Water hit us from all directions. Rain from the sky and waves splashing over the side of the boat. My jeans were completely soaked through and I had to yell to be heard over the motor, but I couldn’t be happier. The fog grazing the black water as the waves swelled up and down looked like something straight out of a Godzilla movie. At any second I was expecting giant dorsal fins to cut through the water. The fisherman whose boat we were on stopped the boat and started to pull up a mass of oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. Something about the grittiness of the boat and the intenseness of the weather made me feel like an authentic Japanese fisherman. The boat owner, Mr. Muraoka, grabbed one of the oysters and cracked the shell open, sucking the raw oyster through his teeth with a loud slurp. He then motioned for me to do the same. This was the only thing during this trip that I hesitated before eating, but I eventually did slurp it down. It tasted like liquid salt. It wasn’t necessarily bad but could use a little lemon.
We ended up getting off the boat and lighting up a grill under a temporary building that looked like a waterproof circus tent. We dropped the shellfish we just caught onto the heat and began to feast on what was by far the freshest tasting oysters I’ve ever had. During this lunch, we listened to the fisherman’s story. He survived the tsunami after saving his entire family and a fellow fisherman. His story both humbled and inspired me. I never knew someone as respectable and saintlike as this man could possibly exist, and my world now feels a little more hopeful knowing people like him are real.
A topic that really interests me came up in our discussion with the fisherman, Mr. Muraoka. The topic that came up was nature, particularly the ocean. Mr. Muraoka said he believes that nature allows us to live, that we should take of it for allowing us to live off it. I will have to say that I agree. Nature is something of great beauty. There is no doubt about that. But it is also something of great destruction. Me and many other children have been told this for years and have acknowledged this fact. However seeing the damage first hand has changed everything, and even though I’m experiencing this 3 years after the tsunami happened, I feel the bone-chilling fear of what happened. It is very different from watching a disaster happening on TV or in a book. When you actually stand in the place where the disaster took place, you realize a lot of things. For me it was realizing I stood where houses should be. I stood where there should be shops. I walked by a space where there should be an elementary school. I should be seeing green everywhere but there is not. Instead I am standing in a construction area. I am standing in fields of brown dirt. I am standing near temporary houses. I am standing with tears in my eyes realizing where I am standing was once covered by a tsunami that washed away 1,800 homes and approximately 840 people.
That is why my fear of nature is on a whole new scale. Don’t get me wrong. I do not hate or blame the ocean. The ocean does not have emotions or have a vendetta against humans. The ocean just is and it does what it does. The ocean is still the livelihood for the fishermen and without it, the town has no chance of revival. During my whole time in Tohoku, I marveled at nature, including the ocean. The beauty here is indescribable and the air feels fresh and clean. So my personal belief is that nature should be respected and protected, but also be aware that it is not a joke. It has no problem with taking anything away from you, and you have no chance of fighting back. However it feeds us and gives a home. In closing, nature is not good or evil; it just lives and moves forward.
Our day in Minamisanriku was an interesting exploration of a community that has been changed completely by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Each community member we met today had different experiences with the earthquake and tsunami, but they all had one thing in common: a strong will to persevere and rebuild the town to an even better state than what it was before. I enjoyed talking to all of the Minamisanriku citizens yesterday and felt that their stories changed my attitude toward a lot of things like the idea of being grateful for the small things and people in your life.
One of the community members we got to meet yesterday was a woman who had started a business making small figurines out of cocoons. Astonishingly, she makes and sells them out of a small temporary living facility near the sea. When we first walked into her workshop, we were all amazed at the amount of intricate little cocoon dolls she had made. At first glance I was sure that I could never make anything so nice, but when we began to make them and she helped us through the process we all began to see and understand how these cool little dolls could be made by even the most non-artistic person.
We all began to craft our figurines together, and as we made them many people in our group began to come up with our own individual ideas that we could make into dolls. Sierra made a very ‘kawaii’ caterpillar, Micah made a very frightening ninja complete with a sword, and Luke made a very interesting model of Godzilla with his. The experience was actually really fun and getting to make these while talking to a community member trying to change her town for the better was a very interesting experience.
We went to the Togura area of Minamisanriku to discover their way of fishing. We learned a bit of the fisherman’s trade from fisherman Muraoka-san. We rode on Mr. Muraoka’s fishing boat and got to see interesting fish. There was one fish that was so cool to me and extremely different from any fish I’d heard of. It’s called a Sea Squirt. It’s a single celled organism that hatches from an egg and begins as a tadpole. It then grows to a fish. The weird part is the final product. It becomes a hard red stone like creature, and only has a mouth and waste hole. It even grows after that! It keeps its last shape though. When cooked it is very sweet and, as Mr. Muraoka described, has a magical affect. After eating it once, everything you eat or drink after has a sweeter taste. It’s a “magic fish.” This fish can only be found in Togura, and is a specialty to the people. I wish we got to try this fish. It sounded so amazing and tasty. I know that when I return to Minamisanriku one day, a Sea Squirt will be sure to be on my dinner plate!
During the morning, we had a great fishery experience and looked into one of the fun activities of Earth Camp. I really enjoyed the time spent with Muraoka-san. He is a real-life superhero. He is a fishermen, chef, gardener, loving family member, leader in his community and much more. I really appreciated his willingness to talk to us about 3/11. He saved so many lives because of his awareness and selflessness. These amazing traits coupled with his resilience is truly admirable and inspiring. After our amazing experience and look into the fishing industry, we made art out of silk cocoons. This was even more special because it was in a temporary house used for crafts. The woman teaching us to make the crafts was also the wife of a brave fisherman that we met earlier. This was very engaging and fun.