Almost home

August 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hi everybody.
Sorry I haven’t been posting for a while. I was running around all over Japan, literally.
After leaving Ishinomaki on the 20th, i got back to Kanagawa, my sister left on a 89 day cruise, I rode the bullet train (Shinkansen) because I missed my overnight bus, I visited my grandparents and cousins in Nara, and met up with my friends and family. It’s been a hectic trip. I am currently trying to stuff everything in my suitcase, and it’s been about 6 hours since I started. This is never fun. Haha
It has been an amazing month full of discoveries and surprises. But I think I’m ready to go home and sleep in my own bed. Seems like all the pillows I sleep on here is like a bean bag and it’s making my neck hurt!

I will be posting all the pictures along with the stories when I get back to Arizona. Don’t think I forgot!


Day 8: Taiwan Friends

August 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

As I was riding my bike along the Manga Road, I saw pretty colors peeking from the corner of the street. I stopped to see what was going on, and saw adorable chalk drawings on the pavement. I’ve never seen chalk drawing so beautiful in my life. Seeing this brought a smile to my face as well as the locals. This brightened up the street!

Good luck charm from Taiwan.

After staring and lurking and taking a bunch of pictures, these nice people explained to me that they’re a group of artists from Taiwan supporting Ishinomaki. Different styles of artists were here and they told me they painted murals on houses and made public art to bring joy into the town.  They also gave me a good luck charm :)

Pretty pastel chalks.

They told me I can contribute to the drawings so I put my drawing skills to the test….


And I drew a cat. But someone said it looks like Pink Panther. I guess they’re kinda right lol

I’m messy wherever I go.

Soooo pretty!

My cat looks like it was done by a 4 year old compared to this great looking mountain next to it! Mad props!


Large mural on the side of a building.

Lots of locals told me they are really thankful for the organization from Taiwan. Some elderly people kept their cash at home so they lost most of their savings in the tsunami. The locals said the people from Taiwan handed out money to anyone who got in line. These people were painting a very large mural on the side of the building. They each had their own distinctive style. I didn’t stay long enough to see it completed, so I can’t wait to go back and check it out :)

 Since they were so nice to me, and anyone who helps Ishinomaki is automatically my friend, I gave them one of the crochet cats! I hope they liked it :)

Its crazy how you meet so many different kinds of people through the same cause. I wish them the best of luck :)

Day 7: part 3, Kawamura Magobe gravesite, oceanside, fish market

August 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

After visiting Tsuda-san, Ted and I visited Kawamura Magobe gravesite. Kawamura Magobe is an important person in Ishinomaki history. He was a technical expert in Omi Province, and he constructed the Port of Ishinomaki at the mouth of Kitakami-gawa River. Peace boat volunteers worked hard to clean up this gravesite, but the clean up isn’t complete yet.

Mabo Tofu.

Then we went to the Chinese restaurant near Kaska. It was so cheap! And lots of food! I was stuffed.

Ooper Looper

I found a funy looking fish/lizard? It’s called a Ooper Looper. I’ve never seen anything like this, it looked like a Pokemon.

We drove around town again. And we drove by the mountains of trash piled up everywhere.

Japan Paper Company.

This is a paper company located right by the coast. Paper and water doesn’t go well together, so after the tsunami most of their materials were ruined. The huge rolls of paper was very heavy when it soaked up all the water.

San Juan Bautista.

This is a museum that displays the San Juan Bautista, a Spanish style galleon built in the 17th century. Though this is a replica, the actual ship was built in 1613 by Date Masamune, the lord of the Sendai Clan. The ship transported an envoy to the Pope in Rome, stopping at Acapulco, Mexico on the way. The boat had very minimal damage from the tsunami but the museum was closed.


Most of the beaches are closed for swimming since not everything is cleaned up from all the scraps. This beach is mostly for fishing tho.

“The bottom of the sea is all messed up because of the tsunami. I can’t catch any fish!”

I asked this fisherman how it’s like fishing here. He said he could catch all different kinds of fish before but he said “the bottom of the sea is all messed up because of the tsunami. I can’t catch any fish!” Even if he can’t catch anything, he still comes here to fish. I’m guessing he comes here to relax.

Sea Bugs?
Shells used to raise oysters.

Oyster harvesting is very big in Ishinomaki, and it’s considered the main area that imports oyster seeds to all over the world. I LOVE OYSTERS, and it was cool to see how they raise baby oysters. This made me salivate a little bit.

Fiiiiish market.

We then went to the fish market. Originally, this market was placed right near the coast, but they relocated for now. This fish was huge! I wear a size 6 shoe so like 3 of my shoes was the size of this fish!

Sea Urchin!

I’ve never seen a sea urchin with the spikes on. All I could think was sushi. I bet the fresh ones tastes really good :)

Cleaning the sea urchin.

She was cleaning the insides out to get the meat out of it. She was using a tweezer very carefully to get the black parts out and leaving the orangey/yellowish insides.


I finally got to eat some oysters! This particular one wasn’t grown in Ishinomaki, but it was fresh nonetheless. Oyster season is around November, and they even have a festival dedicated to them! Hopefully next year, I can go to one of them and eat lots and lots of oysters! :)

Day 7: Tsuda Family

August 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

After riding around my bike around the coastline, and getting lost and going in circles for a while, I finally got back to my hotel. Ted was already waiting for me at the lobby to take me to see Tsuda-san and her daughters.

Tsuda-san and her daughters.

