In Hanamaki, things are looking up. Grocery stores are opening for longer hours and actually getting regular influxes of vegetables, meat, fish, and rice. Still greatly reduced stocks from normal, but is amazing and heartening to see shelves fully stocked with vegetables again.
Gasoline is also starting to come in, though it is still strictly rationed and requires waiting in lines for several hours. The same for kerosene- strict rationing but not necessarily long lines. (We need kerosene to heat the house and provide hot water.)
A friend of ours wanted to check on the safety of their friend in Kamaishi, a city on the coast a couple municipalities over. So we got a bag of food from them to give to this friend. We also packed up about four big boxes of our clothes, winter jackets (ski wear, etc.) and bought a few things like diapers, toilet paper, and water at the store.
We went to the gas station just before noon as a line was finishing and spoke with the owner, who offered to fill up our tank since we were driving to the coast with supplies. It was a two hour drive to Kamaishi.
We found the friend of a friend at their house and delivered the food we had been given for them. They were basically ok, though had just gotten electricity back and still lacked water. Local was getting water out of a mountain river and giving it around that neighborhood where houses remain.
Area hit by tsunami is clearly defined. One side of town looks almost normal and the tsunami-hit area is completely devastated. It’s just like you see on TV, cars and buildings piled up and rubble in piles pushed to the side of the road. I was driving so no time to gape. Was somewhat worried about getting a flat tire with all the glass and debris. Somehow didn’t feel right to take any pictures. There are enough images of this available.
After wandering around a bit in Kamaishi we found the disaster relief headquarters and a volunteer center in the evacuation center there. This is where we brought the clothes and supplies we had brought with us. They said they have recently gotten tons of food and other supplies through the port. We had been planning to come back the next day with as many onigiri (rice balls) as we could make, but they told us that volunteer labor was more needed than food at that point. So tomorrow we are planning to go back to help with loading and delivering boxes, or whatever else they put us to work doing.
At the rescue center, when we asked them what was needed most that we might bring, they replied that they weren’t sure and that there were still ongoing rescue efforts taking place as many are still missing from the area. This remained the first priority. The volunteers themselves that we spoke with were locals who had lost their homes. Everyone there was in remarkably good spirits and quite upbeat. They still didn’t have electricity, and asked if Kamaishi and the surrounding area had been on TV. Felt a little embarassed when asked about Hanamaki. Had to honestly reply that were were almost completely unscathed and just faced minor inconveniences.
Both in Kamaishi and in Tono on the way there we saw dozens of Japanese Self Defense Force vehicles and camps. Also saw fire trucks and ambulances from as far away as Osaka and Oita, Kyushu. Not sure how they got up here, but great to see them!
We also talked briefly with the Red Cross workers there. (Asked them for directions, actually.) The Red Cross had set up a camp near an evaucation center and were up and fully running with a treatment tent. Your donations to them are very meaningful. Let’s keep the donations flowing to the Red Cross and other organizations. Don’t hold back!