-by-little progress was being made with plans for recovery. To start with, a town official took the time to come and tell us about the damage that had been done and Yamada’s reconstruction plans. We went to gather information at places we knew, including Bihan Plaza, the fish market, the oyster huts (we couldn’t all go there, so only the teacher went), and Nakayoshi Park Shopping Center.
I was surprised to hear from the official that the financial loss was so high. 20 billion yen was too much money for me to get my head around. I heard that a lot of buildings were washed away and suffered major damage, and I realized how serious the situation was. I wondered whether we could recover from such a disaster and thought to myself that it seemed impossible. I heard it would take ten years or so to recover, which seemed too long.
A sales clerk at Bihan told us that they were able to open their store earlier than other stores or towns. The manager, who thought he should do something for Yamada, got in touch with a lot of people the day after the earthquake. Until they could reopen the store, they ran a temporary store and mobile store. Many of their customers asked them to open the store again quickly; in answer to their requests, they aimed to reopen the store by mid-summer. On the day after the earthquake, I took shelter in Sakura Kindergarten. This was not the right time or place to think about Yamada’s future. But the manager made every effort to help the people of Yamada lead more comfortable lives. I felt his strong belief in Yamada.
At the fish market, I was glad to hear that they had begun fishing again, even though the catch was 20 or 30% of the previous year. We couldn’t see them at work because it was evening when we visited them. However, we watched their work on a video that one of our teachers had taken. There were a lot of fishermen working hard in the dark. They still have a long way to go before they can fish as much as before the earthquake; however, as I watched the fishermen working to live in the belief that Yamada would one day be as it was, I was able to witness the strength of the human spirit.
My role in the play was as a fisherman’s wife – after I saw the fishermen working, I was determined to take my role seriously.
While we only had a short time to rehearse, I did my best to express the role the fisherman’s wife played in encouraging her husband. This was especially so in a scene where I cheered up the discouraged fisherman, saying, “What a gloomy face you are making,” and “You have the support of people from all over Japan.” I put all my energy into practicing my role. When I thought of all the people in the town and the fishermen doing their best to reconstruct Yamada, I thought to myself, “I won’t give up. I’ll give my best performance.” On the day of the performance, I was satisfied and I think we were able to communicate our feelings to the audience.
I heard that it will take ten years to reconstruct the town properly. In ten years, I’ll be 21 years old. My dream is to be a pharmacist who works for the sake of other people. I am trying my best to help with the town’s reconstruction.
Our Hometown Yamada
Izumi Horigou, Yamada Minami Elementary School(5th Grade)
On March 11th, the ground started rumbling and shaking. The shaking was so strong that desks and chairs as well as my whole body shook with the building. This was the East Japan Great Earthquake. The town completely changed; the air smelled of burning – now, everything in the town is gone. All the shops were washed away, and we couldn’t go shopping and all the other things that we’d been able to do before the earthquake. The town was full of debris, and it was difficult to walk around. The town looked completely different from the Yamada that I loved, and I felt it would never be the same again.
Eight months later. Since then, we have never given up, but have been taking each day one step at a time. We want to restore Yamada to how it was. This is what we all want more than anything. I wanted to reconsider Yamada as it is today. So, as part of our general studies, all 5th graders at our school got together and went to see town hall staff members, shopkeepers at Nakayoshi Park Shopping Center, people at Bihan Plaza, supermarkets, and members of a local fishery cooperative. We asked them what kinds of measures have been taken as part of reconstruction efforts.
At Nakayoshi Park Shopping Center, there is a bookshop, a futon shop, a camera shop, and a flower shop. Shopkeepers there told to us that they would like to serve their customers with a smile, and that they wanted to make our shopping center better so that the people of Yamada town can shop in peace and safety. In fact, they actually served us with a smile. I felt relaxed and enjoyed talking with them. I heard from shopkeepers at Bihan Plaza that, from the day after the earthquake, they began providing help to the people of Yamada. Many local people who had no car and couldn’t go shopping were thankful that these shopkeepers made their rounds by van. The shops opened in August, which meant we were able to shop without having to go far from our houses. Since then, our daily lives have gradually become more convenient.
Right after the earthquake, the sea was full of all kinds of debris, such as pieces of collapsed buildings and ships. Now, thanks to local people such as fishermen, the debris has been removed from the sea and the port of Yamada has become a lot cleaner. Each time I look out to sea, I notice that the number of new rafts has increased a little more. From October, the ships were once again able to leave the port to go fishing, and to then unload their catches, such as salmon, mackerel, and yellowtail. The port gradually became more and more lively. When I saw them on a video, the fishermen were landing fish with a serious look on their faces. I think fishing is the biggest joy for a fisherman. Apparently, fishermen only caught 20~30 % of last year’s catch of salmon, but I felt relieved to know that there were still fish living in Yamada Bay. Although there is still a lot of debris left in the water, I sensed that the fish were doing their best to live, and it made me realize just how powerful life is.
At the end of October, the oyster huts in Funakoshi district finally reopened for business. I heard that the oysters on sale now are those that miraculously survived the earthquake. I was surprised to know that the oysters in Yamada Bay had survived and had not been beaten by the earthquake. I love Yamada’s oysters, which are big and juicy and full of taste. I was really happy to learn that the oysters, which are one of Yamada’s local specialties, survived. Yamada’s marine products industry has been recovering steadily ever since.
Yamada’s recovery is predicted to take another ten years. I heard that they will remove debris from the sea and will pile up mud into heaps. It also seems that they are looking to produce even more big oysters.
Talking to and getting to know the people of Yamada, I got a sense of how deeply everyone is involved with each other, and of their strong desire to see the town restored. We will need the power of everyone in Yamada if we want to make further progress with the town’s reconstruction. I would like to help make Yamada a town that is protected against future disasters, and where people can live with smiles on their faces. As one of the people living in Yamada, I made up my mind to do my best and help out in whatever ways I can.
Eight Months of Dreaming
Maria Arakawa, Funakoshi Elementary School(6th Grade)
I don’t think that the Great Earthquake has brought us only sorrow. I believe that it has also brought us something else. As well as sorrow, the earthquake also taught me what that something else is. That is, it taught me the importance of connections between people.
Eight months have passed since the earthquake, but it feels as if it didn’t actually happen. We have suffered much inconvenience as a result of the earthquake, and have had to do many things that we never had to do before. However, I don’t think we went through all this for nothing. To me, these last eight months have been extremely valuable. I came away with a lot of memories from this precious time. While we are living different lives to before the earthquake, we also have the pleasure of beginning new lives.
First of all, after the earthquake, we were unable to take a bath. When we went along to the temporary baths that people from the Self-Defense Forces had kindly prepared for us, they gave us a very warm welcome. I was so happy that I couldn’t find the words to express my thanks. The bath was very big and the water was warm. “I shouldn’t take their kindness for granted,” I said myself. I realized for the first time that there were people like them in the world who would take good care of us.
