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


(Visited 183 times, 1 visits today)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment



  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold

  • Terrance

    January 5, 2019 |


  • Harold McNeill

    December 23, 2018 |

    Thanks Sis. I will be uploading as Hi-Def so the photos can be viewed full screen. Brother

  • Louise

    December 21, 2018 |

    Amazing collection of photos of the weekend ❤️❤️

  • Harold McNeill

    December 21, 2018 |

    Hi Dave,

    Not sure if you are the same Armit as was at Oak Bay PD or not. Interesting to see your comment on Danny Cain and your birthdays and family friendships. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Thanks, Lynn. It appears there was a problem with the comment system. Cheers, Harold

  • lynnmcneill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Hi Harold – looks great!

  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.