At 2:46 today, exactly three weeks after the quake, I was driving along an old road, the Oshu Kaido. It winds up and down, bordered by gnarled old pine trees, and with a bit of imagination you can conjure up images of the daimyo and their entourage making their half yearly trips to the shogun in Edo. It was sunny and had that misty feeling of spring, snow covered mountains in the distance. No sign yet of spring foliage or blossom but spring can't be far away.
More first-hand stories today. The owner of the company who makes our printing dyes visits every week from Sendai and came today for the first time since the disaster. He lives in Matsushima, a famous tourist resort. He lost his 90 year old mother in the tsunami. He found her body the next day and managed to get her cremated straightaway. He seemed to have lost weight and he told me he'd worked as a volunteer in the local temple for ten days: 'I lost only one member of my family but there were people who had lost four or five family members', he said. For the first five days he was busy as the local spokesman for visiting foreign media. Then he got to work using his contacts to get food in for this was the most pressing problem. He had friends in Hokkaido who organised 30 people to come and cook hot raamen (noodles) for the evacuees. He said some people cried when they got this hot meal.
I asked him a question that many of you have asked me. How can people give money and know it's getting to the people who need it? He said they were given lists of where the food and relief items came from. He said the Japanese Red Cross was the main donor in the early days along with donations raised on televison. I asked if there was anything we as a company could do and he asked for corrugated sheet which could be made into partitions for use in the evacuation centres. Prefabs are being built but many people face weeks if not months in such centres. So we're going to try and organise this and it will be good to do something to help.
Our salesman who used to be based in the Iwaki area visited there yesterday and showed me some pictures he'd taken. It's one thing seeing images on television but quite another for someone you know to show them on his camera with a commentary in his own words. He'd taken pictures in Onohama port: big boats washed up on the quays, one boat quite a way inland. It brought home again the force of the tsunami. We'd wanted pictures of the industrial estate where some of our customers are based but the area was off limits. There are police from all over Japan in the disaster areas, cordoning areas off, making them secure.
Incidentally, the disaster has been re-named (this is the third name) and is now officially the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災 Higashi Nihon Daishinsai). In Koriyama life is getting back to normal. We have petrol and the shelves in the Seven Eleven are almost full. No big aftershocks today. If only that nuclear power station wasn't there ... But more of that tomorrow.Good night