🦀 Crabs and Konjac カニとこんにゃく
Updated: 4 days ago
2023 年 11 月 7 日
Going on past experience, November is an ideal month to visit Japan. The weather is dry, mild and sunny. But what have we here? Rain is forecast for tomorrow. Not good for sightseeing 😟.
We have met up with Tsutomu-san, who is an environmental scientist. Now based in Saitama, he spent three years in this coastal region, specializing in its bird life. So he knows every nook and cranny of the coast. And he has a plan. We will visit Kesennuma, where there is, it seems, an interesting fish market. Firstly we stop for petrol. It's a sort of "Special Offer Day", and Tsutomu-san gets presented with three boxes of tissues...(!)..and lots of marketing stuff...
Amid much laughter and merriment 😂 everything gets photographed by the tourist (that's me)
As we cross the watershed in the hills we make a brief stop under Mount Murone......after all, our driver has not had breakfast yet !
My snack - fresh from the grill......is Konjac....read all about it here !.......
Actually I'm not sure about it....it has a sort of rubbery consistency......
We enter Miyagi Prefecture and reach our destination, the coastal port of Kesennuma. As I get out of the car my eye catches this sign on the wall opposite: It is the high water mark of the 2011 Tsuname, the result of the "Great East Japan Earthquake" (東日本大震災, Higashi nihon daishinsai). Like all these things, I had heard all about this, watched the news and then eventually moved on. But for the people of Kesennuma "moving on" is not just buying a new fishing boat or repairing buildings. As of 22 April 2011, the city had confirmed 837 deaths with 1,196 missing. Everyone knows somebody who was lost....It's the "missing" bit which hurts the most.
So the fish market is a new building. We wandered up and down the stalls......
It's a busy scene.......
and of course oysters.....カキ
The fishing boats are literally outside the door.........Many have powerful lights which at night tempt the fish to gather.....
We gather for a photo.....The Author, Tstomu-san and Natsumi-san. Looking across the harbour behind, all those quayside buildings are new. The further up the hill you go, the older the buildings......There is even a church. Very unusual.
写真を撮りに集まります....著者のツトムさんとナツミさん。 港を背に見ると、波止場にある建物はどれも新しい。 坂を登るほど建物が古くなって……教会もありました。 本当に珍しい。
As we drive out of town I notice that one building has survived the tsunami. It is a Sake brewery...well, well well...
Heading up the coast for lunch, we find a nice modern airy restaurant which also sells local specialities - like this soya sauce....
This is in a place called Rikuzentakata. It was here that the pine forest fronting the beach was completey obliterated by the tidal wave - all except for one solitary tree. Maybe it was protected by the youth hostel nearby. In any event, it has gained a sort of iconic status, and has been left (along with the remains of the youth hostel) as a token of rememberance. The tree died soon afterwards due to the salt water, so what you see here is a restored version. Such is the need for tangible memorials. The Miracle Pine. 奇跡の一本松, Kiseki no Ippon matsu.
The youth hostel...As the ground level collapsed under the earthquake, so did the building. In the background : the new sea wall.
The official figures released in 2021 for the whole coastline reported 19,759 deaths, 6,242 injured, and 2,553 people missing. Numbers. Take a look at this picture...........what a boring picture,.... you could say...this is because there is nothing there. This was a town before 11th March 2011.
Here is the new sea wall....
We all agreed that the overwhelming feeling here was "Kurai" くら 暗 い "gloomy, dark". So there was some reluctance when I suggested we looked in at the museum. After all, when would I come here again? It was an education in itself. There was the human picture.....
Then there was a state-of-the-art presentation of the geological factors which lay behind this disaster. Then there was this.....a fire brigade car found tossed like a toy onto a heap of......of what exactly?....doors, beds, pots. pans, chairs, toys......people's lives.
and the iron walls of the railway bridge bent like plastic......
I find that there is always this distinction between reading about these events from afar, and having the raw material in front of your eyes. I can name a few places I have seen: Dunkirk (a town hall pocked with bullet holes), Dresden (the Frauenkirche - a pile of rubble then), Auschwitz (the banal barracks), Verdun (the unnatural mounds in the landscape).......but these were all caused by homo sapiens (yes, so sapiens ). This here, on the coast of Tohoku, was simply nature shifting slightly.
For me, the broken car and the bent bridge say more than a thousand words (or indeed videos). This thing was strong. I was to come across more of this in the subsequent days of my stay on the Iwate coast.
In these tightly knit fishing towns many have moved away. The government has built new roads, houses, repaired the railway.....but.....
Afterwards, to lighten the mood, we drove up into the hills to an onsen near Hanamaki. This area is thick with these volcanic baths, and water is hot...around 40°c. I'm glad I wasn't driving back, as the soporofic after-effects almost sent me to sleep!
And at the end of the day, as in so often in Japan. we finish with good food....
My brother once asked me "....why do Asians always photograph their food ?...."
You like to take a snapshot of a happy moment do you not? With friends at the seaside, a new baby, posing after a concert that went well........
A steaming Udon noodle soup, with its delicious flavour and it's crunchy textures, is also a happy moment. You are simply enjoying life.
.......and laughing in astonishment as the waiter-robot passes your table......🤣
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