Next, I have good memories of a school excursion we went on. Although I had been afraid we might not have a school excursion this year because of the earthquake, I was glad we were able to go in the end. This was also thanks to those people who supported us. I’d like to thank them, too. From this, I learnt that humans live through the support of other humans. I also understood that it is the people around us who create our happiness.
And then there was sports day, which was the thing I put most effort into this year. Although our school had lost all its equipment and sports grounds, we were able to have our sports day this year as usual because of the support we received from many people all over Japan and the world. But I also think there was another reason why we were able to hold sports day. This, I believe, was our strong desire to hold our sports day with local people. I really felt how everyone wanted to make sports day a success.
The events that I tried hardest at on sports day were “soran-bushi”, a Japanese festival dance, and a marching band parade. As these were traditional events at Funakoshi Elementary School, I felt that local people would want to watch these the most. I think that, through these events, we were at last able to show our thanks to local people. And this sports day has become one of my last and best memories of my elementary school days.
I think that the last eight months have been a very important time for the people of my town. I’d like to work hard to help reconstruct both the town and people’s happiness and to restore them to what they were before the earthquake, and hope to see smiles returning to many people’s faces soon. When I grow up, I want to become the kind of person that Yamada now needs – to help build a town which is full of future hope. This is my dream, and I believe this is also the dream of all children of Yamada.
I just can’t Forget the Disaster
Nanami Sato, Yamada Minami Elementary School(6th Grade)
March 12th. A massive earthquake occurred without warning. Then, Yamada was hit by a tsunami.
I was at my grandma’s house at the time. We weren’t able to use electricity, which made life really tough. I cry whenever I think about this time. I saw my mom in the evening. When I saw her, I couldn’t stop crying.
Since the tsunami, I’ve only seen people from Yamada Kita Elementary School once. One of my classmates from Yamada Kita was swept away by the tsunami. I was very upset. It was with these feelings that I was transferred to Yamada Minami Elementary School in April. I was surprised at how many students there were compared with Yamada Kita. I become sad when I think that there are students at Yamada Minami who also lost their classmates to the tsunami and who are feeling the same way as me. However, I realized that even if I continued to feel sad like this, it wouldn’t change anything. I made the decision to believe that they would look out for me.
People at Yamada Minami were all kind and easy to talk to. Every day was fun with them. I also made new friends, and am glad to have become close to them. However, we sometimes continued to feel aftershocks.
The school put on a range of events. I think I was smiling at all of these events. The most fun I had was on school excursions. We sang songs on the bus and all had a good time doing many activities together. At Watari Hot Spring, we gave a performance of a dance called the “toramai” (tiger dance). I wanted to perform this dance in a way that expressed my thanks for everyone’s support and to show how everyone at Yamada Minami was trying to move on from what had happened. As I had changed schools, this was the first time I had taken part in this dance. I played the whistle, but it was hard to get it to make a sound and I had to practice a lot. While I sometimes still find it difficult, I can play it a lot better than before. In this performance, I was able to play my instrument well and there were some in the audience who were moved to tears, so I think it was a success. We also performed this dance at Morioka Minami Aeon. I was happy, as loads of people came to watch.
After this, we went to Ishiyama Parkland, where we had food and fun on the rides. I went on many rides, such as the Apollo. It was a really fun school trip. I think I was able to have fun because of everyone’s support.
The next thing I remember is our class performance. During practice sessions, the teacher kept pointing out things I was doing wrong. At first, I was speaking too quietly, but I began to speak louder with more practice. When it came to the turn of us 6th grade students to give our performance, I was not nervous. My mom and grandma came to watch me. Our performance was on the Japanese writer Miyazawa Kenji. I was a narrator. I tried to get across Miyazawa Kenji’s spirit of respect for all life to those watching. When I finished, the audience clapped. I was happy that all 53 members of our group were able to work together and finish our performance. All of the performances were a big success. I have very fond memories of that day.
I would like to make a wish for Yamada’s future. I hope that it becomes a town full of happiness. I think those who lost members of their family and those close to them are also sad at the moment. This is why I would like to see a town where everyone is smiling and enjoying each and every day.
Now, the debris is slowly disappearing, and the town is beginning to look its old self. The shops that had always been here have also returned. In the future, I hope that Yamada makes a full recovery and that all those smiling faces will return.
I want to grow up to become the kind of person who respects the lives of all those who were saved from the disaster, who is bright and cheerful and who tries to help out others to the best of my ability.
I would like to live positively and pursue my dreams.
Part II Junior High school
I will become Stronger
Tomoteru Sasaki, Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)
One day, a month after THAT day, they found my mom’s body. I was sad, but felt really relieved that they had finally found her.
It was March 11, 2:46 PM. We were having our final class of the day. It happened then. “Gogogogo.” We heard a faint sound. “Earthquake!” Everyone hid under the desk and waited for things to settle down. However, it showed no signs of stopping.
The shaking was so strong that I was praying for the school building not to fall down. Finally, the big earthquake stopped, but the aftershocks continued. Our teacher came into our classroom. Then, the other teachers and lower grade students who were on the first floor also came upstairs to our floor. The teachers were listening to the radio and getting information about the earthquake.
I got so scared when I heard what they said on the radio. They had announced a tsunami alert. Everyone started talking. I started worrying about my family and house. The teacher started asking whether our family members’ workplaces were near the sea. My dad is a carpenter and my mom is a nurse. Their workplaces were not far from the sea. I couldn’t stop worrying.
Our teacher went out into the hallway to speak with our school principal.
“Is my house okay…?” “Are my family okay…?” It happened when we were all worried and talking to each other about such things. The tsunami came. It was our teacher who first noticed it. Everyone stood by the window and watched the tsunami approaching.
It didn’t seem real – like something that shouldn’t exist in this world. Houses and fishing boats were being swept up by the tsunami. From people to houses, it washed everything away.
We stayed at school that night. My heart was filled with anxiety. I guess everyone felt that way. I spent the night covering myself with a blanket, suffering from the aftershocks. That night made me realize how everyone supports each other. There were many people who came to school to spend the night, but everyone offered their blankets to other family members or those around them. While there was no heating and everyone was freezing, I saw many people giving up their blankets to others.
Next morning’s breakfast was rice balls and some crackers. The rice-balls were made by some women who had come to take shelter at our school. I was moved when I saw these women making rice balls. They must’ve been worried about their families and homes just like I was, but they were making rice balls for us. I will never forget their kindness.
On March 12th, after we woke up, our teacher gathered everyone together and asked for our help. Our teacher wanted us to get water from a nearby river. This water was to be used for flushing the toilets.
As I was carrying the water, I spilled some on the floor. When I was cleaning it up, my teacher came by and told me not to overdo things. I was trying to help people, but no matter how strong I felt, there was a limit to what I could do, and I just couldn’t take it when I learned I was even a bit useless. I didn’t like feeling useless.
After breakfast, Dad came to school to pick me up. On the way home, we walked along mountain paths as the roads were still dangerous.
