Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Off and running

It looks like I checked in last on Monday's been a fairly busy 3 days.

I left off Monday morning in Sendai, a Portland-sized city up the northern coast.  Our class of 9 spent the day at Tohoku University, one of several schools in Sendai and a leader is disaster planning for Tohoku (this 8 prefecture region) and for Japan.  We've heard quite a lot this week about the Tohoku Recovery (meaning now the 3 affected coastal prefectures) and how difficult it's been.  Japan's planning processes needed to be completely re-written in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE).  It took a year to sketch out what planning now looked like, and another year to finalize plans.  This period of adjustment, while critical for making wise choices, also prolonged people's stay in temporary housing.  Also, as folks settle in their "temporary" housing, going back to  home communities becomes increasingly unlikely.  The story repeats itself everywhere we go:  the kids are in a new school, the fish patty company's old buyers have moved on, there are no jobs in th fixed-up neighborhood.

But without residents, what business would commit to returning? In an extreme example, after six years, the town of Rikuzen-takata's grocery store will re-open next month.  It's a crazy game of chicken-and-egg that the Pacific Northwest really wants to get ahead of.  Inability to keep people around Portland is a thing that gets talked about a lot in some circles.  There's no easy solution, but surely there must be conversations we can have and ways of prioritizing we can agree to in advance.

Yeah.  And that's the light, fluffy stuff.  In the afternoon, we all piled into the bus and drove into Fukushima prefecture.  We were headed to the small town of Iwaki, but took the, uh, scenic route.  Driving through the little village of Namie, you could tell it was deserted.  And then we started seeing roadblocks.  Then some with guards.  Then....are those radiation detectors?  O, yes.  And there, 20 miles off towards the ocean, Fukushima Daiichi ("Reactor #1"), five or six stories of lethal beige.  And how many acres of radioactive waste disposal bags, snuggeled in next to neighboring ricefields?  We lost count.  More to tell on Daiichi, but that's for a powepoint.  Suffice it to say, a very weird, very surreal bus ride.

Up next:  the little seawall project, or 'what does $106 million really get me?'  Don't go anywhere.

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