Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos
A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.
Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.
Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.
The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.
A fishing net hangs from a building in the Tohoku region of Japan. -- Credit: Nick Mallos
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.