The rebirth of Japan’s tsunami land


Natori (Japan) : Kiyoshi Mori drives about one hour everyday from Sendai to inland Takadate Yoshida to grow komatsuna, a green leaf vegetable that is very popular among the Japanese. He rented the land for farming since last April, after his house, car and all farm tools were washed away by last year’s towering tsunami.

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“My wife and I now rent a house in Sendai. Life after the disaster was grey. But working together with friends makes me happy and the business of growing and selling these vegetables is not bad,” the 61-year-old farmer said.

Mori used to live in Kitakama, Natori, one of the many small towns dotted along the coast of Japan’s northeast region that was ravaged by the huge quake and tsunami March 11 last year.

Kitakama used to be a major production base of komatsuna, but now, all houses and farm lands are gone, leaving only dead black pine trees, which used to protect residents and lands of Kitakama, lying along the coast of the small town, said Xinhua.

For the most part, the spaces are clear, with only a few damaged cars that look like scars of the tsunami land. Their owners untraceable and no one prepared to sign the order to move them. The reconstruction was slow, but for the survivors, new life has begun elsewhere.

Like Mori, many of the local residents chose to either move to inland Natori or Sendai, the capital of Miyagi ken, to start a new life. Though without a fixed home, life is much harder than before the disaster. The useless salted land back home makes returning impossible.

Mori’s komatsuna was sold to local market at 100 yen (about $1.2) per 250 gm. from last June to December, from which he has already earned 6 million yen.

Mori said: “Returning home now seems impossible, as the soil needs five to six years or more to be able to grow anything, but I’ve always wanted to be back since I was born and grown up here in Natori.”

On the devastated land of Mori’s hometown Kitakama, a few faint tints of green are waving in the sea breeze.

“Rebuilding the damaged coastal forest at Kitakama will take more than 20 years,” said Tadashi Watanabe, director general of OISCA International, a UN related NGO which is now in charge of a Tohoku Coastal Forest Restoration Project, “but only black pine trees can survive the salted land…”

Watanabe pointed to the saplings less than one meter tall and said: “These little black pine trees are four to five years old, not planted. They survived the tsunami themselves, and so will the Natori people.”