yarn

Day 8: Hidemaruya by airi katsuta

After seeing the beautiful display from the artists from Taiwan, I went to a souvenir store right down the street. It was called Hidemaruya, and they had Ishinomaki t-shirts that they sold for around $20. The shirts said things like "Never give up Ishinomaki" or "Ganbappe, Ishinomaki".  I had seen these shirts last year but didn't have money to spend when I was volunteering, so I was happy to purchase them :)

After looking around the store for a while, the owner asked me where I came from. When I said the United States and that I was here last year volunteering, she was surprised and let me sit down and look at her photo album that contained lots of tsunami related pictures/newspaper clippings. She was hesitant at first but she started sharing her stories with me.

"It was like a dream", she said. "It all happened in an instant...just one moment... like what happened?" On 3-11, she was here at the store, and her house is on the second floor. She felt it shook, and ran out side, but she heard her neighbors shouting that the tsunami was coming. She ran up to her home, and ended up staying up there for 2 days. At night it was cold with snow falling down, only a gas stove to keep her and her husband warm, and only one candle for light. Thankfully, she had a fridge full of food so they didn't starve like many of her neighbors.

"There were many people that I knew that lost their lives looking for their family members. They went out when the tsunami came," she said almost in a whisper. "You have to take care of your own life first. Because what do you have when you lose yourself? Just make a place to meet up when things like this happen."

Unlike all the people that I met, she didn't aestheticize the recovery effort. She wasn't negative about it, but rather realistic. "The recovery/reconstruction isn't in the near future." She said with lines between her eyebrows, "We've become so dependent on other people, especially volunteers. We can't be like this forever." She said she felt like she was going crazy after losing her store. Her store sold yarn and knitting products. "I can't just not do anything. I told myself I must become independent." And that's why she started a whole new venue making souvenir t-shirts. She felt that with volunteers and tourists coming into Ishinomaki, she could let them take a memory of Ishinomaki with them by selling these shirts.

After learning her love for knitting/crocheting, I gave her one of the crochet cats. She loved it! "Thank you so much. I want to start my yarn store again, but it's so hard when there's hardly any customers anymore. I hope Ishinomaki will become a better place than before. I know it's going to take a while, but my wish is that Ishinomaki will be more independent."

Day 6: Strolling around Kaska, Ishinomaki Pet Center by airi katsuta

Riho went back to Tokyo after giving the knitted clothing to Kasumi-So, so Day 6 begins my lone trip. I've always had my family around me whenever I traveled and depended on them so much, so I was kind of scared. Would I be able to connect with the locals? Would I be able to speak Japanese? Would I get lost? All these questions kept worrying me, but I tried to be brave, and started riding my bicycle to familiar places I visited last year. It was only a 20-30 minute bike ride from the hotel.

Last year, this karaoke place was the only bar that was open in this area. It was very old fashioned, 100 yen per song, and it was like being in someone's living room. They didn't think I was Japanese so they told me to sing something, and I sang a Christina Aguilera song... Though I think I'm a diva when I'm singing in my car, no one should be forced to hear me sing. haha. But they were kind and clapped for me. Teehee. It was nice to see them still in business.

Last year, the roads were still rough and covered in dirt, and hardly any stores were open on this street. Now it's all repaired and clean! Clean-ups around areas that are being used were very fast. It's crazy to see the gap between this and homes around the water. But all that matters is that it's being done.

Last year, this area was pretty rough. There were piles of trash being gathered everywhere you looked. Sludge still covered the ground as it gave off a foul smell. The building with the colorful sign was a camera store.

This year this place was all cleaned up. The camera store relocated to another area.

This was my favorite place. It's a greenbelt around the river, and the trees are big enough to make shade in the hot sun. At night time, I remember hearing crickets chirp. This was the place to be to unwind from a long, hardworking day. This man was taking a nap on my favorite bench.

Last year, this buddha lost his arm and it was being held up by ropes. The garden itself was done very beautifully and I'm glad the Buddha was fixed.

 

 

I saw this pet center everyday last year while staying at Kaska. I was curious what the inside looked but it wasn't open when I went. So I decided to pay a visit.

I was greeted by these very energetic geese as I walked up to the store. They wouldn't stop quacking!! I wasn't sure if it was a farm animal store or a pet store. I saw turkeys, chickens, baby chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, cats, and dogs.

I LOVE CATS. These adorable kitties made me miss my own, Whiskers and Bailey. I wanted to play with them more but the chihuahuas behind me wouldn't stop barking so I had to leave the room. Chihuahuas are so loud! They just kept growling at me!

After being in the store for 15 minutes, the owner came out and I got to ask her how its been since 3-11. She said "On 3-11, I didn't think a tsunami was going to come. We live upstairs of the store so me and my family rushed up. Unfortunately we didn't have time to save the animals." Since this area is very close to the coastline, the water level was very high and the animals in their cages drowned. "We had to start all over. It was sad, and I feel very sorry for the animals."

They did all the cleaning by themselves. "I saw the volunteers walking around a lot last year. But we did all the cleaning by ourselves, just me and my father. We had a lot of free time, so it wasn't a problem." There weren't enough volunteers to go around to every place in town.

