Travel

Ishinomaki Tsunami 2011 Devastation

In order to access Tashirojima (Cat Island) you have to take a ferry from Ishinomaki … and that’s how I ended up there.
Originally I had no intention to do any sightseeing or take photos there, but when I saw how badly the city had been destroyed by the tsunami I was so sad and shocked. I also wanted to show others how some parts of Japan look after over a year (May 2012) since the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan in March 2011.

 

Visited: May 1st 2012

Damage caused by the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 in Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki

Ishinomaki City (石巻市) is a city in Miyagi Prefecture, not too far from Sendai.
Compared to other spots in Japan I guess it’s not a major tourist spot at all. One more reason to share my travel log with you!

Damage caused by the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 in Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki

Almost everywhere in Miyagi Prefecture you can still see the damage that the Great Tohoku Earthquake 2011 caused.
Some of the cities near the coast in Miyagi Prefecture have not only been damaged by the earthquake, but also been severely devastated by tsunami waves. Ishinomaki City was one of them.

Damage caused by the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 in Miyagi Prefecture, Furukawa JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

My hotel “Toyoko Inn” was in Furukawa and while there wasn’t any damage due to the tsunami, the earthquake destroyed a lot. Even the hotel was still undergoing reconstruction work.

From Furukawa it takes about 80 minutes to get to Ishinomaki.

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

The view from the 2nd floor within JR Ishinomaki Station.

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

You will run into characters of the famous manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori. His mentor was Osamu Tezuka!
The cute cat-shaped buildings on nearby Tashirojima (Cat Island) were designed by Mr. Ishinomori!

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

While Ishinomaki doesn’t have to offer that much in terms of tourist spots, I guess for fans of Shotaro Ishinomori’s series such as Cyborg 009, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger or Kamen Rider, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Ishinomaki City JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

The station and everything around it is full of his characters.
There were only a few coin lockers in the station building. There were some bigger ones a few meters away, outside of the station, too!

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

JR Ishinomaki Station is very colorful!
In pink letters it says: “がんばろう!石巻” (Hang in there, Ishinomaki!!)

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

A few meters away from the station, you’ll find this huge “Manga Map” that shows all the spots of interests for Mr. Ishinomori’s fans. While some of the characters look familiar, I have to admit that I don’t know any of his series. How about you?

On the left you can see a small sign that says “coin lockers”. That’s where you can find the bigger coin lockers I mentioned earlier.

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

Ishinomaki Station is quite small. You can even see the trains from outside of the station!
Even here you’ll run into colorful illustrations.

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

On the left you see from where I took the previous railway photo. This is a really nice café. You can access the train platforms from there as well!

JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture JR Ishinomaki Station, Miyagi Prefecture

Even the mailbox in front of the station features some characters!

Ishinomaki Manga Road, Ishinomori, Miyagi Prefecture

This map shows you the “Ishinomaki Manga Road“. It displays all the spots where manga figures and statues are located.

Ishinomaki City

The area map in front of the station mentioned Manga Island where you can see the cute cat-shaped buildings I posted in my last entry. Not surprising as “Tashirojima” officially belongs to Ishinomaki City.

Instead of getting off at Tashirojima, you could go all the way to “Ajishima” (網地島) where you’ll find beautiful beaches!

 

The Ishinomaki Tsunami Devastation

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I took all the photos you saw so far in the morning before taking the ferry to “Cat Island“. Up until then I didn’t even notice that Ishinomaki was damaged that badly. I think that was partly because it was really foggy in the morning, so I couldn’t see much.

However, once I came back from Tashirojima in the afternoon and the weather was clearer, I saw how severely the coastal area had been devastated.
Even one year later they were still cleaning up the mess!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

After coming back from Cat Island I decided to save my money and walk back to the station instead of taking a bus or taxi. It should have been a very short walk, but … I didn’t expect to see so much destruction.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I knew that the coastal area was hit by the tsunami, but that was over a year ago, so I surely didn’t expect to see what I got to see.
No matter where I looked, there was a lot of empty space. The houses that once stood there were simply washed away by the high tsunami waves.

All – completely – gone! :(

I was very shocked. I kept standing there for a long time …. looking at the empty spots where once houses stood …. and the piles of garbage, … belongings of people … who might not even be alive anymore.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I felt extremely sad. By seeing this right before my eyes, it became obvious to me just HOW destructive the tsunami must have been …. and that the people living there didn’t have the slightest chance to run away from it …

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011 Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Laundry, dishes … everything was still left the way it was.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

It felt like I was in the atomic bomb museum of Hiroshima or Nagasaki … where even the clocks stopped when the bomb hit …

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011 Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

The sign you see in the right photo was in the 3rd floor. I think that shows well how high the tsunami must have been.

