From Sendai to Nagoya
During our one night in Sendai, we stayed in his nice minimalistic cube shaped hostel.
The owner of the hostel brought in her Akita dog, but the story was that the dog was found alone after the tsunami in the affected zones, and now adopted by the new owner, she is a bit distressed from the traumatic experience. We were warn not to go near her because she might bite. Poor puppy…
From Sendai to Kobe, instead of the train or a bus, we found an more creative and economical option of taking a cruise to Nagoya. It was another interesting experience for us, though it took me a while to get use the subtle floating movement of the ship. We were wary that we had to past by Fukushima out in the ocean, but the distance is suppose to be much further away then we past through in-land last time, so we didn’t care about it too much. The amazing scenery and the feeling of being surround by water made it a very enjoyable trip.
Our mix sleepers room -
Pachinko room -
Vending machine room -
Launch room -
Sendai port -
Amazing sunset -
The next day, we arrived in the port of Nagoya.
9:18 pm • 22 July 2012
From Otsuchi to Sendai
Leaving from Otsuchi, we headed down to Sendai. With the arrangement by Professor Moriko, our mission was to find Tohoku University’s Department of Architecture and meet with architect Mr. Onoda Yasuaki, the co-founder of Archiaid.
The bus ride from Otsuchi to Sendai provided us the last opportunities to capture some beautiful country side photos of Tohoku regions.
Arrived in Sendai, greenery was never far away. In the middle of down town, we got really obsessed with this green wall.
Before heading to the university, we dropped by the Sendai Mediatheque Building that Mr. Onoda designed in collaboration with architect Toyo Ito. The uniqueness of the was the slanted structural columns. They created different floor plans for each floors.
Finally, arriving to the university around 8pm, we met Mr. Onoda right after one of his meeting, and then it was kind of late in the evening, he gave an hour of lecture only for us, show casing the work of Archiaid. The content was the most inspiring, and we were impressed by Mr. Onoda’s ideas and forward thinking for the recovery work for Tohoku. At the end, we left with hope and inspirations, along with respect and admiration for Mr. Onoda, a professional that only met for an hour and more.
6:47 am • 21 July 2012
Life at Caritas Otsuchi Base
Time at Otsuchi was a bit like living in an oasis; isolated but provided. In the one month and a half, we witnessed the transformation of the place. It seemed that the lost of urban establishment enhanced the presence of nature.
The 2 frightening days of annual spring storm was quite a terrific experience. The wind blew so loud that I had to stay up all night. Every time a strong gust came, the whole building shake. Lying in bed, there was also this fear that something smash the window near me.
Followed the next day was severe snow, no body was able to walk outside, and even the high speed train had to stop due to the wind. I went out just for a stroll, and the wind kept blowing my steps off track and made it difficult to walk.
On the third day, everything all of a sudden became silent again. The sun came up, as if nothing happened. From then on, spring started and the temperature stayed warm. Weeds started dominating the ruins and the cherry blossom season came.
Then there were a few days of heavy rain… Otsuchi and Kamaishi became a huge swimming pool as a result of land subsidence.
The biggest moon of the year. Too bright to sleep, so we took pictures until we were tired!
It’s a obligation to volunteer in our free time staying in the Caritas Base, and the work was diverse. We helped the setting up of a community radio station, stringing scollop for fishermen, digging trenches for temporary housing residents, planting trees on the seawall, etc. My two colleagues Tommaso and John also did extra creative work for the base.
Food was always the highlight of the days. A lady from Kamaishi were hired by the base to cook 3 meal a day for the volunteers, everything she made was just amazing. I got a photo of her cooking somewhere, but I just couldn’t find it in my massive photo folder…the story was that she was a cook for a junior high school before, and her sister past away in the tsunami. I hope that she knew how her food had been the highlight of our staying in Otsuchi Base.
Musicians staying at the base.
10:59 pm • 17 July 2012 • 1 note
Kiri Kiri 吉里吉里
Kiri Kiri is a small coastal town near Otsuchi. The word Kiri Kiri imitates the sounds when one’s foot is walking on the broken shell beach. During our time there, a group of junior school kids from Marioka, the captital of Iwate, were cleaning up the tsunami debris from the beach for a school field trip. They bought quite a lot of energy to this quiet little town.