When my grandma saw my face, she told me she was so worried about me. Before lunch, my sister and I went out to see the damage that had been done to our town. It was like nothing we could have ever imagined. Utility poles had fallen over and houses had moved from their original locations. It was horrible.
The one thing that worried me most was whether Mom was okay. I was worried as I didn’t see her when I got home. As a nurse, I believed that she had been helping people at one of the evacuation sites. But she didn’t come home.
One day about a month later. Mom was found dead under some rubble. She was identified based on a DNA test. I didn’t see her then.
I’d always depended on her, so I’m not sure how I will manage without her. But this earthquake taught me the importance of supporting one another. My sister left the town for university and my mom left for heaven. I have been depending on others but I promise to do my best to support Grandma and Dad.
I am now in junior high school and joined the judo club. I will be stronger – both physically and mentally.
Supporting Each Another
Mayu Itoh, Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)
It was the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11 that got me thinking again about the importance of supporting each another. Listening to the radio on the day of the earthquake, there was so much information that I was scared to see the reality of my town on the following day.
We often see news on TV about big earthquakes and tsunamis in other countries, but I never thought I would experience anything like that. Of course, I wished it had all been a bad dream. Every time the earth shook during the night, I woke up and felt so scared. My family kept telling me, “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” This made me feel a bit calmer.
On March 11, Yamada changed beyond all imagination. Obviously, the houses near the sea were gone. Some parts of the town had burnt down. When I looked down at my town from the bridge, I was so shocked that I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t stop worrying about things, such as whether everyone was okay.
It was one week before our graduation ceremony when the earthquake happened. I was really sad when I heard we wouldn’t be able to have the ceremony all together.
As everything in Yamada had changed due to the earthquake, my family at one point talked about moving out of town. But I didn’t want to leave the town that I love so much. I love Yamada’s festivals, and didn’t want to say goodbye to my friends and go to a different school.
When the tsunami came, I ran to a road that was high up, which is why I was able to see everything that happened with my own eyes. Water flowing out of the rivers, wall-like waves, floating utility poles and house roofs, and a few people being rescued from the water – I saw everything.
Because I saw everything with my own eyes, I wanted to stay in this town, no matter how much it had changed.
It was March 12 when, amid the continuing aftershocks, I was reunited with my mom. I was just so happy to see her again, and sooner than I expected.
In Mom’s case, it was a bit different, though. She wasn’t looking only for me but also my grandparents. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her crying face. I also don’t think I’ll ever forget all the kind words from my family and relatives. “You’ll be ok!” they kept saying to cheer me up.
It is based on these experiences that I realized the importance of helping each other out.
We went to stay with some relatives, and they shared everything with us, including food and clothes. They supported us for about a month. Thanks to their support, we were able to find a place to live and I was able to go to a school that I am now enjoying. In the future, I would like to do something for them in return.
People from all over Japan sent lots of aid to our school, and there were letters posted all over the walls. I will never forget what they have done to us, and will try my best to get over the earthquake.
Recently, many shops are reopening for the first time since the earthquake, which makes me very happy. I believe things like this will cheer up everyone in Yamada. And I hope that, by helping each other out, Yamada will recover a lot more quickly.
I think the March 11 earthquake is both something we want to forget and something we shouldn’t. But we shouldn’t forget that we have come this far thanks to everyone’s support.
It’s been nine months since the earthquake. I still have so many things to worry about, but it is at times like this that we should re-consider the importance of helping each other out and lead our lives accordingly.
The big earthquake gave me an opportunity to think again about what it is to help each other out. It is because this tragedy occurred that I don’t only want to rely on others but to also act positively in everything I do, including my studies and club activities.
A changed Town and my Determination
Miyabi Fukufshi, Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)
Thank you. I often hear these warm words now.
Eight months have passed since the Great Earthquake. At that time, there was debris scattered all over town, and I didn’t want to admit the reality of the destruction. As I stood there and watched what happened in that instant… I couldn’t do anything at all, even though my town was destroyed. I hated myself and quietly cried myself to sleep every night.
One month on from that day, work had already begun on clearing up the town. Eight months later, the debris has all been removed and the town looks so lonely. However, a small light started shining in our town. A store opened up for business. Although there is only one store in the whole town, it will help make our lives a lot easier. I learnt to be grateful for a lot of things through my experiences of the disaster.
After the earthquake, our lives became very inconvenient. We couldn’t use the things we had used every day and there were no stores, which meant we couldn’t get the things we wanted. So, the opening of this one store made us so happy.
There is one more inconvenient thing. There is no hospital near my house. My family doesn’t have a car, so we have to get on a bus to go to hospital. Before the earthquake, we lived near Yamada Hospital and could get there quickly. There is a temporary hospital, but it is far away. This might be a little selfish of me, but I wish Yamada Hospital would start running medical services in the same place as before.
At the moment, I live in temporary housing. Our original house was flooded under the floor and I thought it would be okay to live there, but it was extremely fragile. While we could have lived there, we wouldn’t have been able to sleep well with the anxiety and fear. It is since we have moved into temporary housing that our anxiety has disappeared.
The earthquake and tsunami damaged the roads and made them uneven, which makes it difficult for cars to pass and bicycles always look as if they’re about to get a puncture. However, the roads are gradually starting to become more even and are looking a lot better.
People from the Self-Defense Force came to our rescue and helped us get our lives back together. Many other people have also helped us out: people from the Red Cross who helped us out because there was no hospital near my house; the people who built our temporary housing; people who have helped replace damaged things in our town with new things; volunteers who have helped us start to rebuild our town; people who have been removing weeds from our town…
Why is it, though… Why is it that despite the best efforts of all these people… That despite all these people taking each step at a time to build a better future… Why? Why is it that despite all the time we’ve had… That despite these long eight months… Why is that we’ve made such little progress with reconstruction? Doesn’t anyone think we should get the town back to what it used to be as soon as possible? If the road to reconstruction is blocked with debris, don’t just stand there staring at it: why not just move it out of the way? Were those who just stood there staring really so weak? Why weren’t they strong people with a determination to move forward? If more people had been determined to rebuild this town, we might have got our old town back by now.
I am frustrated. We’ve had all this time, but we’ve only been able to remove debris, set up and open a store, and construct temporary housing. Things haven’t been moving fast enough. Despite waiting in such hope of our town’s reconstruction… It’s too slow!
How I loved the clear blue sea. Our bustling and fun town. Our town full of smiling faces. Why can’t God just bring us happiness?
I am starting to forget everything. My beloved town… I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to keep a little piece of my beloved hometown in my heart forever. But it’s too late now. The town that I loved no longer exists. It makes me cry to think this.
Which is why I made a decision.
Our town has completely changed, and there is nothing left. However, we will show the world that we can change this town. Even if it means completely changing it. No matter how tough things get. This blank canvas of a town where nothing remains. We will paint this canvas with colors and make an ever brighter and more wonderful town than before.
