There are things that I’ve neglected to write about here because I’d talked about them with CBS filming. When I came to Otsuchi the first day and met Ken-san, we stood at the railing overlooking the town and I asked him where he was on March 11th. He was in one of the education buildings on the harbor in Ando. After the quake, he saw the water retreating and thought, “a tsunami will come”. He drove to Ando Elementary School, about a 5 minute drive. He stayed there for 3 days. He was with his daughter and her cat. He was able to contact his wife and say, “I’m ok, are you ok?”
Jun and his mother were at the coffee shop when the quake hit. They fled up the hill through the cemetery. He said they watched the city burn all night.
Everyone has their story and they all seem anxious to tell them.
This morning Ken-san had his interview with Bob Simon. He had him sign his car. I’d signed it on the first day. It’s pretty amazing, totally covered with messages and signatures. Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko had visited recently and the Prince signed it.
Then Ken-san drove Chris (one of the cameramen) around town while blasting Let It Be by the Beatles. He took them through town and showed them where his home used to be.
Meanwhile, Sachiko and Akiko met me. I’d been walking through the cemetery. Akiko showed me Yamazaki-san’s grave site where his wife is buried. She doesn’t know yet when his funeral will be. She also showed me her family site and the Abe family site.
Sachiko and Akiko took me to see Mariko-san (owner of the Kotobuki Hotel). She works in a little newspaper shop and lives upstairs. Her son is doing well but her mother is missing. She was very emotional and looks exhausted…no wonder. I told her that all of us who have stayed at her hotel have wonderful memories of her hospitality; the gorgeous breakfasts, the newspapers and photos for each of us every morning. I told her that we will never forget. She said that she cannot rebuild the hotel. The building is dangerous and she said that she can’t run it alone, without her mother.
Sachiko gave me a bag with magazines in it. The magazines are pictures of the quake and tsunami damage. Mariko gave me a calendar from her shop. She showed me a picture from 2006 that she’d somehow saved.
Akiko was telling me how when the tsunami was coming people were walking, not running and that many people stayed in their homes. I asked if it was that they thought the sea wall and tsunami gate would keep them safe and she said yes. She said that there had been another tsunami in the past that was smaller. They thought it would be like that.
Now, it’s time to say goodbye to Ken-san so we went back to the hill above the cemetery. He had to go to his cousin’s funeral. It was hard to say goodbye but I know I’ll see him again. As much as he talks about coming to Fort Bragg, I feel that when I see Ken-san it will be in Otsuchi.