Japan Tsunami 2011: Fukushima Innkeeper Recounts That Fateful Day

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Japan Tsunami 2011: Fukushima Innkeeper Recounts That Fateful Day” – below is their description.


It’s been 10 years since Japan’s Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, but the rebuilding efforts continue. Bloomberg News visited the city of Kamaishi in 2019 to meet innkeeper, Akiko Iwasaki.

She was running for higher ground as the 2011 tsunami hit her hometown. Iwasaki is still the manager of Horaikan Inn, a beachside hotel in Kamaishi city.

Horaikan was always the designated safety area for city evacuation drills, So everyone had fled to the parking lot. She saw it was not safe, so ran to warn everyone. Right as she was fleeing for higher ground, she thought her life was over.

“Just when I thought everyone was saved and up on the hill, I got swallowed up,” Iwasaki recalled.

She was able to climb onto a bus being swept away and was eventually pulled up onto the hill. She was saved.

“We’re working hard to rebuild our hometown now. I would love visitors to come see that. Young people are coming up with great ideas and many of them was to preserve our beautiful hometown. Please come visit and see for yourselves that the future of Japan is not so dark,” said Iwasaki.

Iwasaki soon returned to what remained of the structure to feed evacuees and within a year Horaikan was back in business. But not everyone in Kamaishi was as lucky.

Coastal Kamaishi, dubbed “the city of steel, fish and rugby,” suffered 1,063 deaths in the 2011 tsunami. About a third of its homes were destroyed and a third of its people evacuated.

At one end of the city is a cemetery that is a grim reminder of that horrible day — March 11, 2011 — and its aftermath. On the other is a gleaming new stadium built in an area that was submerged by deadly waves about 10 years ago, in which Japan proudly hosted matches for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It symbolizes what the region has overcome since the tsunami ravaged Japan’s northeast coast.

Kamaishi and Japan’s northeast coast, devastated by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people dead or missing, have been mostly rebuilt.

New homes and refurbished roads showcase one of the developed world’s costliest restoration projects. Yet the area now must contend with another threat — a decline in the economy and population affecting regional Japan that is particularly worrisome in this region, hollowed out by the disaster.

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