"We used to have a lot more animals. Parrots, large aquarium fish, different breeds of cats and dogs, ferrets, etc. We had to start from scratch. We used to have lots of customers who owned large aquariums so they came to the store a lot. But now, even if they still have their tanks, they live in temporary homes so they don't have the space. Or they don't want to own any pets because they're scared that the tsunami might come again. They come visit me from time to time. They don't buy anything but they just come to see the animals. If you love animals, you never stop loving them no matter what."

"Having pets is a luxury. It's not a need for survival so we don't have customers anymore. Businesses like insurance, construction, cars, homes, and grocery stores are doing just fine. But stores like us, pet stores or fishing supplies, they're hobbies. So to get by, we started a traveling zoo. A lot of events and schools have us come and bring our animals. They want the children to smile and be happy, and animals have the power to do that."

"I hope things will be back to where it was again, but I know it will take a long time. But I hope people will start having pets again, because I know how much joy they bring to our lives."

I gave her one of the crochet cats and she really liked it. "I have a daughter and she loves stuffed animals. She's going to love this. We'll treasure it."

Day 5: Kasumi-So Senior Home by airi katsuta

We headed to Kasumi-So senior home later that day. We took a train and since we didn't have breakfast or lunch, we ate the Taiyaki that we got earlier.

We arrived to Watanoha Station 10 minutes later. The palm trees reminded me of Arizona. Though Ishinomaki city is the 2nd most populated areas in Miyagi prefecture, the train only comes by every 2 hours. This is unbelievable compared to Tokyo where the train comes every 5 minutes. The train only has 2 cars since the tsunami disaster, but they plan on adding more next year.

We finally arrived to Kasumi-So Senior Home. We brought the handmade knitted scarves and clothing made by the wonderful folks of Japanese American Citizens League. I hope they like it!

Manjome-San is the head manager of this senior home. When asked about what happened on 3-11 she said, "Right after the earthquake, one of the seniors said the tsunami will follow soon. So all of us evacuated to the mountains before the tsunami warning even went off. So thankful for the wise knowledge of the elderly, they were all safe."

"After we evacuated, I realized I forgot to grab the medicine for my patients. We were in such a rush, I knew I shouldn't go back but I went anyways. When I was driving back, I saw a little girl crying on the side of the street. I picked her up and while I was driving, the tsunami came. I didn't know what was happening, but thankfully someone reached a hand from the 2nd floor of a building and saved us." Though she was talking very calmly, what was coming out of her mouth was unimaginably horrifying.

"There were many people at the temple. Since the damage of this area was unbelievable, the bridge was gone so the military couldn't even come to this side of the town for 2 days. I was very worried. Some elderly people didn't have their medicine so they were turning blue, or going crazy."

"People started to find out that I work at the senior home. They thought we would have medicine to share, but we didn't have any either. It pained me to turn them away."

With tears forming in her eyes, she spoke softly, "We went down the mountain when the water level decreased... And I stepped into hell."

"The people who evacuated to the mountains didn't directly see the tsunami, so it was shocking to see the aftermath. There were dead bodies everywhere, a lot of them in their cars. It felt like a war zone. I was actually seeing hell."

"We had our one year anniversary of this institution the day after the tsunami. We were saying how it's been a year and then it happened." The seniors were transferred to a hospital out of prefecture, so they were safe and taken care of. They were more worried about us (the caretakers) if we had enough food."

After a year and a half, she said there are times where she feels depressed. "Year and a half flew by so fast. The reconstruction takes a long time, I know that. I get depressed quite often, and put a stop to myself. Most of us suppressed our emotions. My tears dried up after a while, I was tired of crying. Thankfully, all of my family members survived, but many of the workers' didn't. My daughter's friend's body was found 3 months later. And all that was said was "They found another one." It was hard to feel anymore. It was all too much."

We gave them the letter, pictures, and the handmade items from Japanese American Citizens League. They were very ecstatic to receive them since they lost most of their winter clothes in the tsunami. "Thank you so much. The winters are so cold here! It gets cold by September. Now to think of it, it was snowing the day after the tsunami. "

Everyone's faces were covered in smiles. We dispersed the clothing to everyone and they loved it. This lady wore hers already even though it was hot!

We also gave them the crochet animals too. They were saying how cute it was. She was a funny one, "I'm a kangaroo."

She's 95 years old and loved the shawl. "Give them a peace sign", the manager said.

We woke him up from his nap, but this 99 year old man picked the white vest. He can't hear very much so they had to shout in his left ear. When they told him that we brought them clothes, he smiled and said "Thank you."

She liked this blue shawl very much. "I like it, it's fancy!" Such complicated and beautiful design, all handmade by JACL.

"Blue is a man's color." "Looking good!" the women shouted. He blushed a little bit as I took his picture.

Everyone got several items to keep. Rather than taking it to a large senior home and not have enough, we picked the one with 6 people. They shared their stories with us and welcome us into their home. Thank you to Kasumi-So senior home and JACL for providing the clothing!