Here we see abandoned homes and empty, deserted streets. A two-story school building proved to be a refuge. Students climbed onto the roof and survived after the tsunami crashed through the pine trees just a few hundred yards away and swept through the town. A child’s scooter poignantly remains on a concrete pad on one house site. Yellow ribbons on sites indicate that the owners would like to return and rebuild some day. Memorials have been erected honoring the victims.
There are no orange cones or Keep Out signs. What plans are there for this land? I ask. Could it be turned into an ecological park? There are no plans so far. It seems people are still in survival mode. Japanese are still debating whether the ruined shells of buildings should be torn down or kept as disaster memorials, like the A-Bomb dome in Hiroshima.
Throughout Tohoku, about 310,000 people – the population of a medium-sized city – are still living in emergency temporary housing, most built out of containers. There is no state-funded earthquake insurance as in New Zealand, and people have very little insurance. People who have lost their homes will be lucky to get a quarter of their value back.