--Photo by filmmaker in japan
It's been almost 9 months since the 9.0M earthquake hit northern Japan.
Six months ago, when I first visited Ishinomaki in Miyagi, the place was a terrible mess, and there was no seeing when things would be functional again.
Visiting now, here were the changes I noticed:
1. They finally got rid of the majority of the debris. Before, flattened houses, mud, sewage, ships, and unidentifiable rubble were strewn across the entire town. Now the same area looks like an open, dirt field. Some of the foundation of the homes are still visible, but if you visited the place for the first time, without a good look you might not guess that there used to be a town there (Here's a photo of the town before and 3 months after the quake)
2. All people have finally been able to move out of shelters into temporary homes. The town hall in Ayukawa was previously used as an evacuation shelter, but all the people who had lost their homes have moved to temporary housing units that are scattered around the peninsula. Because of the lack of flat land in the Ojika Peninsula, however, they weren't able to gather the units in a consolidated area. You see small housing units spotting various patches of flat land (at higher elevation) around the peninsula.
3. The volunteers were still very much active. The volunteer center in Ayukawa had no electricity or water a few months back, but it looks like they've been finally hooked up. Some of the volunteers we met then were still there- some haven't gone home since days after the earthquake hit.
4. People were out in the town. Small, temporary units have been built in the town that contain stores with food, amenities, mini-restaurants and even a barbershop. Apparently they'd just made it a few days ago. Around the shops, there were local people about and kids playing in the area. I'd say this was the biggest change I noticed- there was nobody to be seen outdoors a few months back.
All in all, there are definitely visible improvements, but many buildings remain half-flattened and abandoned. It seems they're at the stage where they've finally been able to clear most of the rubble. Radiation is still as big of a concern than ever, and without a functional town left, the majority of people have nowhere to go, nowhere to work. The recovery has really only started- it's clear that there's still a very long way to go.