Sun. 25th Sep. After the brief euphoria of the festival, I headed for a more somber meeting with the daughter of my Ohtsuchi Okasan who died in the tsunami. Ogawa-san had been a friend of my Kamaishi homestay family, and when I moved from Kamaishi to Ohtsuchi at the start of the new term she immediately ‘adopted’ me even though we couldn’t speak a word to each other. She remained a mother-figure to me for many years.
She owned a small sewing and embroidery shop in the center of Ohtsuchi where she lived with her daughter, Haruko, who was in Second Grade at Ohtsuchi High School when I arrived, and her own parents. On my first day at school, Haruko suddenly appeared in the staff room and after a brief conversation with my adviser she sheepishly offered me a Bento-box for my lunch wrapped in a furoshikicloth. That evening on my way home I dropped into the shop to return the box and ended up staying for tea. This became a ritual on the two days a week I taught in Ohtsuchi…
I met Haruko at the local Buddhist temple below Mt. Shiroyama where the Ogawa family grave was located. She was with a friend, Miki, who had been an Ohtsuchi classmate and was another of my former students. They had both married boys from their class as well and were still in touch with several others who remain in town.
I bought flowers from the Temple Master and we proceeded to the grave. The lower levels of the cemetery had been flooded by the tsunami and most of the head-stones were still lying next to their respective graves. The Temple structure itself had been destroyed all together and replaced with a prefab. building. Next to it, on the ground, was a jumble of buddhist effigies which had been salvaged from the rubble and the main temple bell which was broken in two. The Ogawa’s grave had also been damaged, but was wrapped in a waterproof cover. We washed the grave, added my flowers to the vases and I said a silent prayer of farewell.
Later I climbed to the top of the cemetery and then on, up to the summit of Mt. Shiroyama to take in the once, fine view of Ohtsuchi town and harbour. Now it gave a fine view of the extent of the damage.