Friday, 1 July 2011

The Supermarket

There was an unofficial smaller THJ trip up to Iwaki, Fukushima again last Saturday. This time there were six of us but we were joined by the same movie actor who came with us about 3 weeks ago, Ken Matsuyama and another Ken, his mate Ken Miyake who is part of a pretty famous boy-band over here called V6. They were both certainly very safe from being pestered by me for an autograph. I thought the new Ken was the actor’s little brother till someone explained to me who he was. Fair play to them though, no prancing around, they got stuck right in like everyone else. With their driver there was ten of us.

This time we were just up the road from the whisky collector’s house the week before. It was pissing down with rain in the morning so we’d been assigned a job indoors, clearing out a small family-owned supermarket that had been trashed. It was the only supermarket around for miles and had been in business for 100 years. We were only 200 metres round the bend from last week but around here, very little was left and there was a lot of fire damage.

The mother and grandmother who ran the place told us a bus had exploded just up the road during the earthquake which set off a fire that raged through the area before the tsunami hit. As the waters receded the grandmother said there were hundreds of Isaki (Gruntfish) flapping around in the debris as well as loads of squid from a nearby processing plant. She said the stench was unbearable for the first month or two and they were finding squid wedged in everywhere.

Since it was a pretty big job we’d been hooked up with another team of six guys from Shizuoka, South-West of Tokyo. Most of the job was pretty standard stuff but after hosing down the floor inside things were getting really slippery underfoot. At one point I saw the youngest member of our crew break-dancing and thought he must have been trying to audition for the boy-band but he was actually just trying to stay upright on the slippery floor.

There was also this one big overturned refrigerated food display rack that just would not move. All 18 of us trying to slide it forward, left, back, right and forward again but absolutely nothing was happening, it was like the thing was nailed to the floor. We tried pulling it with ropes like a big tug-of-war, but one of the ropes snapped. We tried a couple of crowbars under it to try and shuffle it forward with no luck, we managed to roll it over 90° but that didn’t help either. We finally got it moving by counting everyone in and with a big grunt picked the thing straight up and ran it over to the corner. Grocery shopping will never be the same again.

When we were done we chatted some more with the mother and grandmother who insisted we take a carton of soft drinks and some thank-you food home with us. An interesting choice of pizza and donuts, but hey, after sweating and struggling with that overgrown bloody fridge, I’d have eaten anything!

Then, just after 3pm, photos were done and we were counting out the tools back into the van and getting ready to leave. I noticed about five or six small groups of between five and ten people in funeral dress. They had gathered at different spots in the rubble within a few hundred metres of us. The earthquake happened at 2:46pm and the tsunami would have taken 10-30 mins to reach the worst affected areas. They’d come to pay their respects at the exact time the tsunami hit on March 11. A sobering thought to go with our pizza and donuts on the drive home.

Thanks to Sylvain for most of these photos...

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