In Kesennuma

AVARIO BABUSHKA

The ocean has always been an important part of the city of Kesennuma. On the east coast of Japan, it is one of the country’s largest fishing ports. It was my first time there. Ku had visited about 4 years ago, not too long after the tsunami, and he said that very little changed. The city is in a state of repair, but the damage in immense, and progress is slow. Still, the people of Kesennuma choose to stay there, to “stay with the ocean”, because it’s their home.The ocean has always been an important part of the city of Kesennuma. On the east coast of Japan, it is one of the country’s largest fishing ports. It was my first time there. Ku had visited about 4 years ago, not too long after the tsunami, and he said that very little changed. The city is in a state of repair, but the damage in immense, and progress is slow. Still, the people of Kesennuma choose to stay there, to “stay with the ocean”, because it’s their home.

Then we visited the primary school on Oshima, the small island a familiar ferry-ride from the main city. And of course it was different from my our own primary school on Waiheke. The characters on the chalkboard are different—but when we sat with the children, and talked with them, and made origami, it felt so familiar, and I began to see how much the children there are the same as my own classmates were on Waiheke. How they learned the recorder as we reluctantly did in our own classes. And the two girls quietly whispering between themselves about what would be the best way to present a leaving card. And even though most of my own conversation with the children had been translated, and I had not understood most of what they were saying, being with those children made me realise how similar these two islands are—surrounded by the same ocean. And when I realised that, it became easier to grasp what the people of Kesennuma and Oshima had been through, and imagine what it might have been like if an event like that had occurred in my own so similar hometown and affected my own so similar classmates.

The city of Kesennuma is now, slowly, raising again. Ku and I met some fantastic people there, people who are truly excited for the future of their city, and people who are incredibly grateful for the support they have received from other parts of the world. One of the main differences since Ku’s last visit is that Kesennuma’s huge fish market is once again thriving—and their fresh sashimi is delicious! Kesennuma is rebuilding, and will continue its long relationship with the ocean, which washed away so much of their city but never drowned their community, and now once again continues to support it.