RSY vol.25 Never Neglect the Legends, Oral Traditions, or Legacies 
by Voices from the Field Admin - Friday, 15 August 2014, 09:41 AM
 When the earthquake hit us, I was taking a nap. 
  I looked out to the sea hastily, but found nothing unusual. Though the snow was falling, the sun was shining. I immediately fled to the evacuation site at Manekimata as we always did in disaster drills. At the time of the Chile Earthquake in 1960, the sea receded and then a tsunami came, but it did not cause serious damages. Because this time the sea looked calm and did not show such unusual signs, I doubted a tsunami would come. The sky had turned overcast by then.
  As it was a snowy day, I went to get kerosene heaters, which I recalled were stored in the branch location of the public hall slightly down the hill from the evacuation site. 
  The ground floor of the branch hall was also sheltering nearly 20 elderly evacuees. I greeted them, “Good evening!” and went upstairs. I turned on one of the heaters. The instant I took out another, I heard a roar and the air shifted. As I looked out of the window, the tsunami was rushing up to us in layers of enormous waves. In another moment, the tsunami and rubble smashed through the windows. The ground floor was destroyed in a flash. 
  I heard a voice, “Somebody help us!” I looked downstairs. In the floodwater that had reached midway up the stairs, two men were struggling to push up an old lady wet to the skin. It took four men to finally bring her upstairs. After the second and third waves hit, we heard somebody moaning in the kitchen. We removed the rubble and found another elderly lady soaked and weakened. 
  The debris blocked our way out of the entrance. After a while, several men who had been calling out to encourage us from the evacuation site at Manekimata above came down to help us. When the flood had receded, we turned a low table upside down and used it as a stretcher to carry the old lady, who had been found under the debris in the kitchen, out of a window. Other elderly people also tried to get out of the windows, which was not easy because the windows were too high. We managed to help them out and finally leave the branch hall all together.
  Once outside, I found a man whom I had passed on the way down. He lay on the ground bleeding from his head. He had been killed instantly. He had been a retired fisherman working as a watch guard at the swimming beach. The husky strong man who had saved a lot of lives during his lifetime lay there lifelessly. An elderly lady who had lived next door to me had also been washed away. I saw four bodies of deceased people on the spot. 
  Surrounded by piled up debris, the Manekimata site perched on higher ground was isolated. As we could not move to anywhere, we gave priority to women and children to shelter at the private houses that were not seriously damaged. Wrapped in a plastic tarp to protect ourselves against the cold, we kept vigil by the fire burning tables and debris to keep warm. As we watched TV in a home where we took shelter, news reporters said, “No contact has been made with Onagawa and Shichigahama towns.” We spent a very uneasy night.
  Afterward, town officials came pushing through the rubble. They worked with the younger people there and the volunteers of the fire corps to remove rubble and make way. Finally, we could move to a safe evacuation shelter. As we had to dig our way through debris, it took about an hour to go the distance of only 10 minutes in a normal condition. 
  It was late afternoon of the next day that I had something to eat; a cold rice ball and a banana. The old lady, whom we had rescued, died of hypothermia that night. 
  An old folklore about the Keicho Sanriku Earthquake and Tsunami of 1611 says that people survived by running up the hill guided by their fellow villagers who waved their hands and called out “Come up here!” from Manekimata. It is said that this is why the name of the place includes the Japanese word “maneki”, which means beckoning or beckon. In case of a big earthquake, you should never go back to your house while the warning is in effect.  

Written by Hitoshi Hoshi (67 years old)
Barbershop owner
Address at the time of the disaster: Shobudahama district
Current address: Emergency Temporary Housing at the Sports Field No.1