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The CBS crew is spending the day in Fudai today, so I have a free day. Fuki and Masa stayed behind to drive me into Otsuchi and bring me back home.
There is temporary housing in Yamada, just north of Otsuchi, and it looks like they are preparing to start some construction in an east valley. There are always trucks filled with debris on the road. Here and there you see people picking through a homesite for belongings.
In Otsuchi, you don’t see a lot of that now. There are laundry baskets all along the roads. People called “memory keepers” sift through the rubble and put photos and albums in them. Once or twice a week, they bring the baskets to one of the shelters and the photos are displayed. People come to look for those that belong to them.
Sachiko met me at town hall and took me to Akiko’s work (where she also lives). She has a shrine set up for the family members that she lost, it takes up an entire wall of her office. It is impossible to imagine how she deals with such loss: Yamazaki-san, his oldest sister, daughter, Chiaki, Chiaki’s dad (he died 3 years ago) and Akiko’s mother. She told me that Yamazaki-san and his sister were found near the mall. Chiaki and Akiko’s mother have not been found. I was overwhelmed with grief.
Akiko gave me a bracelet that she had made. She took it off of her wrist and put it on mine. She also insisted on making a bead bracelet for me. She didn’t finish it and wants me to meet her again tomorrow. She’s made bracelets for Angela, Laurie and John as well. I could not stop the tears.
Papa-san stopped by while I was there. This was the first time I’d met him. He seemed to be doing ok. Akiko was her usual joking self. I think it is these little moments that get them through.
After that, I had lunch with the ladies: Mistuko, Kiri, Kinuko, Sachiko, Yoko Sakashita, Etsuko, Ami, Asami Abe and Azusa Ikarigawa. It was as lavish as a meal was at any other time and when I tried to pay they wouldn’t hear of it. Again, I was overcome with emotion. I felt bad and hoped that they didn’t think I was being ungrateful but I just couldn’t help it.
Now, I have a meeting with Ken-san. He was tied up, so he’d asked Jun to come and meet me and drive me around town. I got a big hug from Jun. We went to his coffee shop. His mother was there cleaning up. He told me that they intended to repair it. I asked him who pays for that. He said that there is government money that you apply for but that it can take years. When I asked him who pays to replace all of the fixtures, furniture and supplies he said he didn’t know. He told me that Mariko was going to try to re-open the hotel, but clearly that building is not safe and can’t be repaired. I couldn’t help but think that Jun’s coffee shop is beyond repair also, that their efforts are an exercise in futility. It seems it’s what they need to do right now though.
After this, he was driving me around sort of giving me a tour. I asked him to please drop me at the Dainenji Temple to see Mitsuko. I said that I knew he had work to do and didn’t want his mother to be there working alone, and that I didn’t need a tour. Mitsuko was waiting outside.
We went inside and I met some of the other people who live there (there are 12 of them there), Mitsuko’s sister (who looks exactly like her), her mother-in-law and two other ladies. She gave me a tour of the ashes and also the boxes of ashes of missing people. They are using DNA testing to identify them.
From the temple, I walked back over to the Elementary school grounds to meet Ken-san. We went to the Sasaki’s house for dinner. They showed me pictures of the tsunami at their house. They’d had to escape to the roof. The water came up about 8 feet high inside the house but they’d already had the damage repaired.
Of course the dinner was amazing, sukiyaki. I told Ken-san that this looked like a party to me and Michiko-san said, “We need this. It is good for us.” Of course this is probably just the excuse to make me feel better. They showed me the video of Fumie and Kazu at the Fort Bragg City Council meeting. This was emotional for all of us.
Ken-san said that they need to face this and get over it. He told me that when he reads our emails, it is hard for him not to cry and he has no time to cry. I asked him if, because just like when someone dies you have to go through the grieving process, he would allow himself this? He was quiet for some minutes and then said, “Maybe….yes, but not now. I don’t have time now.”
Fumie said that the family will come to Fort Bragg in May. She told me about a friend of hers who had lost his father. He’d told her that because she had told him such wonderful things about her visits to Fort Bragg that he wanted to go. Not now, but sometime soon. I told them that anyone who wants to come to Fort Bragg is welcome, that we will be raising money for this and that our homes are open to Otsuchi people.
Fuki and Masa came to pick me up for the hour drive back to Miyako. Now, I must sleep. I am emotionally drained.