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Publication of “What the survivors of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake want to share-Voices from Shichigahama Town, Miyagi Prefecture”
by Voices from the Field Admin - Sunday, 4 June 2017, 02:01 PM
The booklet “What the survivors of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake want to share- Voices from Shichigahama Town, Miyagi Prefecture” has been released with the financial support by the JR West Relief Foundation. This is an English translated version of “Hisaisha ga ichiban tsutaetai koto”, published by the Non-Profit Organization Rescue Stock Yard in 2013.
Its translation work was done by the Voices from the Field project members spending more than one year with contributions on proofreading by many English speakers around us.
The contents include real raw voices from Shichigahama town people who survived the 311 tsunami disaster and struggled with lives in evacuation shelters and temporal houses. It is suitable either for disaster education in English, or language education through the words of disaster survivors.
The original Japanese version of the booklet can be purchased from RSY ( We hope the booklet can help in any purpose.

Voices from the Field Project
Dr. Yoko Matsuda/ Nagaoka University of Technology


この度、冊子“What the survivors of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake want to share- Voices from Shichigahama Town, Miyagi Prefecture” をJR西日本あんしん社会財団の助成により発行いたしました。この冊子は、NPO法人レスキューストックヤードが2013年に発刊した「被災者が一番伝えたいこと」の英語版です。翻訳の作業は、多くの英語話者の力を得ながら、Voices from the Fieldプロジェクトのメンバーが行いました。
 元の日本語版冊子はRSY (にて有償にて販売しております。

Voices from the Field Project
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SPECIAL vol.32 Never underestimate the power and the speed of a tsunami
by vff admin - Sunday, 26 June 2016, 11:06 AM
Never underestimate the power and the speed of a tsunami

We volunteer firefighters are supposed to come on duty on our own initiative in case an earthquake with a Japanese seismic intensity of four and above occurs. When I arrived at the station, approximately 10 out of 20 firefighters had already left for the surrounding area to close the floodgates.
Although one of our assigned tasks was to measure the height of the waves by the levee, I couldn’t get myself to go near the sea. 
We went around the area by a pumper truck calling on the residents to evacuate and then moved to a tourist lodge located on higher ground. Since the area around the tourist lodge was filled with cars of evacuees, we parked the pumper truck at a little lower point from there. The moment we got off the truck, a tsunami rushed toward us. As its speed was too fast, we could do nothing but stare as many people were swept away. 
After I somehow managed to evacuate to a higher level where the wave had not reached, I found that all around the area was completely flooded like the sea. Hearing numerous shouts for help, I desperately rescued people. Our pumper truck was washed away, too. However, fortunately, the truck happened to get caught in a narrow road and blocked the wave like a wall. This ended up saving several people from being swept away.
 A tsunami can easily sweep even cars away. We should never underestimate the power and the speed of a tsunami.

Toru Itami (52 years old)
Owner of chiropractic clinic
Firefighter (Shobuta Number 2 District)

Address at the time of the disaster: Shobutahama area
Current address: Emergency Temporary Housing, Sports Field Number 1 
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SPECIAL vol.31 Suspect that a tsunami comes without fail after a big quake
by vff admin - Sunday, 26 June 2016, 10:19 AM
Suspect that a tsunami comes without fail after a big quake

After the quake I repeatedly heard early warnings over the radio about a ten-meter high tsunami. However I doubted if a tsunami would actually reach us. While I was getting some things out of the house in preparation to evacuate, my wife screamed,” There’s no water in the sea!” When we looked at the sea before us, the beach was expanding because of strong ebbing tides and some ships were tilting to the side. Then suddenly, I heard an extraordinary rumble as if hundreds of fighter jets were flying at us, and I could see a black wall approaching a nearby light house.
I yelled, “A tsunami is coming! Run away!” and began running to higher ground at full speed. The surface of the sea was surging and swirling as it swallowed houses and various kinds of debris. It built up like a wall and came winding up the slopes. A person who saw the sight said, “It looks like a giant boa swimming in the sea”. I was so frightened that I could not stop my legs from trembling.
The moment the wall of water hit the ground where we had evacuated, it struck so fiercely with a rumbling sound that I felt as if my body would be blown away. I thought that staying there was no good and moved to an elementary school situated at an even higher level. Fortunately all our family members were safe but I will never, ever forget that scene.