The town is gradually returning to its former self. I have started junior high school and have learned lots of new things. Some artists visited the disaster-hit areas to give people there a little encouragement. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the many people who sent things to us.
Eight Months on…
Ruka Kikuchi, Yamada Junior High School(1st Grade)
Eight months have already passed since that day. But what exactly was that day?
Just before the earthquake happened, it was just another normal day at school. We were then hit by shaking like I’d never experienced before. As the shaking was so bad that we couldn’t stand, we hid under the desks. Once things had settled down, we went outside and found that the ground was cracked. Not long after, a big tsunami hit Yamada. This was the start of our painful lives.
My house was saved but many of my friends lost their homes, which were either washed away by the tsunami or burnt down by fires. These friends have lost their smiling faces. They now have very sad faces and painful expressions. It seems to me that their smiling faces have gone so far away. I will never forget their faces.
We spent several days with only one candle. Night was dark and we had to spend the long nights without electricity with the uncertainty of when aftershocks would come. We made it a rule to do whatever we could during the morning and do nothing else except sleep at night. We went to the mountains to draw water to wash our clothes with. Also, as we soon ran out of toilet water, we filled the bathtub up with water and used it for this. I think went there and back about five times a day. Whenever I went to sleep, I said myself, “Morning, come quickly!”
The hardest thing for me in those days was not being able to take a bath. I cleaned myself with a wet towel. When I washed my hair, I made sure not to use too much hot water.
There were some days that were very emotional for me.
One was the day I was able to see my mom again. She had been in Tokyo. She was due to come back on March 12, the day after the earthquake. However, due to the earthquake, the bullet trains were cancelled. A week passed by. Then, one day one of her coworkers told me to come to her office; when I got there, my mother was there. I was surprised. I thought she wouldn’t be able to come back yet, but here she was. I was so happy to see her.
Another was the day that the electricity came back on. On that day, I was washing my clothes by hand. Then, I heard a strange sound .This was the sound of the electricity coming back on. A neighbor came over to tell us that the electricity was back on. Then I went back into the house and flicked a light switch. The light came on. When that light came on, I was so excited that I nearly cried.
There were many other emotional days. I will never forget these days.
There are also many people I’d like to thank. These are the people from the Self-defense Force, as well as the people who supported Yamada. People from the Self-defense Force cleaned the town and distributed goods. The people who came to support us from all over Japan were a big help; thanks to them, we could feel a little more secure. I’ve lost count of how many people supported us. It is because of this support that we have been able come this far, which is why I don’t want to waste their kindness but live every day to the fullest and with gratitude.
I learned a lot from these experiences. I felt even more strongly how people live their lives helping each other out. This is why “人” (pronounced “hito” in Japanese), the Chinese character for person, is made out of two sticks supporting each other. Both sticks will fall over if they stop supporting each other. This is why people also can’t live without each other’s support.
Eight months on and my daily life has been gradually returning to normal. I am now able to go to school without any problems. Although my life has changed and things won’t ever be the same again, I’d like to live my life grateful of the fact that we have at least come this far.
What we can do is go to school and do our best in our studies and school activities. By showing such an attitude and achieving good results in our club activities, we want to give people the encouragement they need to help this town recover. We will do our best in whatever ways we can and show the people of this town that we won’t be beaten. We would like to help lead this town into the future.
If I have children in the future, I would like to tell them about my experiences of the Great East Japan Earthquake and teach them about the horrors of earthquakes, tsunamis and fires. While it is still early days yet, I would like to pull myself together and move forward without giving up. I’d like to help Yamada to become a happy town again, one that is full of smiling faces.
Taking advantage of my experiences, I’d like to think about all those people who passed away, as well as those people who offered their support, and to move forward one step at a time every single day.
Thinking about Nuclear Power
Kouta Yamasaki, Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)
March 11. Since that day, my thoughts on nuclear power have totally changed.
The earthquake hit at 2:46 PM. The ground shook like I’d never experienced before. Then came a tsunami with huge white waves. People in Tohoku were suffering enough from all of this. However, on top of this an accident occurred at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Why did this all happen?
Until the March 11 earthquake, I hadn’t really thought much about nuclear power. Nuclear power plants can produce electricity with fewer raw materials. Also, it doesn’t produce any CO2, which is one of the causes of global warming. I knew that nuclear fuel needs to be buried deep in the ground once it has been used. However, I believed that nuclear power was a very good method of generating electricity, and that it was safe and eco-friendly.
From March 11, my thoughts on nuclear power started to change completely. Nuclear power, which I had believed to be safe, turned out to be dangerous to human beings. No one imagined it would be like this. Due to the unexpected damage caused by the tsunami, the core part of the power plant overheated, which caused coolant water located at the core to vaporize. Contaminated water and vapor were released into the sea and air. The fear of invisible radiation started worrying people.
Cows that had been raised with so much effort were contaminated. Vegetables that had been planted, watered, fertilized and weeded were contaminated. The sea and fish were contaminated. This has taken away the lives of cows, fish, plants, and humans. Why did this happen?
Is anyone to blame for this? I guess we are all to blame as we are the ones who have always longed for convenient lives without thinking of the risks. “Safety”, “technology” or “humans” – nothing is perfect. There is nothing on this earth that is 100% safe. This is one of the lessons that this earthquake has taught us. We shouldn’t be wasting our time in identifying who is to blame.
Even now, at this very moment, there are people risking their lives to fix the power plant. Others are protecting people from the horrors of radiation.
Even now, at this very moment, some people are longing for hometowns to which they may never be able to return.
My house was destroyed by the tsunami. We are so sad to have lost our house, a place that was full of memories, where we lived in security. But at least we can stay in our hometown surrounded by friends. People from Fukushima can’t even go back to their hometown.
Again, it is we who are to blame. We’ve asked for so much convenience without thinking that there is a limit. The earthquake destroyed so many things but also taught us a lot. Turning on the tap and getting water… Pushing a switch and getting light… Spending time with our families in a warm room… We have taken our lives for granted when we shouldn’t have – our lives supported by many people. There are people who are risking their lives to ensure the safety of nuclear power.
After the earthquake, many people started saying such things as, “we should switch to natural energy instead of nuclear power” or “we should get rid of nuclear power.” This is what I think. What would our lives be like if we got rid of nuclear power? We would need to work on saving a huge amount of electricity. What we need to do now is to take a look at our lives and think about what we really need. Instead of getting rid of nuclear power, we should gradually switch over to new kinds of energy sources, and create a future for ourselves that allows us to live securely and in harmony with nature.
It’s been six months since March 11. Some people may have forgotten about that day already. For me, and for those who are involved in nuclear power, that day was just the beginning. Today, there are people who are still risking their lives to protect people. I would like to say, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you very much”. What I learned from the March 11 earthquake is to have my own views and thoughts based on what I see with my own eyes.
We must work together.
Akie Satoh, Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)
The Great East Japan Earthquake. It took only one day for it to kill many innocent people. It also destroyed many houses and memories.
