SPECIAL vol.21 It’s important to be creative, helpful and encouraging to each other under the limited circumstances
by Voices from the Field Admin - Sunday, 12 July 2015, 11:43 AM

It’s important to be creative, helpful and encouraging to each other under the limited circumstances


A huge and sudden quake occurred a little while after I sent the children off on bus at the nursery school run by my temple, which is also my home. Since the playground of the nursery school was the designated temporary evacuation site for the area, people in the community quickly began to gather there. Because it started snowing, I urged the evacuees to get on the bus that had returned with a full tank of gas. This site was only 3.3 meters above sea level. Thus, I discussed with the chairman of the local volunteer disaster prevention group, and decided to move people to the cemetery located on a little bit higher ground. When we were waiting at the playground to guide the evacuees, we heard an unusual sound, “sha-ka sha-ka”, and we saw a tsunami in the distance, swallowing the houses as it passed through. Right after that, the tsunami changed its direction and rushed toward us. We called the principal of the nursery school back in a tremendous hurry as he was at a slightly lower spot. He barely managed to escape. 

 However, rubbles were all around us. We needed to go through a mountain with no roads in order to get to the downtown area where the town hall was. It was impossible for all of us to move, so we decided to stay and wait in the bus on that day.

 In the evening, I went out to search for some food, finding the way along the fences of the flooded houses. I brought back some snacks and milk. Although the amount of the food was far from enough, we equally shared them. We passed around the milk carton as there were no cups. Since we had been sitting all day long, I was also concerned about economy-class syndrome and encouraged the people to walk around the bus together. It was especially hard for women to relieve themselves, but we coped with the problem by making a screen with umbrellas in the bushes and placing a watch guard. As it was so cold, I again walked in the rubbles to bring some blankets from the day care. Those who had come in their cars also shared cars to stay warm and save gas.

 In the middle of the night, there was a phone call from a temple master in Shizuoka Prefecture worrying about our safety. He reported to the Disaster Prevention and Response Headquarters in Shizuoka that we were in isolation. After that call, contacts were made through Shizuoka Prefecture to Miyagi Prefecture and to the Shichigahama Disaster Prevention and Response Office, which led the people on the opposite shore to come over the mountains to bring several rice balls and bananas for us. It was not enough food and the nursery school staff could not eat them, however, we of course were very thankful for their kindness.

 Next morning, the Self-Defense Forces came over wading through the water to check our situation, but they ended up having to retreat as there was too much rubble. Thus, we needed to be rescued by helicopter. The first helicopter arrived at noon in order to take people with a heart problem to the hospital. The second one, however, had trouble coming over, and we thought we could not make it out of there within that day. While we were waiting for the second helicopter, we decided the order to get on the helicopter by age to avoid complaints. Since the helicopter cannot be landed after dark, we talked with each other about the possibility that the nursery school staff might need to remain behind in case the rescue operations could not be completed within the day other. After all, however, all people were safely rescued that day.

 After this earthquake, we regularly hold disaster drills on the 11thof every month

at the nursery school. On the second floor of the facility, we keep a stock of what we needed at the time, such as first aid materials, water, paper cups, and some nutritious



Yuka Watanabe (48 years old)

Vice Principal of the nursery school

Wife of the temple master

Address at the time of the disaster: Hanabuchihama area

Current address: Same as above