Japan Day 4
Arsenal and I woke up the next morning to snow falling outside our window. Yesterday, the hostel owner had informed us that the hostel closes every day from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, so Arsenal and I went about getting ready for a day of sightseeing. Our only real goal for the day was to go to the beach where the tsunami first made landfall. Unfortunately, neither of us really knew where it was. Arsenal had a good idea of where it was by looking at a map, but we had never bothered to actually check what the name of the beach was. Looking back at it now, I’m not sure why neither of us bothered checking.
Our first destination after leaving the hostel was towards downtown Sendai. Our plan was to grab a quick lunch and then find a cab that would take us to the beach. We wandered around the city a bit before stopping by a small, local noodle shop for breakfast/lunch. We ordered some set lunches, chatted a bit, and then gazed in amazement at the extravagant items other guests were ordering.
After lunch, Arsenal and I checked our map of the local area (to be honest, I have no recollection of where we picked this up, maybe the hostel?) and chose a location we thought would be close to the beach we were trying to go to. The landmark we decided on was the local ferry port. So we hopped in a cab, and were on our way. As we were travelling and making small chat to the driver, the scenery around us slowly changed from a bustling city to large warehouses. After about 20 minutes we had arrived at our destination, we thanked the driver and stepped out of the cab. Apparently we had misjudged the distance shown on the map because we could see no semblance of a beach near us. We did however spot a warehouse across the road from the ferry dock. It had obviously been affected by the tsunami, but it had still not been torn down. Arsenal and I headed over to get a better look. We crossed the road and entered the warehouse through the giant whole that used to be a wall.
Arsenal: Wow, it’s hard to imagine that water did this much damage, I mean look at the walls it looks like they were shredded.
Me: Yeah…I wonder if it’s safe to be in here.
Arsenal: It’s been standing like this for a year, if it was going to collapse it would have done so by now.
Me: That’s true.
(Arsenal and I come across and steel girder that has been ripped from the ground, twisted into a spiral, and pointing at a 45-degree angle towards the ceiling)
Arsenal: You know, maybe this place is a little dangerous…
Leaving behind the warehouse, Arsenal and I began our ill-fated attempt at walking to the beach. We spent about 2 hours traversing the countryside asking random people how to get to the beach. Eventually we stopped by a local car repair shop and called a cab to take us to the beach. About 15 minutes later a cab pulled up to the repair shop and picked us up.
Taxi Driver: [So, you guys wanted to go to the beach right?]
Taxi Driver: [The one where the tsunami hit?]
Me: [Uh… yes]
Taxi Driver: [Alright]
As we drove towards our destination we went from a rural town with houses dotting the landscape, to a almost completely barren land. For as far as we could see there was only snow and a handful of construction machinery. When we turned off the main road onto a side road towards the beach our taxi driver turned on his GPS and spoke up.
(Gesturing do countless gray blocks on the GPS)
Taxi Driver: [These all used to be houses.]
As the car went along the road we peered at the window, trying to match the image on the GPS to our current surroundings. All we saw were some concrete blocks on the ground outlining where a house once stood. As we pulled up to the beach the taxi driver parked and told us he’d wait here while we walked to the beach. Arsenal and I exited the car and headed towards the small concrete staircase that lead to the beach. Next to the staircase was a small shrine with flowers and papers with prayers and wishes written on them. There were several sets of footsteps imprinted on the snow that covered the path leading to the beach. It had snowed this morning.
We made our ways up the stairs and were met with a beautiful view of a snow covered beach. The sky was a crisp blue, and there was ocean as far as the eye could see. There was also a man in a black jacket standing there, staring out at the beach. This entire time Arsenal and I had not said a word to each other.
Eventually the man left and Arsenal and I headed back down to where the taxi driver had parked.
Taxi Driver: [Finished?]
I nodded and we got back into the Taxi. Arsenal and I started talking as the driver took us back to Downtown Sendai.
Arsenal: That was amazing right?
Me: Yeah, quite an experience. It’s kind of weird trying to imagine what used to be here.
Arsenal: Yeah, and that guy on the beach, you just know he had a story.
(Passing by the remnants of a school, the yard is full of overturned bikes)
Taxi Driver: [This is the school is the only building around here to remain standing, everything else was swept away. They kept going until they hit the highway overpass.]
As we continued towards Downtown Sendai the Taxi Driver started to share his experience with us.
His house, as well as his son’s had been destroyed by the tsunami. Both he and his son were usually in Downtown Sendai working during the day so they were safe. However, his son’s wife and children were usually at the house during the day. Fortunately for them, on that day his son’s wife had been asked to housesit for a relative that lived in the downtown area, she had taken her children with her and spent most of the day there. When she was about to return home the earthquake warning had sounded and, soon after, the tsunami warning. The days following the tsunami weren’t easy either. There was a shortage of space and food. At one point, they were only rationed one cup noodle for an entire day. Eventually space opened up as some people left the city to live with relatives in other parts of Japan.
As the driver pulled into the train station in Downtown Sendai we thanked him for his story and bid farewell. We still had a few hours before our hostel was open again, so we stopped by a local net café to relax and process the events of the day.
-End Day 4-
-After Story: Bonding-
(Back at the hostel)
Arsenal: The bath here is amazing right?
Me: Yeah, I was surprised, it’s actually a traditional-style bath. I can’t believe this place is actually a hostel.
Arsenal: Yeah, and we’re the only ones here we got the place to ourselves.
Me: It is nice not having to worry about other people.
Arsenal: Hey, you want to go in together later?
Note: It is customary for men (and women) to bathe together…nekkid.
Arsenal: Yeah, we can put on some swimming shorts and just chill in there. You brought some right?
Me: Oh, right. Yes, ok, that sounds cool.
Arsenal: Sweet, let’s go grab some drinks first.
And we proceeded to break every single rule the hostel had placed on the usage of the traditional Japanese bath.