I have a photo that was miraculously taken five minutes before the earthquake occurred. It is a picture of our entire class with everyone’s smiling faces. Whether I’m happy or angry, whenever I see this photo it makes me feel sad and I start to cry.
When this photo was taken, I never thought that we would ever have such a tough time and that I would lose my best friend. What if I had been sitting at a different chair at the time? What if I had been off school that day? Would all those people still have died? I know we can never change the past, but eight months on from the earthquake and I still can’t accept reality.
March 11. A big earthquake and tsunami struck Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. It was the first time I thought, “I might die…”
I wasn’t able to see what had happened to the town, and there was no information available. It was then that I realized what had happened: I must have been in a big earthquake. Everyone took shelter in the school gym; before I knew it, it had become dark and I heard many rumors. Some were true, and some were exaggerated. But that day, every single rumor sounded real. This is just how tough things were.
The following day, my brothers and I were sent for twenty days to a family in an inland area, which was not affected by the tsunami. During our stay, I met people who didn’t take the disaster seriously. They laughed without knowing that we had escaped from a disaster-hit area, and said, “The pictures on TV are like a movie, aren’t they? I’ve never seen anything like it!” This was extremely sad. Why didn’t they understand? Even if they thought this way, they shouldn’t have been speaking like that. I know there are billions of people in the world – I’m not saying everyone should understand. But I’m sure everyone would have a better understanding of the facts if they put themselves in our shoes.
However, we also had lots of positive support from all over the world. T-shirts. Shoes. Notebooks. Backpacks… Among this support, I came across a phrase that has helped me feel at ease and recover from the tragedy. This phrase is quite simple – “The March 11 earthquake is something we needed to have”. These are the words of a famous actress called Becky. Some people might think it is insensitive. But for me at least, these words are warm and soothing. People lost dear friends. Many lost their lives. I wondered exactly why this was necessary. I guess saying the incident was necessary means that we don’t need to blame ourselves for not being able to prevent it. It gives us the strength to move forward. This is why the phrase was important to me. I was happy I heard it!
The wounds from the disaster haven’t gone away. And I don’t think they are something we should try to erase, either. No, they shouldn’t be removed. I don’t want people in the future to suffer from the same kinds of wounds as we have. I want the wounds suffered by Yamada to be kept in some form. I want everyone to do their best to recover from this and start smiling again soon.
And I want to continue living life to the full. No matter how challenging and tough things get. Some people wanted to survive but couldn’t. Some gave up their lives for others. And some escaped from the tsunami through their will to survive. Someday, I would like to have the confidence to tell them that, “I lived life to the full, enjoyed myself and made the most of it.” I would also like to try and help those people who are having a tough time living and are thinking about ending their lives. Those who don’t have anyone to turn to and talk about their difficulties. I would like to give them the strength to carry on, and to help cure their wounds, even if just a little.
To myself in 10 years: Have you been able to make others smile? Of course, you’re smiling too, aren’t you? It’s okay to cry when you need to. But don’t make others sad. When I was born, I was crying while others were smiling. I want you to lead the kind of life in which, when you die, you are smiling while others are crying for you.”
This is what I’d like to tell you
雅依瑠, Satoh Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)
What I’d like to tell you now is that no one is alone. I have never been made more painfully aware of this until now.
On March 11, we experienced an unprecedented major earthquake. The beautiful scenery of Yamada town seen from our school, the smiles of local people, the houses and big buildings… Everything that until yesterday we had taken for granted had changed beyond recognition. Are my family alright? My house? My belongings? These were the things that came into my mind at that time. I still remember these feelings and I don’t think I will ever forget them.
In the afternoon of the following day, my mom came to pick me up. Mom said to me crying, “I’m glad you’re alright…” When she said this to me, I couldn’t stop crying, either.
Two days later, my dad came back from Kesennuma, one of the worst-hit areas in Tohoku, where he had gone for work. Dad is a truck driver and is always very cheerful. But he was totally different that day when he came back. “What will we do now…?” he muttered with a very tired face that I’d never seen before. It hurt me to see him like this.
Several days later and Yamada still hadn’t changed – it was still a shocking sight. The smell of the town was an indescribable mixture of rotten fish and burnt things. “Is this really the town where I live?” I thought to myself. I couldn’t accept the reality in front of my eyes. I felt like crying. Before the disaster, I had always felt that school was a bit tiring. Now, I felt the complete opposite – never before had I wanted to go to school so much. Life with no electricity or water was tough. It made me realize how convenient and rich my previous life had been.
We experienced aftershocks both day and night. Those aftershocks reminded me of the fear. I was very anxious every day. I wondered when our lives would start improving.
One day, my mom said something to me that changed how I felt.
“I know all the aftershocks have been scaring you. But you’re not the only one who’s scared. I’m scared as well, but I need to protect the family. If we had another big earthquake and you got scared like this and got in other people’s way, it might cost them their lives. Pull yourself together!”
This made me aware of my weakness. At the same time, I learned I was supported by others, and that in turn I too supported them. Most importantly, I felt that I was not alone. I think my mom’s words helped me feel a bit more at ease. Her words always come to mind when we have a strong aftershock.
After several days, the electricity finally came back on. I will never forget that moment as it made me feel like over lives were starting to get back to normal. Not long after this, the water came back on and things were like they were before the disaster – Yamada, though, still looked largely the same. However, I appreciated the fact that things were starting to get back to normal thanks to the hard work of the people involved in the recovery efforts.
Four months on from the earthquake, the town is gradually becoming livelier and people are starting to smile again. But I am afraid it will take much longer for the wounds to heal. Volunteers from all over the country, aid, messages of support…People from Japan and all over the world are coming together and doing their best to help us, for which I am very grateful. Although the earthquake left us with huge scars, it taught us the importance of cooperation and that we are not alone.
When I think about it now, I truly feel that I have been supported by many people. I have my parents and my parents have their own parents, who are my grandparents. If it weren’t for my parents I wouldn’t have been born, which shows that we can’t live alone. We owe our lives to the people around us who work to support us.
I have learned so many things from this earthquake. Without the disaster and my mom’s comments, I wouldn’t have thought about the people around me like I’ve been doing over the past eight months. In the future, I would like to become a more thoughtful person who can think about those around me, instead of always thinking only about myself. I guess Mom wanted to tell me this.
What I want to Say – With my Thanks
Momoka Kanehara, Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)
It was March 11, 2:46 PM I heard the sound of things clattering; at the same time, I felt my body being shaken around.
“An earthquake!” someone in my class shouted.
I had never experienced shaking of this strength. I was scared. I followed the instructions given over the school announcement system and hid under my desk. However, the earthquake lasted a long time, and so we left the building for the safety of the schoolyard.
As with my class, there were students from other classes who were crying or who were struggling to breathe through fear. The 3rd grade students had apparently just then been getting ready to leave school, which is why they all had their schoolbags on their backs. The teachers were all trying to get people to calm down, giving out instructions and listening to radio broadcasts. Little by little, my body was shaken by a series of aftershocks. I felt terrified.
