Driving the Iwate coastline through tsunami devastation
Day47, October 2016,
A bright morning and I move the car into the sunshine; open all the doors to give it an airing. We eat breakfast outside, in the sun, exciting the crows and a grey and white tom cat that lurks, awaiting an opportunity. Having slept till almost eight, the morning is quite advanced when we leave and drive the short distance from Kyukamura Rikuchu-Miyako to view a blow hole.
Unfortunately, the tide is low and the sea rather calm so the blow-hole, is not impressive. The walk through the woods is pleasant though and the coast, of course, wonderful.
As D. wants to visit the Miyako market, we return to the fish docks of the previous night. Inside this new building is a model of the town; prior to the tsunami. Every house is marked and the dead from each enumerated. It is a sobering monument. Outside the place depicted no longer exists.The fish market is surprisingly small, given the size of the new facility housing it. Even more surprising, are the prices – so amazingly cheap; fresh mackerel for 82 yen but, sadly, very few customers.
Driving the Iwate coastline …
As we move on down the coast, the scene become distressingly repetitive. At each new inlet, we drive into a wasteland and a maelstrom of construction. The huge concrete wall shuts off each newly/slowly emerging towns from any glimpse of the sea. There are more shiny, new supermarkets with empty selves and acres of temporary housing, some of it, no doubt, for the surviving residents but most, perhaps, for the army of construction workers.
The road is very busy with dump trucks rushing is all directions kicking up the dust and, as it is very windy, vast clouds of dust well up from the valley bottoms as you descend from the ridges. Many tunnels connect the various, separate valleys and these are filled with fumes and dust. They have no ventilator fans as they are not designed to cope with such an incessant flow of heavy traffic.
The contrast between the wonderful coastline, glimpsed from the road, and the devastation and then the orderly chaos of the construction is just too depressing. We turn inland from Ofunato city, heading for the mountains and ultimately the Nihonkai (Japan Sea).
Tono Windy Hill michi no eki
Our destination is a michi-no-eki called Tono Windy Hill on Route 283 in Iwate prefecture. There is plenty of space for parking and a brand new, beautifully designed, 24 hour toilet. Windy Hill lives up to its name as a cold, strong wind is blowing and it boasts a small windmill to emphasize the point.
Dinner is sushi and Ikura (salmon roe). The Ikura turn out to be rather thick skinned and dance around the mouth; defying the teeth. Once successfully breached, the skins hang around in the mouth like so many small plastic disks. Not the best Ikura of the trip then but, probably, the last. The wind is whistling around the van and my feet are getting chilly as I write.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.