Written by Naoya Suzuki (40years old)
Address at the time of the disaster: Shobu-ta-hama district
Current address: Emergency Temporary Housing at Minatohama

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SPECIAL vol.30 Evacuate to as High a Place as Possible!
by vff admin - Sunday, 26 June 2016, 10:16 AM
Evacuate to as High a Place as Possible!

On the day of the disaster, I finished my work earlier than usual and began heading home by midday. While I was shopping at a convenience store in Shichigahama, everyone’s cellphones started ringing with the alarms of an Earthquake Early Warning. I could not identify what the ringing meant and had to ask a clerk. On getting out of the store, a big earthquake started. The warning had also urged us to be vigilant for a tsunami, so I went home, even though the ground was still shaking. At home my wife was outside looking frantic. I said to her, “Load the car with dog food and some water”, and made her hurry up. Then the man of the house next door, who was not able to get information because of a black out, called out to me from the upstairs to ask what was happening. I told him a tsunami would come. However, he said, “A tsunami has never done us much damage, so my wife and I will just shelter in place.” They remained at home. 
After that the tsunami swept the couple away together with their house. The husband died of hypothermia that night. If I had forced him to evacuate with us, he probably would not have lost his lives.
When we reached an evacuation shelter, we were told to wait outside. They said the shelter was flooded because a water tank was damaged by the earthquake. So then I decided to go to the town office, which is located on higher ground. By then, about 40 minutes had already passed after the earthquake. Watching the sea from the rooftop of the town office, I could see a dark black wall rise far off the coast and then swallow the windbreak forest in an instant. At that moment the thought flashed in my mind that my house would have been wiped out in the tsunami because it was right on the beach.
If my work had not finished earlier than usual on that day, my wife would have gone by herself to the designated evacuation shelter. In reality the tsunami had reached that evacuation shelter and a few people lost their lives at that spot. 
Some people had said, “Surely the tsunami will do no harm again”, but I felt uneasy and evacuated to a higher place. I claim that we must evacuate if we feel any uneasiness.

Reported by Yoshiharu Iwamoto (53 years old)
Truck driver
Address at the time of the disaster: Shoubudahama district
Current address: Emergency Temporary Housing at the Lifetime Learning Center
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SPECIAL vol.29 The key to administer an evacuation shelter is “community strength”
by vff admin - Thursday, 11 February 2016, 08:03 PM

The key to administer an evacuation shelter is “community strength”


I was the person in charge of public administration at an evacuation shelter based at local primary school. The evacuees and all the staff including me did not know how to manage the situation. However, I had an advantage in establishing good relationships with the evacuees because I had graduated from that primary school and also I was well-integrated into this community for many years as a boys’ baseball team coach.

Since everything was lacking at the beginning, sometimes we heard people yelling at each other. But thanks to the strong unity that is characteristic of the Shichigahama people, community-based management groups could be organized from an early stage. Based on these groups, the evacuees organized themselves voluntarily to manage things like meals, publicity, supplies and environment. That helped me to be aware of the importance of mutual understanding and support in case of disaster.


Also, when we started to have more time, we played music at dinner time, which was received favorably by the evacuees, or we practiced traditional Japanese “radio exercises” to warm-up every morning, which was the school principal’s idea. In these ways, we tried to make all kinds of efforts to be positive as much as possible even if we were facing a harsh reality.

I realized that the indispensable thing to overcome the disaster was the “community strength”.


Shoji Katsuya (53 years old)

Industry Division, Shichigahama town

Address at the time of disaster: Tooyama Area

Present Address: Same as above