E-book : 3.11 Memorial Haiku 追悼
On March 11, 2020, the Akita International Haiku Network published an e-book 3.11 Memorial Haiku 追悼 in prayer.
This is because a student of mine, Ms. Makiko Utsumi, lives in Higashi- Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture, having lost her son’s wife in the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
She is chief welfare commissioner at Nobiru, Higashi- Matsushima City, and is also active as a teller of her experiences in the 3.11 Earthquake.
Before referring to the e-book, let me tell you about my visits to Higashi-Matsushima City, bringing back memories.
November 27 – 28, 2005
First visit to Higashi -Matsushima City
Makiko and her classmates held their class reunion there, inviting me as their teacher. We got together at Nobiru Station at 3:45 pm, staying at Shiosai no Yado Chidorikan. We spent the pleasant and memorable evening in talking, drinking, singing or dancing, with the local seasonal seafood dishes served.
The next day, we went on a sightseeing cruise to enjoy the true charm of Sagakei Gorge so that we could see the rock faces close-up from the sea. On fine weather we enjoyed the superb scenery of Sagakei Gorge.
Along with Yabakei Gorge in Oita Prefecture and Geibikei Gorge in Iwate Prefecture, Sagakei Gorge is counted as one of Japan’s three great gorges. The gorge spans 2km from Murohama to Kayanosaki on the peninsula jutting out from the southernmost tip of Miyato-jima.
The 20-40m sea cliffs, eroded by the surging waves and weather over a long period of time, are truly a mystery of nature. In contrast to the feminine grace of Matsushima Bay, Sagakei Gorge’s masculine continuous rough and wild scenery inevitably stirs a sense of adventure.
Here is a photo of Makiko and her classmates beside the sightseeing cruise boarding point.
After the cruise, we visited the Historical Museum of Jomon Village of Oku-Matsushima. And we had the oyster lunch, after which we parted each other, wishing for the reunion in the near future.
August 11, 2012
Interview on Makiko’s experiences in the 3.11 Earthquake :
I was shopping at AEON MALL Ishinomaki in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture at the time of the earthquake at 2:46 pm. on March 11, 2011. After the checkout, I was putting what I bought into a shopping bag. Just then, an earthquake occurred and the ceiling of the shop was shaking like a wave and about to fall. I rushed under the desk. The ceiling fell down in about two minutes. Soon after the quake subsided, store clerks started to guide shoppers to the third floor of Abuta Junior High School nearby and to evacuate them there.
As for me, I decided to get home to Nobiru district in Higashi-Matsushima City. I went to the parking lot, got into my car, and chose the shortcut farm road instead of the main road. The road was congested. It usually takes about 20 minutes to get there, but it took about an hour that day. When I finally reached the local Nishi Nursery and Ganjōji Temple, the road was blocked. Route 45 was flooded with sea water, and there was a mud slide further down the traffic light, with debris piled up around there. There was a person guiding traffic, saying that I couldn’t get through. So I returned to Ganjōji Temple.
Ganjōji Temple found sea water below its building. I stayed in my car and listened to the radio. Snow kept falling down. It was around 4:00 pm. At that time, the tsunami had already come to Nobiru district. On the radio, I heard “The tsunami is attacking more areas, and houses in Nobiru are being swept away.” “The waves have come up to the second floor of Nobiru Elementary School.” I couldn’t believe it and said to myself, “What is going on?”
There were two junior high school children in my car. I met them by chance after the earthquake at AEON MALL and they were my granddaughter’s classmates. On that day, they had a graduation ceremony at junior high school in the morning and came to Ishinomaki for shopping in the afternoon by train. I was asked to take them to Nobiru with me, and we spent one night in the car together. Outside it was very cold with snow falling on and on. We ate the food I had bought. In the car I had blankets for children, so I hung them on the kids. We spent the night with the engine on.
The next morning, around 5 or 6 o’clock, we started out toward Nobiru district since the waves went away. There was debris everywhere, but Route 45 was cleared by then, so I headed to Nobiru anyway. On the way, a mud-covered woman and a mud-covered child were standing on the roadside, so I picked them up in my car, heading to Nobiru again.
As we came around Nakashita near Nobiru district, everything was normal. I thought, “Good, it is all normal” and kept going. I headed toward Nobiru Elementary School but at around Kameoka, traffic jam stopped me. Everybody was evacuating by car.
As I glanced toward Nobiru Elementary School, I saw a scene I could not believe. Houses were swept away and cars were washed away, with destroyed houses and cars piled up in front of the school.
In addition, electric poles were knocked down, and buildings were torn down and roads were gone, not found anywhere. It was as close to war as could be, a world of hell. I shivered at this scene.
After a while, we got off the car there. The two children, and the mother with child parted from me. I walked to Nobiru Elementary School, worrying about my family. They said that my family had evacuated to the second floor of the school. There I met my husband, son, and granddaughter. However, my son’s wife was not found there.
