Day four – Early morning at Kamaishi Port

Sat, 24th Sep. It was a gloriously sunny morning just like I remembered the Sanriku Coast of old. I was up before dawn and headed down to Kamaishi port. It was a matter of a few hundred yards from the hotel to the sea but my mood clouded over the moment I glanced down what had been Nombe-yokocho, Kamaishi’s centre of drinking and lively nightlife – a crowded street of tiny bars and izakaya restaurants built in the shadow of the tsunami wall. What had been a single track road was now twice as wide, but only because all the buildings along the wall-side of the street had disappeared. On the other side of the street concrete and brick buildings were still standing, but they were now no more than empty shells up to the second floor. The street was muddy and there was a sound of trickling streams of water.

View through Kamaishi’s old nightlife district next to port
Waterlogged road next to the port, downtown Kamaishi
Tsunami gate leaning off its hinges
Sand bags in place of missing tsunami gate
Fish processing company next to Kamaishi port
Row of derelict buildings opposite Kamaishi port
Over-turned fishing boat left stranded inland

I made my way out of the downtown area and headed east on a narrow strip of land between wharf and mountains on the north side of the bay towards where I had heard the fish market had reopened. To my amazement up ahead the road was partially blocked by an enormous freighter, the Asia Symphony, which straddled the sea wall and looked as if it was about to smash into a house on the other side of the road. Passing under the bow revealed a gaping hole in the stern bow, and climbing over the sea wall to the wharf I could see right along the length of the ship to where its huge rudder and propeller sat clear of the water.

Asia Symphony straddling the sea wall
Asia Symphony’ s bow damage
High and dry – Asia Symphony on Kamaishi wharf

Turning my back on Asia Symphony, I now had a view of the whole of Kamaishi Bay. Looking across the mirror-like surface of the water at moored boats and fishermen out on the breakwater, with the cries of seagulls overhead, it was as if the earthquake and tsunami had never happened, and as if the vistas I had just witnessed in town were just been a bad dream..

Kamaishi port at dawn
Mist hanging over Kamaishi Bay
View across Kamaishi fishing harbour
Early morning fishermen and the Kamaishi Kannon
Rusty anchor on the harbour wall. Kamaishi
Squid fishing boats at anchor

I walked along the wharf for a while towards the fish market near the entrance to Kamaishi Bay. What started as a small crack in the concrete of the wharf underfoot broadened into a fissure, and about 200 yards from the fish market the whole structure finally disappeared completely into the water. I returned to the road passing between derelict buildings on my left and the sea wall on my right. A top the hill on the far south side of the bay I could see the Kamaishi Kannon through breaches in the sea wall – still bearing posters at regular intervals warning of the tsunami danger. The Kannon carried a fish in her folded arms. She was supposedly the protector of all Kamaishi’s fishermen. I had heard that all fishing vessels returning to harbour would through a fish back in to the water as they passed beneath her gaze as an offering for having kept them safe at sea. I was also told never to visit her shrine with my girlfriend in case she should grow jealous and angry!

Cracked wharf
Subsided wharf
Ruined gas stand and vehicle next to the fish market
Bent and buckled steel girders giving testimony to the power of the tsunami
Kamaishi Kannon through a hole in the broken sea wall
Tsunami warning poster and Kamaishi Kannon

The fish market which was a flurry of activity despite the late hour. Several boats were unloading their cargoes and others were preparing to depart. I spoke to a fish wholesaler leaning against the wall smoking. He said that only about half of the Kamaishi fishing fleet had survived so business was hard. But he had lived in Kamaishi all his life and had no intention of moving now.

Unloading fish at Kamaishi fish market
Transfering the freshly caught fish from boats to tubs of ice
Fish wholesalers gather to bid on the morning’s catch
No.6 Kaneshima Maru stocks up with ice as it prepares to depart
A fishing boat leaves port
A fishing boat heads for the open sea under the protective gaze of the Kamaishi Kannon

I looked at my watch. Just gone 7am. I turned back towards town to find Yuka and breakfast.

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One Response to Day four – Early morning at Kamaishi Port

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