Tsunami Survivors Share Their Stories: Resurrecting Otsuchi, Japan

Following the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan, the sheer scale of the tsunami which smashed into northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011 was unprecedented. Coastal communities were devastated by waves which at their highest reached 40.5 meters above sea level, travelled up to 10km inland, and swept everything along with them. Mud, debris, cars, boats, houses, and fire.

The small town of Otsuchi in Iwate Prefecture was one of the hardest hit. About 10 percent of the population perished or went missing, including the mayor and many town officials. Iwate’s leading local newspaper, the Iwate Tokai Shimbun, was unable to continue operating as their printing press was washed out to sea, and two of their reporters were killed.

In 2012, a group of journalists banded together to once again start reporting the news from Otsuchi to support the town’s recovery, using the Internet to connect with people. Tsunami survivors have shared their stories of terror, panic, suffering and hope for the future through this new newspaper, known as the Otsuchi Mirai Shimbun (“Otsuchi Future Times”). These stories have been translated from the original Japanese into English by a team of 28 hard-working volunteers from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., and published on the second anniversary of the disaster as a Kindle ebook.

Here are some excerpts from these true stories of survival:

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