Healthy grass and refurbished houses along the coast hard-hit by Japan's March 11 tsunami represent the frail beginnings of a return to normalcy.
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
“This is a rice paddy!”
Chie Nihei is standing beside a field of chest-high weeds piled with the remains of destroyed houses and a single gray van at her farm in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Six months after the March 11 tsunami inundated her neighborhood, she still seems surprised by the state of the once-orderly fields where she and her husband have grown vegetables and rice for 30 years. Since the tsunami, they have been unable to grow any crops.
Inside their immaculate post-and-beam farmhouse, newly refurbished with shiny floors and tatami mats, Tsugio says the ocean brought thick layers of salty, debris-laden sediment – but also an unexpected gift of nutrients to his fields.
“I thought nothing would grow, but the grass is brilliant green and very healthy,” he says. The green grass and the refurbished house represent a still-shaky hope that this devastated community, and dozens like it along the coast, can once again become pleasant, prosperous places to live and work.
Nevertheless, he is concerned about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant about 50 miles away, and other contaminants that may have washed in from the industrial port nearby. He estimates it will take another year to finish restoring the farm.