“Momo-chan, are you alright?”
One of my best friends held me up. I tried my best to hold back my tears.
“Yes…” I replied, nodding in agreement. However, in reality I was scared.
Soon after this, Yamada was hit by a massive tsunami. Smoke started to rise up and the center of Yamada burnt to the ground. My house also burnt down.
A few days on, I found myself at a shelter that had been set up at Yamada High School. With me was my dad, my mom and my mom’s sister. I was relieved to know that my sister was at a relative’s house.
I heard the sound of a helicopter. Over those past few days, helicopters had been bringing people from Tanohama and Oura to Yamada High School. I kept telling myself that my grandma was also still alive in Tanohama, and waited for her to arrive. However, she wasn’t there.
“What about grandma?” I asked my dad.
“It seems she was swept away by the tsunami, along with your cousin.”
As he was covering his face with one hand, I got the sense that he was trying to stop himself from crying. From that moment on, I couldn’t stop crying. I just fell silent. Day after day, I stayed by myself, hoping to avoid the attention of others. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.
I love my grandma. Before the disaster, I didn’t have a chance to go to Tanohama and didn’t get to see her much. I used to talk to my grandma about all sorts of things, such as fun things I did at school, pictures I painted at my club, or what I would like to be in the future. However, my grandma is no longer here… As a then new 1st grader, more than anything I wanted to talk to her about my future. However, I can no longer tell her what I want to be when I grow up. I regret not talking with her more while I had the chance.
One month on from the disaster and everyone around me has received supplies from all over the place. Clothes, stationary, bags, everyday items. My cousin sent me some clothes and sweets. It made me realize how I am still alive today thanks to the support of others. I really want to express my gratitude to all of the generous people who have sent supplies and donations: THANKS! This is what I wanted to say to everyone. Which is why I sent a thank you letter to my cousin and other people I know when the things that they sent me arrived. When I saw them in person, I made sure to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. My heart is full of feelings of gratitude that I can’t find the words to express.
I was in the shelter for around six months. I often drew portraits of the people that had helped me out and gave them to them. Whenever I did so, they said thank you and smiled. I was very happy. It made me realize just how important the word “thank you” is.
You might have something you want to say to someone but decide to tell them the following day. However, you don’t know that you will be able to see them tomorrow. That’s why I want to tell them on the day. Since I started paying more attention to following this idea, I feel I have changed slightly as a person. I now make sure to say thank you whenever I receive something or when somebody teaches me something.
What I would like to express now more than anything is my gratitude to the many people who have supported me and given me things.
What I would like to Say
Tatsuya Fukushi, Yamada Junior High School(2nd Grade)
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit eastern Japan. In an instant, the tsunami destroyed the places where I had many fond memories, and carried everything out to sea.
Straight after the earthquake, I thought my house would be completely gone and that there would be nowhere for my family to go. My house was right next to the sea. Somewhere in my heart, I held on to the faint hope that my house would be left standing.
Four days later, I went to have a look at where my house used to be. My hopes came crashing down in an instant. My house was no longer there. I told myself that it was impossible for a house built so close to the sea to be left standing. The house was gone but my family was all safe. My dad, mom, sister: everyone was alive. I felt an immense relief.
My old school Osawa Elementary School has a school play called “Umi yo Hikare”. This is a traditional play that has been performed there for over twenty years. It is a play depicting how people who rebuilt their lives following a tsunami. When I was in the 6th grade, I played the part of a boatman. I played my role to the best of my ability, seeking to convey the terror of a tsunami, something I had yet to experience, as well as the scariness of the sea in which many people lost their lives.
Having performed in this play for six years, I thought that I understood the fear of a tsunami. I was convinced that I did. However, now I know all too well: I didn’t know anything back then. It is difficult to convey a sense of the terror and fear associated with a tsunami. This is because the tsunami came at a time when those who have actually experienced this terror are now old and are beginning to pass away, meaning that it had been forgotten. For six years, I acted in that play without any sense at all of the real fear of a tsunami. Deep down, I didn’t feel that tsunamis were anything to be afraid of.
We had watched videos of tsunamis many times at school. I thought that tsunamis were scary because you don’t know when or where they will strike. You can’t do anything to stop a tsunami. All you can do is run. I thought that all I would have to do is protect my own life. However, while deep down I knew that a tsunami would come someday, I didn’t really think that I would get caught up in one.
The play and videos taught me that tsunamis are things that we should be afraid of. However, I didn’t understand how terrible and merciless they really are. The actual tsunami was more than I could have ever imagined.
It will take a long time for our town to recover. When I grow up, I want to help build flood embankments, remove debris and make the town a safe place to live. The disaster robbed us of so much. However, I would like to live my life looking forward rather than back. I would like to live in Yamada for the rest of my life. No matter what happens, I want to continue living here.
Tsunamis are scary. They have the power to rob people of their homes, friends and favorite places in an instant. They also have the power to completely alter people’s lives and futures.
I never want to go through that kind of thing again. I never want to see a tsunami again. However, another tsunami will come, this much is a certainty. It’s only a matter of time.
Because of this, I would like to help make our town a safe place to live. I want to help build seawalls to protect our town from tsunamis, and make our town a place that protects people’s lives and livelihoods. I want to make sure that we have reliable sources of water, electricity and food. And, more than anything, I want to continue spreading my message of just how terrible tsunamis are. Another tsunami will come; however, I never want to have to experience that kind of pain ever again. I don’t want any more people to have to suffer. So, in order to prevent this, my message is simple: another tsunami will come.
The sea is one of our town’s treasures. Wakame seaweed, scallops and oysters. The beautiful sea has always been an essential part of our lives. I will continue living together with this town and the sea.
Hiroo Hukushi, Fumane Junior High School(3rd Grade)
March 11th changed my life. It was the end of the day and we had finished cleaning our classroom and were getting ready to go home. It was then that the school building starting shaking. It was the longest and biggest earthquake I had ever experienced. The emergency radio broadcast announced a tsunami alert. I didn’t think it would reach my home, but I was worried about my dad. Dad was working in Ishinomaki. I was worried because he worked near the sea. My mom and brother were off from work and had stayed at home that day. I wasn’t worried about my sister either as she was at work in Otsuchi, which isn’t that close to the sea. Also, I thought she had taken shelter with her coworkers. It was only Dad that I was worried about.
When I got home, my family members were standing around outside. Among them was my dad. I didn’t know that he was off work that day and had returned home. Anyway, I was relieved to know everyone was safe. As for my sister, I thought she would come back in a few days, as she wouldn’t be able to get back at the moment.
