It is nearly November and autumn finally seems to be making its way here in Tokyo. This past week Sayuri and I went up to Tohoku both to see the fall colors and to visit the quake/tsunami stricken region in preparation for a work trip we are planning in December.
Since my last time up there to volunteer there has been much progress. However, there is still a long way to go in the recovery. While we were there we heard news of the earthquake in Turkey and our prayers go out to the people in that region. Here in Japan there remain many in need of prayer as well.
We stayed at a hotel in Matsushima a city with beautiful views a collection of small costal islands sandwiched between some of the areas which were hardest hit by the tsunami. They did suffer both property damage and loss of life. However, nothing like the massive numbers in neighboring Ishinomaki.
In a normal year millions of tourists visit Matsushima making it one of the top vacation spots in the country. The tourists have chosen to stay away. The hotels and other establishments that make their money off tourism have been devastated. Ordinarily, this time of year the hotel we stayed at would have been overbooked with guests wanting to see the autumn foliage. The night we stayed there it was very empty and Sayuri and I had a quiet breakfast alone at the buffet served to the guests in the morning.
On the way home we went through Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture. Although it is in the same prefecture as the Fukushima Nuclear power facility it is located quite some distance from the troubled reactors. In fact, we were in much closer proximity to the nuclear disaster when we were in Ishinomaki and Matsushima. However, they have suffered quite a bit because of the fact that they are located prefecture of the power plant. We stayed at hotel in fairly well known hot spring resort are which also usually is quite busy this time of year for viewing the changing color of leaves. However, this year they needed to slash their prices in half in order to attract guests to come. From the conversations we had it was clear that people there felt like they were being treated as social pariahs by other Japanese who fear contact with them will be radioactive.
Tomorrow Sayuri and I will be going to Kobe to work with some congregations there this coming weekend. When we first came to work in Japan they were recovering from what had been Japan’s worst earthquake since WWII. I remember what it looked like in the mid-90s and am still amazed by its recovery. I do hope and pray that recovery and new life will come to Tohoku as well.