Traces of the tsunami

We didn’t have any trainees whose homes were damaged by the tsunami, so no one went into temporary housing either.

On the other hand, our building was the only place that got hit, so all of our trainees really wanted Sakuranbo to recover quickly. They didn’t withdraw, but were really energetic and happy when we resumed our activities.

But the building and staff were facing great difficulties. Some of our staff’s homes were damaged in the tsunami, or their cars were swept away and had crashed into their houses. Sakuranbo’s foundation was carried off around 2-3 meters, and the underground electrical lines and water pipes were all ruptured and destroyed. We didn’t know what to do.

Shelter closure

I heard you were in the shelter until summer or so.

Kayoko: We were the last ones to leave.

First the non-disabled people started moving into temporary housing. The number of evacuees gradually decreased, and once all the non-disabled people finished evacuating, evacuations to the Seiyu-kan Building were called off. We were surprised as we were still living in the workshop.

Yasuko: It was already closed.

Tada: The temporary group home still wasn’t finished at that time, right?

Kayoko: It was September when the temporary group home was completed and we moved.  We were hit by a big typhoon in fall that year. We had just moved two days before and were finally settled in. It was the time when we were like, wow, I can sleep in my own room now, right?

Ogawa: Yes.

Kayoko: I was relieved there were no major damages. But I think they really put up with a lot.


Is Ms. Ogawa usually the type who tries really hard?

Kayoko: Yeah, with work. She helps everyone too.

Temporary housing for vulnerable people

The group home Ms. Ogawa used to live in was close to the ocean, so it was flooded in the tsunami.

Yasuko: The temporary housing (group home) was completed around September or August.

Tada: There was originally a group home (that Ms. Ogawa was living in) in town (in the Ayukawahama area). Until the current temporary group home was completed, she had no place to live. Temporary homes for the non-disabled people were first in line to be completed, so she was waiting in the shelter for over 7 months.


Was the house Ms. Ogawa moved to a publicly funded rental shared with a group of disabled residents?

Tada: No, it was specifically built as a temporary group home.

Yasuko: There are quite a few publicly funded rental houses for disabled residents in the city, but only one in the Oshika district.

Relief supplies

Even though help wasn’t coming and everyone felt like giving up, they didn’t forget to speak up.

Did supplies arrive after the temporary group home was built?

Kayoko: For start-up supplies, we had declared these 7-piece sets our trainees would need when they entered the group home, so we got those.

But there was a general temporary housing complex behind our temporary group home, and they got daily supplies for each household there, but none came to our group home. Even though daily supplies had arrived for everyone in the region, our group home was ignored in spite of this perfectly visible building.

Ogawa: Like potatoes and mandarin oranges. Only the people in the house behind us got those.

Kayoko: Not that we really wanted those things.



Kayoko: You can see the entrance of that temporary housing complex right outside our group home window, so our trainees could see supplies being brought in. So I think maybe they felt a bit bad.


Why were those group home residents left out from the daily supply distribution?

Kayoko: We weren’t on the local registry somehow. When I noticed that, I tried to identify the problem by asking questions like, “What number of what district are we?” If you’re not on the registry, you don’t get local information, and it’s difficult to live in the region if you haven’t built a community with local people in case something happens, so I had us put in the registry. As we started getting involved like that, the region started cooperating with us.

Ogawa: Anyway, no supplies came for around the first 2 months after we moved into the temporary group home.


What supplies came?

Ogawa: Vegetables and stuff.

Kayoko: They were living in a different place than before, so they didn’t know who the ward mayor was, and often felt uneasy about communicating with neighbors and such. I heard them say, “How are we different from our neighbors?” It seems they were treated differently from the average temporary housing complex.

Living in 9 tatami mats single room

Difficult thing for the family at temporally housing was to live all four members together in a 9 tatami mats (about 15 square meters) single room.


Kumai: I heard that they moved to disaster recovery public housing in 2016. They had moved from Shoshinkai’s evacuation center for persons with disabilities to a temporally restoration housing for the disabled run by the same organization. They lived in that temporally housing until they moved to the more permanent public housing.

Her father worked as a caretaker of the temporally housing complex though now he has a different job. The fact that he worked very near to their house made the family feel very comfortable and secure, I think.


Did you help with house chores, Ai?

Ai: I helped with laundries and cleaning.


Did you find anything difficult at that time?

Ai: It was hard for me to use the vacuum cleaner.

Kumai: Ai and her sister used to have their own rooms. Her mother told me that it was difficult for the whole family members to live in the same room.


Did you hear anything about the life of Ai and the problems they had at the temporally housing?

Kumai: It seemed that they needed quite a lot effort to get close to people at the housing complex since it belonged to Shoshinkai, a different organization than ours, even though Ai’s father worked for the organization. Ai’s family had a neighbor at the complex who was a trainee at Orion, but beside from that they didn’t have much contact with people around them. So, they didn’t know their neighbors at the housing complex.

Hand massage

Through her father’s contact, Ai started to participate in different events at the community space of the housing complex.


Was there anything that was particularly helpful or good in the life at the temporally housing?

Kumai: They received emergency relief supplies. The housing complex had events such as mochi rice cake making. Her father also worked for those events at the venue near the housing.


What event did you like the most?

Ai: Things like hand massage.

Kumai: A person came to give hand massage at events.


How did you feel when you were given hand massage?

Ai: I felt very good and it had a nice aroma.

Kumai: I believe they had a lot of supports at the temporally restoration housing for the disabled as there were many persons with disabilities and their families. Your father was working hard for different events there, right?

Ai: Yes.

Living in temporary housing

Did you have any problems when you moved into temporary housing in May? Or were there any good things about moving?

At first I thought it was good that we had temporary housing, but the walls and rooms weren’t insulated, so it was hot in summer and cold in winter. That was the hardest thing. We also had trouble because we couldn’t communicate with our neighbors. When we lived in Yuriage, the hearing people around us had learned how to communicate with us, so we were able to communicate through writing and simple gestures, but this didn’t go very well in the temporary housing.

There were also no sign language interpreters available for the procedures we had to go through in various government offices, so it was really hard because we couldn’t understand how to fill out these detailed documents. But after around three months, volunteer interpreters from around the country came to the temporary housing complex, so we were really grateful for that.


What are you doing to prepare for disasters now that you’ve had this disaster experience?

If we had experienced tsunamis before in the past, I imagine we would have made some preparations. Now we feel safe because we live far from the ocean, but we have made emergency preparations anyway.