Japan, East Coast: A Journey of Recovery

Written by Harold McNeill on September 21st, 2013. Posted in Travelogue

Japan East Coast Soccer Teams

Photo: Just a few of the kids and adults we met during our trip along the East Coast. At this newly refurbished soccer pitch, Canadian flags, World Cup soccer balls, pinnies (including several used by the Japanese U20 mens team) along with other pieces of memorabilia from the 2007, U20 Mens World Cup, was very popular. Many of the older soccer players were aware that Victoria had hosted the Japanese team during the U20 World Cup as the games were broadcast and streamed live to Japan.

Link Here for Chapters 1 – 5

Link Here for the East Coast Slideshow on You Tube


Link Here for Individual Photos on Flicker


Link Here for Photos on Facebook


Chapter 6  A Journey of Recovery

While an important part of our mission to Japan was flying the colours of Victoria in our sister city of Morioka, another, and equally important part, was assisting in modest way with the East Coast recovery efforts.

Morioka, for those who are not aware, is the Capital City of Iwate Prefecture, the Prefecture that encompasses much of the heavily damaged area.  For the citizens of Morioka and surrounding area, dealing with the immediate and long-term effects of the disaster was and is an immense challenge, challenges they accepted with equanimity.

Japan East Coast with School TeamsIn Victoria, Bill and Rita McCreadie, along with Lynn and I, were able to raise a modest amount of money to be wholly designated to the purchase of sports equipment and musical instruments for school children whose lives were torn apart on March 11, 2011.  On an earlier trip, shortly after the event, Bill and Rita had already raised sufficient funds to buy a van that was left in the Coastal area to assist those in need.

While the effects of the quake and subsequent tsunami still provide a stark reminder of the power of nature, the resilience of the surviving residents, with overwhelming support from their fellow countrymen and friends around the world, was and is nothing short of amazing.

That magnitude 9.0 quake was the largest ever to hit Japan and the fifth largest in the world since records of these events began in 1900. The quake triggered a tsunami that, at points along the coastal inlets, raised a wall of water to 40.5 meters (132 feet). That tremendous wave hurdled over every man made barrier and crushed almost everything in its path. Yet, equally amazingly, some buildings were left standing in areas of total destruction.

In some wide river valleys, the wave travelled over ten kilometers inland. A little further south the tsunami swamped large part of Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture). The swath of death and destruction along the coastal bays, inlets and river valleys included:Nuclear_plants_Japan_in_2011.svg

  • • 15,883 killed
  • • 6,546 injured
  • • 2,654 missing
  • • 129,225 buildings destroyed
  • • 254,204 half collapsed
  • • 691,776 damaged
  • • 4.4 million in Northern Japan left without electricity
  • • 3.5 million without water
  • • 7 meltdowns at 3 nuclear reactors
  • • 2.4 meters – distance Honshu Island moved
  • • 10 – 24 cm (4 – 10 inches) distance the earth shifted on its axis
  • • Billions in damage

While many around the world have viewed images of the event as it unfolded and of the subsequent devastation, it is still difficult to grasp the magnitude of the destructive force of that wall of water, an event that has been experienced in many parts of the world over the history of our planet.  No matter that it has happened many times, it is still catastrophic to those who stand in the eye of the storm. Many of those we visited along the East Coast have lost nearly everything – family members, friends, homes, jobs and businesses.

Even two years later and with much of the debris having being removed and temporary facilities put in place, it is still easy to see the overall effects of the damage. What is not so easy to comprehend is the human toll. Yet, when meeting kids at one of the many temporary school facilities or on a newly refurbished soccer pitch, the excitement and exuberance of those kids can overshadows much of the anguish that must rest just below the surface.

P1050481Those who survived are trying as best they can to rebuild their lives, lives that, for many, do not include moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends, many of whom vanished without trace.  Hundreds of these families are now living in small, over-crowded temporary buildings and many are breadwinners who are still without work as hundreds of small and large businesses were destroyed.

It is a sad fact that many of those businesses shall never return as the owners, as with the workers they employed, have lost everything.  Even the fact of reconciling why some lived and some died, is beyond comprehension.

As an example, at 4:20 pm on that particular Friday, several bus loads of students and teachers from along the coast were away on a field trips or heading to sport events far from the areas of devastation.

While they escaped being killed for injured, a good many would never again see their families, co-workers or school friends.  A large number were not even allowed to return for months, as there was no and nothing to return too. Those with relatives in another area found some semblance of stability and were able to grieve among family, but others, who had no connections to family or friends, were taken into the care volunteers or placed in orphanages.

In the linked photo album and slide show, an attempt was made to capture the scale of the need, but, at best, these photos only provide a superficial summary.  The first six photos (and that of two of temporary shelters) were selected from the web, the rest were taken during our visit.

It’s always awkward snapping photos in instances where people are present and struggling to move forward with their lives. It is intrusive and in some areas of the world “Disaster Tourism” has become a business that generates big dollars.  I don’t think that is yet the case along the East shores of Japan, but one can readily appreciate how that business opportunity might develop as it has in many other areas of the world.

In this instance, it was our good fortune to be attending for a purpose that extended beyond simply viewing the challenges faced by others.

Harold and Lynn

Link Here for Chapters 1 – 5


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  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.


    November 15, 2021 |

    These stories brought back some sweet memories for me. a wonderful trip down memory lane . the photos were great. It has made me miss those days.


    November 15, 2021 |

    Enjoyed your story Harold Dorothy Hartman