Last year Oishinbo, a long running manga series about cooking, published a few episodes featuring the tsunami-hit coastline. I read one of them today, the story of the lead characters` visit to Yoboso, a natural food restaurant on the Aomori coast in north-east Tohoku.
The story of Yoboso became dramatically more interesting when I realised much of it was true. A brief online search confirmed it.
I have summarised a blog post submitted by the Yoboso owner`s son, a 2nd year Junior High student. It`s an account of his experience of the tsunami and the aftermath. For convenience – and because I can`t read the characters of his name – I have called him Kenji.
The tsunami hit during Kenji`s walk home from school. He could see waves had already breached the seawall; 3 big trucks were floating around like leaves.
Then the tide went out further than he`d ever seen it before.
His Dad yelled out:
“The next one is going to be bigger. Escape to the hilltop!”
Kenji ran up the hillside with his Mum. Within moments, black waves were swallowing the buildings and telegraph poles beneath them. The seashore in front of his home became a crazy whirlpool; he remembers it as like watching a film.
When the tsunami left, Kenji went down to the restaurant with his parents. The utter devastation inside stunned them. Kenji`s father was extremely shocked and depressed, like Kenji had never seen before. The electricity was out, the gas and water pipes damaged and unusable, and the stove was amongst the washed-up rubble; even their well was broken.
Kenji left to spend 3 days at his grandparents` house. The different diet there made him ill. He returned to Yoboso and helped with the cleaning up. One of the hardest jobs was removing the filthy, sodden tatami mats, around 100 of them.
They had no gasoline to go shopping. Everyday they ate the same brown rice and miso. Kenji helped his mother pick vegetables from the back of their house – chives, butterbur and wild rocambole. His Dad collected seaweed from the seashore. Using water from a nearby spring, they cooked on a portable stove.
The extreme cold continued. In their 2nd floor sleeping quarters, plywood replaced glass in the windows. Inside the room their breath was white. Heat from candles warmed their hands. Sleeping in dirty day-clothes, the three of them snuggled under the one futon.
Yet despite the hardship, he remembers this time with his parents as very happy. His Dad often tells him:
“There are many precious things in this world that money can`t buy. But few people realise it.”