At 3:11 p.m. on March 11, 2011, 156 homes made up the village of Ryoishi in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. Five minutes later, six homes remained.
More than 15 months have elapsed since 100+ foot waves swept over the Tohoku region of Japan. Most of the world—along with many Japanese outside the region—assumes recovery and rebuilding efforts are almost complete. I assure you they are not.
I’ve spent the past two days walking the streets and shorelines of Kamaishi, Ryoishi and other villages in Iwate Prefecture, and the damage is indescribable.
Children’s toys, handbags and shoes pepper the landscape. In the downtown areas, red X’s mark the sides of buildings indicating the government has documented the status of the families who lived there: alive, deceased or a combination of the two.
On the outskirts of town, the only indications that homes once existed are rows of concrete foundations amongst barren landscapes. It’s as if 15 days—not months—have passed since the tsunami hit.
The Tohoku people do not want sympathy though; they simply want to share their stories so that the world understands their recovery is only commencing. Remember 3/11: This is all they ask.
The Tohoku people are survivors and each possesses an incredible spirit; they are adamant their survival highlights unfinished work yet to be done on this Earth.
This spirit has been inscribed in stone to teach everyone how to survive when the next tsunami hits Tohoku, whenever that time comes:
Memorial Stone of the Tsunami
Just run! Run uphill!
Don’t worry about the others. Save yourself first.
And tell the future generations
That a Tsunami once reached this point,
And that those who survived were those who ran. Uphill.
So run! Run uphill!