Last weekend I travelled to the north-eastern city of Sendai to help out with a one day conference, TEDxTohoku. This was my first visit in almost 8 months to the region of Japan most badly affected by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, and I was interested to find out how the recovery was coming on, and to plan another running project (details of that to follow).
Anyhow, upon entering my hotel room the TV automatically switched itself on; it was the local evening news. I watched whilst unpacking and was struck by how all of the stories had the same underlying theme: hope.
There was a story of the first oyster catch since the disaster; another about a factory reopening; another about the first festival to be held at a local school since March 11th.
All those appearing in the reports expressed their hope for the future, focusing on the rebuilding of local businesses and the rise of new opportunities, brought about through the recovery process.
I thought then it would be appropriate to spell out the word ‘hope’ on the streets of Sendai, starting just to the east of the river, winding through the shopping arcades at the heart of the city, and finishing just to the west of the main railway station.
I also visited a strip of coastline to the east of the city where the tsunami caused major damage. It was a sobering sight – all that remained of what once was a lively community was the foundations of former homes. Some still had recognizable bathrooms, the tiles and tubs having withstood the incredible force of the waves.
The place was deserted, other than for a young couple sitting, gazing out from the sea wall, and a man walking his dog.