Next day, I went with Dad to his hometown Osawa. We were shocked by what we saw there. The beautiful town of Osawa had disappeared. The buildings had been destroyed, and all traces of the town had been lost. It was horrific. The house Dad was born in was also gone. We were too shocked to say anything. We then went to Otsuchi to see my sister. The damage at Otsuchi was much worse than we had imagined. My sister’s workplace, where I thought the tsunami wouldn’t reach, appeared to have been hit by the tsunami and the building was gone. Believing she was at one of the shelters, we visited them all one by one but she wasn’t there.
Her coworkers were there: only she was missing. We visited the shelters many times, but we couldn’t find her. Other family members joined us in our search for her, but still we couldn’t find her. We also visited the site where her office used to be many times to search for clues. But we found nothing. We searched and searched and searched. But still nothing… Everyone in our family was devastated.
A few days later, I went back to school. I found that everyone in my class was alright. I heard their parents, brothers and sisters were all fine as well. Every time I thought of my sister, the pain was unbearable. My beloved sister. My sister who had always understood me… Even at school, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and there were a number of times when I nearly cried. My friends at school helped me focus on other things. They cheered me up, and carried on acting as normal in front of me. They gave me lots of fun and laughter, which helped me get over difficult times.
Nonetheless, I thought about my sister every single day. Her smiles, our conversations … Many memories flashed through my mind. It was also very hard to see Mom so depressed about my sister. I believed that my sister was alive. I wanted to believe it.
Several months after the earthquake, we got a phone call. It was to tell us that they had found my sister. She was identified based on a DNA test. Finally we had found her.
“Now that we’ve found her, why don’t we say ‘Welcome home!’ to her? I know you still don’t want to accept that she’s gone, but let’s welcome her as she has wanted to come home for so long,” said my dad. And so she is now back home with us. “Welcome home, my sister!” I said to her with tears in my eyes.
Many lives were lost in an instant that day. And there are still many people who have not yet been found. Every time I hear about the earthquake on the news, I feel so sad. I often think about what life would have been like if the earthquake and tsunami hadn’t happened.
I learned from this tragedy how fragile our lives are. I now know how quickly they can be taken. I have experienced feelings that tore my heart into pieces. With this experience, however, I understood how precious it is to be alive. I am now fully aware of how precious life really is.
I would like to live my life to the full, for myself as well as for my beloved sister. I would like to always be proud of myself so that I can tell my sister, “I’m doing great!” with confidence. I would like to move forward, step by step – for my family, for everyone who supported me, and especially for my sister. I would like to live every day grateful of the fact that I’m still alive. And I will continue to think about the meaning of being alive.
My sister will live on in my heart forever. And she will keep on supporting me.
“My dear sister Takako: I will do my best for the rest of my life.”
Shinnya Horigou, Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)
On March 11th, 2011, at 2:46 PM, a magnitude 9 earthquake hit Tohoku and the greater East Japan area.
We were in the classroom doing a short homeroom session. The ground started rumbling, and the classroom started shaking and wouldn’t stop for over a minute. While it was shaking, we left the school building and went into the playground. The shaking wouldn’t stop, which was really scary.
We heard an unfamiliar noise coming from below the school and saw utility poles falling down. According to our teachers, a tsunami was approaching the area right below the school building. My house was located in that area, so I assumed that it was now gone.
At the same time, I was worried about my mom and brother. Mom was working at Osawa, and my brother was working at a road construction site in front of Miyako City Hall.
I went to the school gym and could see smoke coming from the Orikasa area. We were still getting continuous aftershocks and the temperature was dropping, meaning that we were suffering from both the cold and the aftershocks. At around 5-6 PM, we were allowed to quickly go back to the classroom to get whatever we needed for the night. On the way to the classroom, I looked towards the town and saw huge clouds of smoke in around five places. It reminded me of images I’d seen on TV of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. I was worried that something similar had happened to Yamada.
That night when we were talking in the school gym, we were told that a fire was approaching the mountain right behind the school building, and that we would need to move to Yamada High School.
We all grabbed our bags and left the building in our year groups. I looked towards the town again and noticed that the sky above was orange due to fires. At Yamada High School’s gym, we still had many aftershocks. Every time the building shook, I also felt my body shake with coldness and fear.
The next day, Self-defense Forces and rescue teams brought people and aid by helicopter. It was then that I found my brother in front of the school gym. As his workplace was near the sea, I was worried whether he’d managed to escape up a mountain. I was relieved to see him. “The house is gone,” he said. “We couldn’t have done anything,” I replied.
“Have you spoken to Mom?” I asked my brother. He hadn’t been able to get hold of her yet. Soon after, my dad, who had been in Niigata, arrived at the school. We went around all the different shelters trying to find my mom.
We couldn’t find her name anywhere.
My dad and brother spoke to me in the car. “We should be prepared. Mom may not be alive.” They also told me that my uncle – her brother – was missing, too.
On the way back to the school gym, I saw lots of firefighters in town. They were support units that had come from all over Japan. As I had been a big fan of firefighters since I was a child, I knew that these support fighters would only go into action in emergency situations, which is why I knew the situation here was serious.
A week later, I went to see my grandma in Yamada. It was not the Yamada I knew.
A month later, my uncle was found dead in his house, which had been washed away by the tsunami.
And then in June, three months on from the disaster, they found Mom.
Police came to our house and informed us that they had found a body which had DNA similar to mine. They showed us a picture of a burnt body, which we realized was the body we had seen at the morgue over the past three months. They said they would conduct an additional test using Dad’s DNA, and explained to us that they would combine both sets of DNA – one from Dad and one from the body – and see if the combined DNA looked the same as mine. Two weeks later, we got a phone call from the police and were informed that the body was indeed Mom.
I couldn’t attend the joint funeral as I had a very important prefectural sports match. I went to see my mom’s body on the morning before I left for the match, and went to pray at the temple and her grave on the day after I came back.
“Thank you for all the things you have done for me. Please rest in peace now,” I said in my heart.
We never know how our lives will turn out. Many people who wanted to live lost their lives in the tsunami. Those of us who survived need to pass on the memories of the victims to the next generation.
In the future, I would like to become a firefighter. I would like to become like the firefighters who came during the disaster – the kind of firefighter about whom people say, “Here comes a firefighter – what a relief!”
And I would like to tell the victims of this disaster, “You didn’t die in vain. We will make sure that we are well prepared for any future tragedies.”
From now on, I will treasure my life.
Among the Painful Memories of March 11
Yuuya Hukushi, Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)
On March 11, something totally unexpected happened.
I guess most people were spending the day as usual among familiar surroundings. I was one of them. I went to school as usual, enjoyed talking with friends, and took classes as usual. Who on earth imagined that that kind of nightmare would occur?
That day, we finished our classes, did the cleaning, and were conducting an end-of-day homeroom session as scheduled. It was then that everything began shaking. The shaking was longer and stronger than imagined. This sudden massive earthquake made some students cry. As instructed by our teachers, we evacuated to the school grounds. At this stage, people were aware that it was a big earthquake, but no one ever thought a tsunami would come.