Below is a very charming temporary ramen restaurant. I liked it because it actually has a character, not like the typical aluminum one that you can see all around, and of course the food was fantastic!
Further up north, is the Northern Kiri Kiri village. We accidentally found out that some students from Qinghua University, China, was doing a workshop with a Japanese University on a urban proposal of Otsuchi, so we decided to pop in to have look. When we were there, they were having a lecture about the potential of using bio-energy in this region. It was quite an interesting, but technical lecture.
The students were staying in this community hall in Kiri Kiri (which was super difficult for us to find) for two weeks doing this project for Otsuchi. Meanwhile, we were staying in Otsuchi doing a project for Kamaishi. A kind of funny situation.
The north Kiri Kiri village was a real charming place to explore. I was almost looking for the trails of Totoro!
2:10 am • 8 July 2012
Wonders of Iwate Prefecture 岩手県
Our last few days spent in the Iwate Prefecture were full of wonders. One of the staff at our Caritas base, Nozomi, had a day off, so together, we ventured into the magnificent wonderland.
All along the back roads, we could still see some late cherries blossom. Together with the small country villages formed the most charming scenes that could exist. It makes you wonder how life would be living there.
Stopping by in Tono, we had to try the featured wasabi ice-cream at the station. It was surprisingly good!
An hour later, towards the Iwate Mountain direction was where the stunning scenery was revealed to us.
After the kilometer of cherry trees, we found ourselves in front of the famous Iwate Dairy Farm, so of course, we decided to drop in and check it out. Meanwhile, straight from their cows they say, I had my 2nd ice-cream of the day! Confirming that it was the king of all soft-creams in Japan.
This milking shed below is apparently more then 100 years old.
The main entrance into the Iwate Farm Park.
We left the farm toward the next ‘viewing’ hot spot, where this ancient cherry tree stands alone in front of the mountain. Doesn’t this reminds you of version of Windows 97? But better.
Our next destination was supposed to be the fields of snow-statue-trees, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for us to cross the huge mountain, so we ended up going to the nearest onsen right where we saw the sulphur smoke come up. The pool water was really hot and milky in colour.
Dinner in Morioka - The Myagi Prefecture’s free range chicken restaurant - is a must to mention, as I would rate this as one of the 3 most amazing meals that we had in Japan!
Decorated to make you feel like being in a chicken farm, this restaurant makes the best chicken all of us have ever tasted! Oh, I wish I could own these chickens!…
The ultimate - smoked black pepper lemon lean chicken on hot plate! It’s texture was almost like beef!
Quiet contentment with the year’s biggest full moon.
Thanks to Nozomi for making this the best day trip ever! We will never forget!
7:05 pm • 25 May 2012 • 2 notes
Rain on Jinya Festival
Unfortunately for us, the rain decided to take part in the Kamaishi’s Jinya Festival. As to our cardboard structure, we managed to put it together under a big shelter.
(above 2 photos by Ken)
After being wet, we dropped in for a traditional green tea and homemade sweets from the lovely ladies in pink kimonos, it made us felt warm and fuzzy inside.
(above 2 photos by Ken)
Despite the disappointment with the weather, we ended up enjoying the event none the less. Although our cardboard structure did not really get fully used in this occasion, Mr. Katakura will later donate the structure to a local kindergarten. So in order for him to be able to rebuild the structure after we leave, our colleague Ting made a manual for them to follow - photo manual/3D manual
2:29 am • 12 May 2012 • 1 note
Tree Planting Ceremony in Otsuchi
With so much debris left over from the tsunami, it’s a challenge for the local government in the affected areas to think of solutions to deal with them. At the moment in Otsuchi, one of the project that they are pushing forward is to bury some of the non-toxic biodegradable debris into the ground and create a ‘great wall of greenery’ on top. The “wall” will function as a protection from the future tsunami, have a positive impact in the natural environment in addressing climate change, and the grown trees can protect the residents from the gusty wind in this area.
In this project, it seemed that the Yokohama rubber tire company sponsored in some way. I don’t know how tires and the environment can actually be friends together, but from their website, they have been developing eco-friendly tires that are fuel and speed efficient on vehicles. However, other then that, I suppose tires are still tires.
