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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Three years

Three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11. The government-sponsored memorial ceremony for its victims was held on March 11 and its participants observed a silent prayer at 2:46 p.m., the exact time the earthquake occurred.

As of March 10, 15,884 people died, 2,633 are missing, and 2,973 died from overwork,  illness or suicide after the quake. As of February 13, 267,419 people are living in temporary or public housing, rented accommodation, relative's homes. Many families of victims are still waiting for their missing family members.The search for missing persons is still continuing.

In Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, most debris was disposed of, but most of their tsunami-hit areas are still vacant. The shortage of materials and human resources constitutes barriers to getting public-works projects under way. The population of the areas has decreased. Many of the areas need to review reconstruction projects. Many people concern that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would take away materials and human resources from the areas.

There has been so much debris in Fukushima Prefecture. Time has stood still for several towns next to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since that terrible day. The Japanese government has lifted ban on entry or return to some parts of the exclusion zone, but most of young ex-residents are not going to return their home town.

Decommissioning of the nuclear plant is expected to take at least 40 years to complete.  Contaminated water in the plant sometimes makes the news. The decontamination operations have made little progress. We feel overwhelmed by this harsh conditions.

Some of the victims want to forget, some don't want to forget, but they all can't forget the terrible day.

Sochi gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu was on a skating rink in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture when a giant earthquake occurred on 11 March 2011 at 14:46 JST. He got away from the building with skating shoes on. The rink looked like the rolling sea.

The then-16-year-old figure skater lost his home and his home rink due to the quake(not tsunami - BBC wrote a mistake), spent four nights with his family on the evacuation center's floor, being frightened by intermittent aftershocks, shivering from the cold in the dark.
The earthquake caused failures in all types of lifelines including electricity, gas, water and telecommunication systems.

He performed in about 60 ice shows and practiced on the skating links where the shows were held. His home skating rink was restored four months after the quake. Though his condominium was identified as fully-destroyed, his family stays living there after the extensive repair work.

He said: Shortly after the quake, I was obsessed with survival. I wondered if I should go on skating. There were times when I thought of quitting skating. As an Olympic gold medalist, I think that I could be of assistance to the disaster victims. This is just the start.

He felt guilty about leaving Sendai for Toronto, Canada to achieve a high goal in May 2012.
He received 6,000,000 yen from the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japan Skating Federation. He said he would donate his full reward to the devastated areas.

He observed two minutes of silence toward Japan on March 11 at 1:46 Toronto Time(14:46 Japan time) this year. As an aside, he has asthma. He takes medicine every day, and never go anywhere without his inhaler.

Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is taking the mound for the New York Yankees this season. He was the ace of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitching staff and racked up a record 24 consecutive wins in the 2013 season (28 consecutive wins in the 2013-2014 seasons).

Tanaka made his 2007 mound debut for the Eagles which is based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Its stadium was partially damaged due to the quake(not tsunami!). The team was playing a game in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture when the quake occurred. The game was canceled so that the team members confirmed the safety of their family members. 

The Eagles moved from ballpark to ballpark to play games and returned to Sendai in late April. They collected donations for the victims at some ballparks, visited some evacuation centers.
A Eagles catcher said at a charity baseball game,  "Let's show Tohoku's real strength." 

The team won the Japan Series for the first time and became the best team in Japan in 2013.
Many baseball officials and sports papers expressed concern that Tanaka pitched two consecutive days at the end of the series. I don't know how much it matters. Tanaka was seen as the hero of Tohoku, and Eagles fans wanted to have the best moment with his pitching before he emigrated to the major leagues. Tanaka wanted fervently to take the mound, and the Eagles manager permitted it.
He said on his blog on March 10(March 11 in Japan): I've been feeling so much for people in the disaster areas wherever I am. I will keep on support them in any way possible.
Both of them have special places in their hearts for quake- and tsunami-hit areas in Tohoku
though it seems that Western media talk only about their capability or marketability, and Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Sanriku Railway (三陸鉄道, Sanriku Tetsudo) which has the North Rias Line and the South Rias Line extends along the Sanriku Coast. The two lines were heavily damaged by the tsunami. Shimanokoshi Station(島越駅) and the elevated railroad tracks of North Rias Line were swept away on March 11.The entire portion of the lines will reopen on April 5.

about Sanriku Railway:

The railway became widely known from its appearance on a TV serial called "Amachan". It was a comedy drama in which a teenage girl becomes an ama (a traditional female sea-diver) in her mother's hometown, acts as a local idol to revitalize the local community,  aims to be an idol on a national scale in Tokyo, return to the town after the tsunami.

It was a comedy but described the current state of rural areas with shrinking population, came face-to-face with the quake and tsunami. This drama's writer made his debut as a stage writer, and many stage actors were in the drama. They engaged in wordplay. The drama was filmed on location in Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture. Many tourists visited Kuji and took the North Rias Line.

Ama dive without scuba gear or air tanks for food like seaweed, turban shells, abalones, shellfish, oysters, sea urchins, lobsters, octopus. Ama(female sea-divers) exist only in Korea and Japan. They are called Haenyo in Korea. 

In the ancient period of Japan, ama meant male and female sea-divers. Researchers infer from tools discovered from many remains in Japan that ama have a history of more than 2,000 years. They appear in Manyoshu(A Collection of a Myriad Leaves) in 750. Female sea-divers in Shima(志摩) area appear in the Engishiki(a Japanese book about laws and customs) completed in 927. They were expressed in Ukiyoe by Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川 歌麿, c.1753-1806), Suzuki Harunobu (鈴木 春信, c.1725-1770).  There are ama divers in Shima City, Mie Prefecture even now.