We moved from the grounds to the gym. I was hoping to go home soon. At the gym, we listened to the instructions given by our school principal. He explained that the town had been badly damaged, that it was hardly possible to go home, and that we would spend the night at the gym. I went back to the classroom to get my bag. The view of the town from the classroom window was too shocking to believe. My friend’s house where I had gone to play many times was completely gone. When I got back to the gym, I talked with my friends about the tsunami and what would happen next.
Sudden aftershocks made some people panic and start to cry. It got dark outside, and the gym also got dark. There was no electricity or water. We were given two blankets to share between seven of us. It was extremely cold that night. In addition, we were so hungry. It was a night like I had never experienced before.
It became night. While it should have been dark outside, the sky was lit up red. I looked out and saw bright red flames. The mountain fire was so strong that people were afraid it would reach our school building. This is why we moved to Yamada High School. I looked up at the sky and saw that the stars were shining brighter than usual.
After arriving at Yamada High School, we moved to the gym and slept there. I hoped that I would wake up in the morning and everything would be back to normal. The next morning, however, we woke up and found that nothing changed. But we had breakfast. We had a rice ball and a glass of water. This made me realize the importance of food, and I appreciated the kindness of the people who had made my breakfast for me.
What worried me most was the safety of my family. My dad was far from the sea, so I thought he should be okay. I was more concerned about my mom and my brother. Mom was on her way home from work at the time of the earthquake, and my brother was with his friend. I felt that something bad had happened and was anxious about their safety. However, Mom came to pick me up around lunch. I was so relieved. And I was at last able to go home. I was really interested to see what the town looked like, but I couldn’t as we went home using back roads and nothing had changed here. At this point, I still couldn’t believe that the tsunami had come.
When I got home, I saw that all my family members were safe, including my grandma and I felt relieved. The tension and stress just fell away. It was perhaps because of this that I suddenly felt hungry. However, there was no food or water in the house. My brother and I went outside to find something to eat. We also went to see what the town looked like. We felt as if we were in hell. The area where Grandma lived had been badly damaged by the tsunami and fires.
The houses that I knew were all burnt out, including those of my friends from elementary school. The Japanese persimmon tree at Grandma’s house had been washed away. I have so many fond memories of that tree. I was so shocked to see that it was now gone.
As it was getting dark, we went back home. Still nothing to eat and nothing to do. I talked with my family about what had happened, then went to bed. However, I couldn’t get much sleep. I can’t describe how I felt.
March 13th. The fires still hadn’t been put out, and our lives were still full of anxiety with never-ending aftershocks. We went to our usual supermarket to get some food. Of course, the shop had been damaged badly by the tsunami, and was therefore closed for business. We had special permission to take home whatever had been washed away, and so we were able to collect a few things. After several days like this, the electricity finally came back on. It was March 19th, eight days after the earthquake. Two days later, the water came back on as well. As you can imagine, the first week was very hard having no electricity or water. But it was during this period that I learned the importance of people cooperating as well as the preciousness of electricity and water.
People say that earthquakes like the one we experienced only happen once in a thousand years. We lost too much, but on the other hand we also learnt some things. One is the importance of helping each other out. Over the coming decades, we will need to reflect on what this earthquake meant to us, and convey our feelings to the next generation.
I will never Forget
Kanae Yamazaki, Yamada Junior High School(3rd Grade)
“Your grandpa and grandma are dead.”
These were my uncle’s words. It was so sudden; I just stood there frozen to the spot in shock. I couldn’t think straight: couldn’t accept the fact that they were gone. Rather, I didn’t want to accept it. I didn’t cry. Two people who were so dear to me suddenly passing away like that…
I will never forget what happened on March 11.
Everything changed from this day on. This is because what happened was completely unimaginable and beyond anyone’s experience.
It was 2:46 PM and we were then getting ready to go home from school. There was a major earthquake. Then, a tsunami warning was put out… I evacuated the building and went straight out into the school yard. As I came outside, I heard a rushing sound from down below. I thought it might be the sound of a tsunami. At the time, thoughts of my family and dog rushed through my mind. As we spent the night at a nearby high school, I didn’t know whether or not my family was safe. Or, indeed, where they were. Or what had happened to my beloved hometown of Yamada. We had no information whatsoever. Everyone was forced to spend a worry-filled night in the cold with nothing to eat. All I did was pray that my family and dog were okay. There was nothing else I could do.
The next day, my uncle came to meet me. It was then that he told me that Grandpa and Grandma were dead.
The reality that awaited me when I first ventured outside… Everything in the surrounding area had disappeared. Collapsed houses, boats that had been washed into town, streets that had been completely leveled… The Yamada that I knew had now vanished. I was speechless. As I walked around in a daze, someone came up to me and told me that my mom was at Minami Elementary School. I went there immediately and found her there. She looked exhausted. However, I was very pleased to see her. “And Hachi?” I asked her. These were the only words I could manage. “Hachi was washed away,” replied Mom. She couldn’t say anything else. At that moment, many things rushed through my mind. I burst into tears.
Hachi was my beloved dog. When I was at elementary school and had things on my mind, Hachi would always be there for me. When I had had a bad day at school, I would get home and hear her barking, and she would be waiting for me. She was always there when I needed her. But she’s gone now. These memories of her brought me to floods of tears. I was devastated.
Dad and Mom also nearly died. Dad was with Grandpa and Grandma and was trying to carry out my bedridden Grandma when the house was washed away in one go by the sea. Dad lamented the fact that he was only able to save himself. Mom was at work; when she tried to run, the tsunami surged right in front of her, and despite managing to get to higher ground, the water still came up to her neck.
School started one month later than usual. As the days went on, we received a lot of support and aid from other parts of Japan and the world. I really got the sense that we were being supported by many different people. Members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and police had also come to our town to help out. It was all of this support that allowed me to pull myself together and get on with my daily life as best as I could. I also resolved to make my own contribution to the town’s reconstruction.
However, just as I was beginning to feel a bit better, my other grandpa suddenly passed away. Despite finally beginning to feel a sense of hope for the future, all of my losses were now too great to bear and my heart sank yet again. I couldn’t pull myself out of it. Why did I have to keep on losing those who were dear to me? I was distraught. I longed for us all to be together again. It felt like there was nothing left for me.
However, as I lay asleep one night a few days later, I heard the sound of a dog barking next to my pillow. I woke up and realized that it was Hachi’s bark. At the same time, I felt as if I was paralyzed and couldn’t get up from my bed, which was really frightening. However, the barking did not stop. Had Hachi come to tell me something…?
From then on, my way of thinking changed. This is because, even though my two grandpas, grandma and Hachi are no longer here, they will continue to live on in my heart forever.
It has already been half a year since the disaster. The time seems to have just flown by. There is something that my mom has often told me through this time. Whenever I am feeling worried or am having a hard time, she tells me that my two grandpas, grandma and Hachi are looking out for me.
With these words in mind, I now try to live every day to its full potential.
Fukuoka Heisei Rotary Club and their friends under the supervision of James Smith