Ted was very fond of them while he was with Peace boat. They worked on Tsuda-san’s house for 3 months from May to August, and a little bit of September. They told me they had at least 100 volunteers come by to help with the clean up.

Newspaper article with Tsuda-san’s house in it.

Tsuda-san’s house on the newspaper.

As you can see from the picture above, Tsuda-san’s house was severely damaged. Though her husband is a construction worker for temporary homes, he was very busy working in Sendai. Peace boat came around May, but her husband and her husband’s father dug out most of the trash from their house.

Ted and Tsuda-san was reminiscing the cleaning days.

The odd yoga ball was there for some reason. Tsuda-san started sharing what happened on 3-11. “The earthquake was very scary. Anna, my youngest daughter hid under the table. I was watching TV at the time, and when everything started shaking I was trying to hold up the TV! It was expensive so I didn’t want it to fall and break!”, she joked around. “Too bad I had to throw it away since it got wet. It was a nice TV. Haha.”

Tsuda-san and her daughters.

“After hearing the tsunami warning, my daughter and I left the house in my car. We weren’t sure where we were going, but headed to the evacuation center. But on the way, we realized we didn’t grab anything. So we drove back to the house using the small streets, and Anna saw the water slowly spreading from the ocean. It was eerie how slow it spread, but cars and houses were moving too.” “If we took the main street where it was crowded, we could’ve been caught in the tsunami.” They safely got to the evacuation center on time.

Tsuda-san’s eldest daughter looking in to her old house.

Tsuda-san’s eldest daughter, didn’t say too much at first. She was looking in to her house in a bittersweet way.  It’s so clean compared to before, they kept saying. She also helped out the cleaning alongside the volunteers shoveling mud/sludge. When I asked her where she was on 3-11, she said she was at school. “After the earthquake, everyone evacuated outside. But when we heard the tsunami warning, we went back inside. And then everyone from around town came to our school to evacuate. We were all on the third floor, but the students had to be on the 2nd floor. Like my mother said, the water came in slow. And all the cars were slowly sinking.” “We didn’t have anything to eat, so our teachers brought candy from the teacher’s lounge. We got one piece of candy each. My father came and picked me up after the water had gone down, so I didn’t have to stay at school for too long.”


The water rose up to where her hand is. The first floor of their house was completely submerged. The glass doors broke so they had so much sludge and trash come into the house. When I asked if they plan on living in this house again, and they said they weren’t sure. “We started living in my husband’s father’s house who lives 5 minutes away. He’s happy that we live with him now, but my kid’s and my husband goes to Sendai everyday for work and school. We still haven’t paid off the house yet, so I don’t know if we should move or not.” Her kids takes an hour to go to school everyday.

“We found a body in here.”

“We started cleaning the house and we found a body in this room. I don’t know who it was or how it got in here, but we say a prayer whenever we come here now.” A lot of bodies that were found all over town were unclaimed or unidentifiable.

Group Shot!

The sisters were very kind and very smart! The older one is going to school to become a nurse or a government health inspector. They both like sports and the younger one is going to a prefecture-wide conference. They also gave me a lot of pictures they took after the tsunami so I plan on scanning them and sharing that when I get back to the states.

Thank you, Tsuda Family!

Day 7: Boats & Docks

August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Frog chillin’ at the front desk.

Day 7 started off on a good note. I got up bright and early! I always rent a bicycle to get around town and when I asked for the key at the front desk, I saw the frog that Riho and I gave them a couple days ago. This made me smile :) I went for a bike ride by the Kyu-Kita-Kami river towards the ocean.


There was lots of fishing boats, ferry boats, and transport boats on dock of the day of the tsunami. Some boats are still on land since that day. Large boats are extremely heavy. So I have no idea how they’re going to move it when it’s that heavy PLUS holding up that building that collapsed on it.

Fishing nets.

Fishing companies lost/ruined most of their tools. These nets are used to catch lots and lots of fish and they cost tens of thousands of dollars. Though their docks and boats were ruined, some fishermen relocated and repaired their boats and started back again.

All over town, especially by the coastline, there are areas like this with trash piled up 2,3 stories high. Probably like 15, 20 football fields piled with trash.

Clean up crew.

Trucks carrying scraps to dump to the piles were driving around very busily. I felt bad riding around being in their way when they were working hard.



Day 6: Strolling around Kaska, Ishinomaki Pet Center

August 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

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.

So clean.

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, piles of trash everywhere.

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.

Hide out.

Nap time.

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.

Buddha got his arm fixed.

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.



Ishinomaki Pet Center

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.

Guinea pigs.


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!

Ruff. Frenchies are the best. They’re so cute. This one had a scar on her hip, but she was such a sweetheart.

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.”

Bunnies! Fluffy fur balls.

“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.”

“My daughter is going to love this.”

“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

August 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

Riho eating Taiyaki.

Nom nom nom.

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.

Watanoha Station.

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.

Kasumi-So Senior Home.

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!

The head manager of Kasumi-So.

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.”

She got caught in the tsunami.

“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.

For 5 days after the tsunami, all of their patients spent it in a temple in the mountains.

“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.”

“I stepped into hell.”

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.”

Seniors watching TV.

“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.”

“My tears dried up after a while.”

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.”

Friends of JACL.

We come bearing gifts!

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. ”

“This ones mine!”

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.”

95 years and still counting!

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.

Blushing a little bit.

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

Group Photo.

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!

Thank you! :)

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