A Disappearing Streets, and anew…



Ugoku Tanabata Festival, Rikuzentaka, 2016

Imagining this: the home and the community you have lived for most part your life has been razed to the ground in an instant by a catastrophic wave, while at the same time took away lives of your love ones and left you homeless. Now imagine this: The familiar streets you once lived are being filled with dirts after a catastrophic event – tons and tons of dirts in order to build a new ground to prevent future disaster. Yes, you’ll be given a new home, your neighbours might almost be the same, but the familiarity you knew will be forever gone. This, has been a common scene for residents of Rikuzentakata since the tsunami in 2011.

There’s a complex feeling among residents in Rikuzentakata toward the reconstruction project that started in 2013. On one side they were fully understand that the former city centre were not suitable for any new construction without having elevation being modified, but at the same time many were not warm to the idea of having the city re-mapped with so much dirts being moved in. To make the matters worse, from early on there’s a lack of communications between locals and levels of government over what’s best for the city. From what I gathered there was no option plan when it was presented to the locals and representatives from the government basically ram it through during the consolation period.

With the reconstruction project getting in full swing(and some delays of course…) many activities gets disrupted. Among them is the summer Ugoku Tanabata Festival. This has been a big annual event with a chance for communities to show solidarity, but with the disruption floats were spread all over the town instead of gathering in one place as it used to be. The sense of frustration and fatigue were evident among the locals, even though they were happy that they were still able to held the festival this year. Furthermore, numbers of volunteers has been dropped significantly, perhaps due to the false sense of impression that everything has been in progress.

This has made me wonder if the whole idea of reconstructing Tohoku region really benefits all affected areas. Things I heard and seen for the past few weeks has made me question if smaller prefecture were basically left abandoned while the more populous prefecture gets all the benefits(and credits). At a gathering in Hirota District in Rikuzentakata local fishermen were furious about the Iwate prefecture’s decision to ban a certain type of fishing net out right over the environmental concern while fishermen at the more populous Miyagi prefecture down south got off the hook. This is just a one of many examples which made me wonder if things have gone to a worrying trend.

Personally, I really hope not…