At first I wasn’t sure if it was ok to take photos (morally, not legally!smilie) …. I didn’t feel good about it. I felt like a nasty tourist who came all the way just to stare at the miserable situation of others and then take photos of it.

But as this wasn’t the case ….. and because I REALLY wanted to share my experience with others … I figured it would be ok.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

All the houses that are still standing are deserted. All belongings are still inside, too.
I fear that’s because the people who lived there haven’t survived … smilie

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011 Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

The front door was pushed in by the strength of the waves. There were broken bits of glass everywhere.
It looks like the bathtub came falling down from the second floor.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

The bicycle also didn’t survive the tsunami it seems! :/ ….

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

This area was completely washed away. It seems only the houses that were close to the mountains were protected.
Isn’t this just a horrible image? Doesn’t it look like the tsunami just hit a few hours ago??? But actually it was 14 months(!!!!) ago!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I suppose it’s dangerous to go in there. It looks like the ceiling is coming down any second.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I’m sure that you’ve seen on TV that even big ships were swept away by the strong tsunami. In Ishinomaki there were still a few ships stuck on the mainland.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Although I was not on Cat Island anymore, I ran into this adorable cat. ^-^
It kept meowing. It was as if it was telling me what happened here last year. The cat also looked a bit battered. I bet the cat had gone through a lot, too!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

I was actually surprised that there was no barrier or at least a rope and a sign saying: “Danger! Don’t enter!“.

Anybody could just enter! I’m especially worried about kids going in there to play. A lot of those buildings looked like they’d fall apart soon!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Although the area was damaged so badly, you still could see and feel how beautiful it once was … and hopefully it can fully recover soon!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

There were so many deserted buildings and shops.

I don’t know the truth, but I suppose that the people living there either didn’t survive or simply have no money to start reconstruction work.
Either way, it clearly shows that Tohoku still needs help – and if it’s just in form of tourists that bring some money back in!!!!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

ALL the buildings that were lined up in the first row right in front of the ocean got dramatically damaged.
Some houses farther behind were a bit luckier.

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Half of the building is missing. I suppose there were stairs up to the second floor and some area where you could walk and access those doors that now hang up in the air. Scary!! I wouldn’t want to park my car too close to that house. What if it collapses?

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Devastation no matter where you looked! And if you now think that I invaded somebody’s house, you’re wrong!
I think you already saw that some houses had their windows burst and doors washed away.
Thus you got to see what was inside the houses without actually going too close to them.
I’m not sure what exactly that big thing in the background is, but it looks heavy.
After breaking through doors and walls, the waves were obviously still strong enough to make this big thing fall!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

The parking lot was hit as well. Actually I’m surprised that it’s still standing. It’s probably stronger than it looks!

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

Despite all the devastation the people in Ishinomaki seemed to be happy. A lot of them thanked me for visiting. They told me that not many tourists had come since March 2011. Not only foreign tourists stayed away, but also Japanese.
I think it’s slowly recovering, but we still need to spread the word!

Ishinomaki needs our support!

Ishinomaki, Ishinomori Manga Museum, Miyagi Prefecture

This is the Ishinomori Manga Museum (石ノ森萬画館) dedicated to the manga works of Shotaro Ishinomori whose characters are spread throughout the whole city.

As the museum is situated right next to the Pacific Ocean it was damaged by the tsunami as well and thus had to close its doors.
Reconstruction work was still going on when I visited.
On November 17 2012 it finally re-opened.

Ishinomaki, Ishinomori Manga Museum, Miyagi Prefecture

I found this hilarious! It says “Dumbass, don’t freaking park your car here!

It uses very rude Japanese, but in smaller letters (on the very left) it’s written one more time in more polite Japanese. Typical! *g*

 

 

Damage by the Ishinomaki tsunami and earthquake Japan March 2011

The beautiful background makes you almost forget about the horrible things that have happened, but the little destroyed house in the center reminds you of it again …

Manhole cover Ishinomaki

As you know I always take photos of the manhole covers of every city I visit.
Ishinomaki has by far the most colorful and beautiful ones I’ve seen in a long time!

Manhole cover Ishinomaki

The damage caused by the earthquake can still be seen everywhere on the streets. As it isn’t anything major they haven’t repaired it yet.

Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori

As soon as you leave the coastal area you won’t notice any major damage anymore.
The tsunami also reached the areas here, but I suppose the damage wasn’t as bad, so it was easier to repair things.

From here you walk through a shopping district to the station and Mr. Ishinomori’s figures are greeting you at every corner.

Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori

The one on the right looks like it’s watching out for something bad / scary to come. It was staring in the direction of the ocean. Considering what happened a year before … it’s kind of sad, don’t you think?

Ishinomaki manga, Ishinomori

Many other famous manga / anime artists came to visit Ishinomaki in the past few years. Do you recognize any of the characters, series or artists? ^^

Ishinomaki manga, Ishinomori

I guess Lupin is the most famous among all of them?!

Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori Ishinomaki manga figures, Ishinomori

The characters of Cyborg 009 were standing in front of shops, banks and post offices.

Ishinomaki manga, Ishinomori

The yellow letters say “漫画の国・いしのまき”: Land of Manga – Ishinomaki

Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, ganbatte tohoku message

Apart from all the figures you could also see a lot of “Hang in there, Ishinomaki!” messages.

 

After arriving at the station I checked out the tourist information building. There wasn’t much, but you could buy books or postcards, featuring photos of the destruction. The money will be used to rebuild Ishinomaki City! So, definitely go there and buy something! Even just one postcard can help! smilie

I left Ishinomaki with mixed feelings. All in all I had a great time. I was able to FINALLY visit Cat Island and confirm with my own eyes that everything was (relatively) ok. And despite all the horrible things that have happened, the people in Ishinomaki keep living happily. They haven’t given up in the least! smilie

My next stop was Akita Prefecture where I visited Akita City and Kakunodate! The latter being a very famous cherry blossom viewing spot.

18 Comments

    • Thanks for your comment!
      Knowing about it and actually seeing it with your own eyes is definitely something different!
      Of course I knew about it before I went there, but I was really shocked when I saw it with my own eyes. I felt like crying because the pictures of the tsunami that swept away everything were in my head! :(

  • Yeah, another great post ZJ. We still need tourists to visit the Tohoku area in Japan and boost the local economies. It still shocking to see the amount of destruction caused by the disaster and the huge amount of work still required to get these places back to normal once again.

  • Thank you for this post. You had the right motive in taking pictures of the damaged houses. People who read this post will be aware of Ishinomaki’s current situation and somehow be encouraged to visit the place to help rebuild it. Seeing the news on TV about the destruction the tsunami has brought was already depressing and I could not imagine how you felt seeing it right before your own eyes. :(

  • Danke, dass du deine Eindrücke mit der Welt teilst. Ich finds einfach unglaublich wichtig, dass man sieht, wie es da aussieht und dass die Menschen da immer noch ganz viel HIlfe brauchen. Es ist einfach unglaublich..dieses Bilder zu sehen.. mir kommen da immer die Tränen in die Augen..das ist einfach unglaublich schrecklich! Ich wünsche den Menschen da ganz viel Kraft.

    Jedenfalls ein schöner Post und danke dafür. <3

  • I followed up with the aftermaths and the initiations the government was supposed to do. It really seems like the government is not taking a lead any longer and that frustrates me very much. A lot of projects were started strong but is not carried out half heartedly. Very uncharacteristic of Japanese. The country is not held up by a strong governmental system but the people’s will it appears to me. Seeing that Shinzo Abe is furiously visiting foreign countries to build further economic ties with them seems so wrong to me at the moment.

    • I totally agree.
      I’ve also been in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami hit and I was so angry with how the Japanese government handled the whole situation – and instead of apologizing and at least giving their best afterwards, they’ve done almost nothing! At least not as much as they should have done! :(

  • Visited Ishinomaki and the famous Manga Museum 2 years before the 2011 disaster,just feel lucky that me and my husband were not there on that fateful day. Such a small peaceful town when we got there. Friendly locals too when asking for direction.Be strong-Ishinoakians!

    • I know how you feel! I’ve been to Fukushima and Sendai Prefectures before it happened and when they showed a few familiar places on TV, it was a really weird feeling.
      I’m just glad it didn’t happen when I went there, but of course I wish it would have never happened AT ALL! :/

  • Following the European (especially German) news about 3/11 you’d think that a nuclear power plant caused an earthquake and a tsunami. 99% of the news are about Fukushima Daiichi. That’s why all these pictures concerning 3/11 are so important.
    Nobody (especially outside Japan) was prepared for such an earthquake – so, nobody should act now like a know-it-all. :peace:

  • hi ,
    thank you for this post …but i am wondering if visiting ishinomaki for architecture workshop is dangerous because of the radiation transmission caused by Fukushima , that is not far away from the region?
    do you have any informations regarding the radiation topic (while visiting ishinomaki in your trip)
    thannk you and i would really appreciate your reply

    • There are many people living much closer to the power plant in Fukushima.
      Currently TEPCO is working hard to make it safer again but as we all know they’re awesome at failing.
      It’s hard to tell what might happen from here on.

      Right now I wouldn’t worry at all, especially if you’re only going for a workshop as opposed to living there. ;)

      Here’s a radiation map.

  • Excellent article. :-) I’ve been to Minamisanriku and Kesennuma in the last two years to visit the recovery markets and bring some money to the region. While the devastation is heartbreaking i also found the spirit of the local people to be very impressive. Rebuilding their livelihoods and doing something positive. Both visits left deep impressions… Something i can totally recommend to everybody visiting Japan.