Tsunami wreckage becomes tourist draw

Tsunami wreckage becomes tourist draw

Visitors flock to scenes of devastation as reminder of worst of times

Tsunami shipThe 4,724-ton freighter Asia Symphony was driven ashore in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, by the tsunami.

As summer holidays go, not many Tokyoites likely had a trip to Japan’s northeast to see the aftermath of the March tsunami high on their to-do lists.

Yet it seems many are visiting the region for a powerful reminder of what happened in springtime.

Tourism chiefs say the current obon vacation period in Japan has prompted residents of Kanto and elsewhere outside the tsunami zone to travel to places such as Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture.

Ordinarily, obon is a time to visit homelands and pay respect to ancestors. Instead, people such as Seiko Obara from Tokyo are making the journey to see what happened for themselves.

“I wanted to let my kid know the danger of tsunami,” said Obara of his nine-year-old son, Taichi.

“I think reconstruction will continue until the time of our children's generation. So I want him to remember by actually seeing it with his own eyes.”

Future generations

Families like the Obaras chose to visit Kamaishi to see the 100-meter-long Asia Symphony, a container vessel lifted onto the land by the force of the water on March 11, and still grounded five months on.

Others opted for Rikuzentakata, also in Iwate, where they found a sole standing pine tree, a 200-year-old survivor of a forest that previously contained 70,000 trees.

The tree, now a rallying symbol for survivors, drew one schoolteacher from Hokkaido who wanted it to be a lesson to his pupils.

“I will teach students the danger of tsunami, as the school I work for is close to the sea,” he said. “I also want to tell them that the disaster areas are standing up against the hardship, just like the pine tree that withstood the tsunami.”