Half a year after the tsunami

This is the second part (part one is here) of an open ended series to document the recovery of the tsunami hit coast of northeastern Japan, where approximately 20,000 people lost their lives and entire towns were destroyed in the afternoon of March 11, 2011.

A little bit over half a year after the tsunami, we revisited some of the worst hit cities along the Sanriku Coast in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures on October 18. In most areas the debris has been sorted and collected into huge mountains, paving the way for reconstruction. The towns are expected to come up with concrete reconstruction plans over the next few months.

We started our day with a visit to Matsushima, a major tourist destination outside of Sendai, which escaped major damage by the tsunami thanks to its protected location inside an island dotted bay. Many of Matsushima's tourist attractions reopened in time for the Golden Week by late April, and today we were glad to see a considerable number of tourists.

Despite the positive trend, however, visitor numbers to Matsushima remain clearly below last year's figures. Radiation fears are probably among the major causes behind this, as the town is located \"only\" 100 kilometers north of the nuclear plants. These fears, however, are unfounded, as Matsushima records radiation levels that are practically unchanged from before the accident.

Our next stop was Ishinomaki City, where more people lost their lives and more homes were destroyed than in any other municipality.

We continued the coast northwards to Minamisanriku, whose entire town center was destroyed by the tsunami on March 11.

Further north we paid a quick visit to Kesennuma City. Clean up efforts have progressed here as well, but the works are impeded by the fact that the earthquake caused the city to drop in elevation by a few centimeters, resulting in flooding during high tide in some areas.

We concluded this trip with a visit to Rikuzentakata, whose city center was almost completely destroyed by the tsunami on March 11.