Oct 27 2012

Escape from the tsunami disaster area

Even though my next town Kamaishi has plenty of hotels which have already been restored, I’m still having a hard time finding a room. There is a huge steel plant in Kamaishi which is fully functional again. A major part of the city is located in a long, narrow valley which reaches far into the countryside with a steady incline towards it, which is why this part of town survived the tsunami. The thriving economy here results in fully booked hotels. After hustling to the fifth hotel, I finally find a room. I’m stressed out, and I just want to leave the coast behind me already.

The next day, I finally reach my destination, the reason for my journey through this disaster region: the Kindergarten Midori for which I collect donations.

When leaving Otsuchi for Miyako another typhoon passes through. However the eye of the storm lies over the sea. Still it causes such strong winds and heavy rain that its impossible for me to film Otsuchi. This town tops everything I’ve seen so far in terms of destruction. It could also be Hiroshima one week after the detonation of the A-bomb. It’s horrible! Grey rain beats over the sulky wasteland of rubble and foundations. The horizon disappears in eternal mist. I’m just here for a few days but the people here face this scene of devastation every day!


To a great extent my next city of Miyako was mainly spared because it was fortunately protected by a peninsula which blocked most of the tsunami. Still here I cycle through a small part of the city completely wiped out as well.

The cliff shore from Miyako on towards Kuji

The cliff shore from Miyako on towards Kuji

From Miyako towards the north the seashore turns into a – at some points 200 m high – cliff coast. It would be 90 km from Miyako to the next biggest town Kuji. Too far for me to make it in one day with my heavy trailer and several mountains and valleys in between. So I search for a hostel in Tanohata, a little town in between. When reaching it in the evening it turns out it is closed. My fault. I didn’t call them to place a reservation. Of course it’s the only hostel in this little town. I ask at the Koban (local police station) if they had some advice. They call several guest houses for me – yes I know something like that would never happen in Germany but seems to be a matter of course for them – but all are full. There is a small hotel near the shore about eight km away from here they tell me. Meanwhile it’s dark outside. Shortly before I hit the road again my back light won’t turn on. Somehow the strong rain of the last typhoon must have damaged the internal electronics. Of course worse always comes to worst. As if this wouldn’t be bad enough already the police guys warn me that it’s a very dangerous course through a very deep and narrow canyon. I better not tell them my back light does not work as I’m pushing my bicycle around the corner while saying good bye to them.

The cliff shore from Miyako on towards Kuji

The cliff shore from Miyako on towards Kuji

I’m slowly approaching the canyon. And it is deep indeed. The street has no continuous crash barrier. What also makes me anxious is the fact that it is in the middle of nowhere and there are no cars passing. So should something happen to me here it might take some time until somebody would discover me. At least it’s a clear bright starlit night and not too cold. On one hand the contrast of the steep canyon walls against the jewelled sky looks somehow threatening but on the other hand it has something romantic. Nonetheless. Both are pretty distracting and it happens that I almost plummet into the chasm. It is so dark that I barely see anything despite my front light.


I survive the canyon and finally reach the hotel. Of course it’s full. After the chase for free rooms and escaping two typhoons and seeing so much destruction within the last few days and the struggle through the canyon and therefore being absolutely exhausted it drives me to total desperation. I really can’t go on any longer! Apparently the hotel owner sees how desperate I am. He knows there is really nothing around here where I could stay. He also knows it would be quite cruel to send me away so he decides to convert the common room to a room for me. I want to get out of this area! I really want to get out of here!

Special thanks to: Mattew Hahn, Travis Haby (text revision)Tori & Kyle Sharpe (all U.S.A.) Hubertus Neidhart from Webspace Provider Network for excellent web page hosting services; Lilith Pendzich

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