Modern conveniences are returning to parts of Hokkaido, but there’s still much to be done.

K. Nagahashi is a long-time correspondent for our Japanese language site who lives in Eniwa City in the northern island prefecture of Hokkaido. The epicenter of the 6 September 6.7 earthquake was about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from where he lives, causing large-scale damage and a loss of services such as electricity.

On the day of the quake, Nagahashi’s power was also taken out, but luckily was reconnected by the evening of the same day. However, many traffic lights in his area were still dark. After stocking up on the essentials along with everyone else in long lines, he decided to stay at home for the next few days.

▼ Tsuruha Drug Store, Day 1

A risk of aftershocks was certainly a part of the reason not to make any unnecessary trips, but Nagahashi was also trying to conserve gas as much as possible. Unlike the densely packed urban centers of Japan, cars are a necessity here in order to get anywhere, or leave if need be.

Because of this, gasoline is something a lot of people took for granted until its true value suddenly became very apparent. Every day an unbelievably long line of cars stretched down the road to stock up on fuel.

▼ The line for gas is so long, you can’t even see what they’re lining up for at the end.

On the fourth day (9 September), Nagahashi decided to join them and found that the whole process was, by this time, surprisingly smooth and quick.

The station attendant told him, “I think it’s going to be okay, because fuel has been arriving from Honshu [the main island of Japan].” Pulling out of the station it also dawned on Nagahashi that the traffic lights were almost all up and running again.

On his way home, he decided to make a quick stop at a home appliance store for some supplies. However, at the entrance they had a handwritten sign set up announcing everything that had already been cleared off the shelves.

▼ “Sold Out Report: D batteries, hand crank radios, battery powered USB chargers, LED lamps, pocket radios, gas stoves and refill cans.”

According to the sign, the store was only going to be open until 3 p.m. for the time being. Without much to show for that trip, Nagahashi went home for the day.

The following day, the fifth since the quake, he ventured out to a convenience store. The first day of the quake resulted in a large rush on all corner stores leaving shelves bare, but on this day there were a few items returning. It wasn’t much but it was a start.

The clerk told Nagahashi, “The nearby supermarket has begun putting new food on shelves, so I think we’ll be getting ours soon too. It’s difficult to say for sure though.”

Nagahashi decided to go check out this supermarket and see how it was looking. Sure enough, as the convenience store clerk had told him, shelves were beginning to fill up again. Freshly made food items like onigiri could be found along with milk, bread, and instant noodles, all of which were a sight for sore eyes for the many customers that could be seen inside.

There were still a lot of conspicuous gaps along the shelves, but Nagahashi had also arrived right when they were opening for business. Staff were still stocking shelves while he was there, so the situation might have been even better by the afternoon.

It was a comforting trip, giving Nagahashi a sense that by 10 September, things in Eniwa were already returning to normalcy. The worst of it might be over after all, but he was still mindful of the other areas of Hokkaido that weren’t so lucky and the people who lost much more than services during this disaster. Hopefully, they too can begin their road to recovery without any further trouble.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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