The chief of this re-planation is Professor Akira Miyawaki, who is a physiognomist, and an expert in restoring forests. Prof. Miyawaki has a special method in replantation of forests that named after him. The idea was to plant different types of native trees closely and randomly together so that diversity and resistance can be nourish by itself. In his method, weeding and other human support are not needed after the first 3 years of planting. More details of the Miyawaki Method is worthwhile to check out.
So, for Otsuchi’s great wall of greenery, 16 types of tree will be planted.
After a series of happy photos for the press, we gathered by the D section to get ready for some real action.
You can see that the trees are actually being planted really close together, plus the great amount of volunteers, it is really difficult to move around.
After planting, we used straws to cover the bare soil around the trees.
Then, we tied them down with ropes.
After the planting 3000 small trees, our reward was a neat Japanese lunch box and some live music entertainment from the local high school. They were both fantastic.
4:48 pm • 6 May 2012 • 2 notes
Cardboard structure for Kamaishi’s Jinya Festival
Our presentation to the Kamaishi Small Business Association is done, but it was definitely not the end of our “work” here! May 3rd is the local festival for kids called ‘Jinya’, and we were asked to design and build a hut for the kids using the existing cardboard that they have, as they got them for free from a NPO during the emergency shelter days for privacy divisions in their cramped living conditions.
So in a week beforehand, on the first sunny day in Kamaishi, we started cutting and building the structure. Then of course, there is a photo moment for cherries before we start work!
They were so nice to serve us hot tea!
(below) On the right is Mr. Katakura, the leader of the Small Business Association/our ‘boss’. He lost this business during the tsunami, and now this shop is opened temporarily in this temporary ‘shopping street’.
After a hard working day, we were invited to a private whisky club in which they named it Roha!
Japanese whiskey is really good, and so I was drunk by dinner…and the next morning, we were on the prefecture’s newspaper!!
Happy memories :)
5:48 pm • 5 May 2012 • 2 notes
Road Trip to Kitakami 北上市
Oh yes, we can’t get enough of cherries! After checking the cherry blossom calendar, where the Japanese maps the best time and location for cherry blossom viewing each year, we borrowed a car from the amazing Caritas and took off for our first road trip to Kitakami. The place is around 2 hours in land from where we are, and one third of the way, we stopped at a caving area for some adventure, but as soon as we found out that it’s under maintenance, some of us took an alternative for the adventure in stead - climb up a cement wall beside a railway, and they even found a huge snake under a rock at the top!
Seemed like every person who had a car was going to the same park that we were going on the day. So we suffered a bit to get to the Kitakami river side park, but it is of cause completely worthwhile at the end.
Right by the park is a mixture of residential area and urban farms. Actually, I really can’t tell if I were in a rural or a urban area being there, which made me felt a bit confused and intrigued.
To prove that we were huge fans, we came back at night to check out the cherry trees being lit up. It was a different sort of cherry experience.
7:28 pm • 4 May 2012 • 3 notes
Just a stroll into the hills of Otsuchi 大槌町…
Cherry blossom season marks the end of the long harsh winter of Japan, and to be able to see the dream like pink-white colours floating on the elegantly posed branches made every minute of winter actually worth while! Yes, I said these words.
It happened to be the most perfect day that we decided to take a stroll in the hill right behind our door step and in search of our first ‘cherry blossom experience’. As we went further up the hill, we discovered the un-mentioned mountain top park. Astonished by the fact that no body actually mentioned to us about this secret garden, I was just stoked that we stumbled upon it! The unexpected scenery really had a stunned effect on me!
These photos below are in sequence of our afternoon’s exploration, so please enjoy.
Feeling drunk and dazed is the effect that cherry flowers have on me if I stare at them for too long!
Being there felt like being in a garden in the sky. Just look down past the trees you can see the view of the whole city below your feet.
Hands down one of the best nature experience I have had in Japan, and in my humble opinion, as my colleague would say, in terms of cherry blossom viewing, I consider this one of the region’s best kept secret, as it was not listed on any websites as a destination point. However, don’t take every word I say ;)
5:51 pm • 2 May 2012 • 1 note