Soon after the earthquake, my son’s wife was safely evacuated to the home, but she worried about her daughter who practiced at the club activities in the afternoon at junior high school on that day. So, she wanted to school to help her daughter. My husband tried to stop her because of the approaching tsunami. But my son finally said, “Go and come as soon as possible.” Then she rushed to the seaside where junior high school was. My granddaughter was said to be safely evacuated with her five friends on the third floor of junior high school, but her mother dared to go to help her daughter. Sadly, she was swallowed by the tsunami just one step away from junior high school, which left her never to return.
The next day, we went to five shelters in search of my granddaughter’s mom, but in vain. She was found 22 days after the earthquake. In the city, she was found as the 818th victim.
My son still regrets that his words had such consequences, saying, “My wife would not have been hit by the tsunami, if I didn’t tell her to go.” And he still thinks, “It was my fault,” and “The actions I took resulted in tragedy.”
Today, my granddaughter enjoys her school life with her friends, encouraging each other in their club activities and goes on her school life actively and cheerfully, having a dream that she will become a nursery teacher as I was.
Makiko told about her experiences in the disaster at Higashi-Matsushima City Library, on August 11, 2012. Her interview is recorded on the website below.
March 11, 2018
Second Visit to Higashi -Matsushima City
I visited Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture to offer prayers at the memorial concert. The concert was held in the hall of 3.11 Disaster Recovery Memorial Museum. The two musicians, a cellist and a violinist, played several tunes as a duet. In the beginning, they offered a one-minute silent prayer for the souls of the victims with dozens of audience. Then, they began to offer the music for the repose of the souls who were left in the disaster.
Many precious lives were lost in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, an unprecedented disaster. To mourn and pray for the victims, to remember the memories and lessons of the disaster, and to show our appreciations for assistance from Japan and abroad, we created this “3.11 Disaster Recovery Memorial Park” as a center to transmit information to future generations. Without forgetting that day, we face the future together. This is what the tablet says in the photo below.
Nobiru area was once full of tourists, including sea bathers. Nobiru Station was the gateway. On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, with the platform heavily damaged, such as a strut struck down by the tsunami and the rails greatly curved. Higashi-Matsushima City in Miyagi Prefecture has designated the platform of JR Senseki-Tohoku Line Former Nobiru Station as “disaster remains.” Even after the new station moved to a hill, the vestiges of the era continue to remain.
Here is a photo of the new station moved to a hill.
Part of the former train station has been converted into a museum and community space memorializing the tsunami. The facility commemorates the more than five hundred lives lost, and is a place where survivors can come to share their stories. The small museum features a gallery of photographs, video archives of pre-and post- 3.11 Higashi-Matsushima City, also conveying gratitude for support, wisdom, and lessons derived from it to the world and to future generations.
The memorial park has a memorial monument to commemorate and pray for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and a name plate engraving the names of the victims. The words “Repose of Souls”, “Recovery”, and “Gratitude” are also inscribed on the stone tablet.
The top of the monument with the wavy pattern is 3.7 meters high, the same height as the tsunami arrival height.
After the memorial concert, I took a stroll around the memorial park, finding lots of blueberry saplings planted on the disaster area near the former railway station. The tourist orchard of blueberries was being created that time. It is said that the blueberries steadily sprout in March, and begin to bloom in April, and that their fruit swell and ripen in June.
October 29 – 30, 2019
The Class Reunion
Makiko and her classmates graduated from Kakunodate Senior High School in 1969. The school was founded in 1925 in Kakunodate Town, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture. Hirafuku Memorial Museum of Art and Kakunodate Martial Arts Gym are now built in the site of the school, with the new school building built on a hill nearby. The former school site has a yard, where the plants such as cherry trees or memorial trees presented by the graduates have grown taller and taller year by year. The tablet of the school song is erected as the monument.
There is also another monument inscribed with two tanka poems written by Hyakusui Hirafuku (1877–1933), who was a Japanese-style painter as well as a tanka poet. Thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of Hyakusui Hirafuku and his friends, the school is said to have been founded in Kakunodate Town as the sixth oldest Akita Prefectural Senior High School in 1925.
Makiko and her classmates held their class reunion, celebrating their seventieth birthday, inviting me as their teacher. We stayed at the Hotel New Sky, located in the Mizusawa Hot Springs Village near Lake Tazawa in Semboku City, Akita Prefecture. We enjoyed baths with turbid hot springs piped straight from their source, the leaves with autumnal colors, or a wealth of mushrooms in the fall. We talked each other about ourselves, how we were living or what we were doing in everyday lives.
Makiko took part in this reunion with her husband from Higashi-Matsushima City. I told them that I had respectfully accepted messages, mails, haiku or poems of condolence, sympathy or encouragement from my haiku friends after the 3.11 Earthquake. I said to them, “As a token of gratitude, the Akita International Haiku Network will publish a memorial haiku anthology as an e-book on March 11, 2020.”
March 11, 2020
E-book : 3.11 Memorial Haiku 追悼
The Akita International Haiku Network published a memorial haiku anthology in prayer. The book has 66 pages, 5 of which are shown here in this article, with a piece of information added to.
The Akita International Haiku Network