Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Through the disaster

As I continue North I reach a small town called Minamisanriku. I haven't seen much from the disaster yet but I am hearing stories. Friend's house destroyed, friends died, people living at their friend's place. I haven't had anyone telling me that they got back to their feet with the government's help so I guess the government is not doing that much. I have heard more about the volunteers though.
My next stop is Aomori but since I am not taking the highway I get many short rides along the seacoast.
Sadly, I lose the rest of my food as well as the one piece manga present from Sakura-city in that girl's car. She insists on buying me lunch and I just forget my food provisions in her car. I have them in a separate plastic bag because my main big bag is full of random stuff that I don't need.
At that kombini some guy stops and asks me is I am going to the festival. I tell him no but he drives me to the festival anyway.

A few kilometers west of Minamisanriku there is a huge camground much like that in Armenia. There are many tents but also big teepees and a music scene. It's a very local thing, a bit of an attempt to bring more people to the disaster area. After the Fukushima accident people have massivly left the place. But today, there are many people, all dressed like hippies with bright clothes and peace and love signs. Some of them have feathers in their hair. Because they are Asian they do quite a good job in looking like American Indians.
Japanese hippies


People are open and easy-going, more than anywhere in Japan but still more shy than the Armenian rainbow. My story goes around the camp pretty fast and I soon meet many people. They have interesting stories too. Many of them are locals who have witnessed the tsunami. One of the guys got the wave right in the face when he was near the sea. He swam in the tsunami until he pulled himself on a boat that was adrift. He stayed there two days until rescue came. They couldn't come earlier because there was too much water, debris and fire.
There were happy stories too. The catastrophe forced many people to move out and many foreign volunteers to move in. People fell in love, couples formed. There were several stories like this.
There is an old lady who had quite a large sum of money, enough to buy a second house. But she didn't. Instead she used that money to buy tons and tons of food to give and cook for volunteers. She was giving out rice cakes at this festival too. Thanks to her, hunderds if not thousands of volunteers could come and help the people who suffered because of the tsunami.
Camp

There is a group of Parkour artists from Tokyo. They are pretty damn good, making saltos in the grass and jumping over stuff. They have set up a parkour stand and are teaching little kids. One of them has a friend in the famous Yamakasi group.

Everyday we are smoking weed. There is so much weed that you could make a mattress out of it. Morning weed, lunch weed, evening weed. Everything is calm and green and peace and love so I don't mind smoking a bit.
My neighbours, an orange tent next to mine are a funny blend. I think they are friends with the parkour guys and they are laughing all the time although I think that's because of the weed. They have these joints rolled in a weird brown paper which looks like bark from an eucalyptus tree. The weed is not very strong but there is a lot of it. There is also this american-israeli guy who speaks japanese, has a japanese girlfriend and goes around the festival collecting stories.

The next day I wake up and after having breakfast in the neighbouring tent (everybody knows me and my 200 yen/day budget so it doesn't really matter that I lost all my food, I am invited everywhere anyway) I out to the music scene. It's not even noon and I am already stoned just from the weed-filled air in the orange tent.
And who do I see dancing like crazy in front of the music scene? A tiny european-looking girl who seems to speak a slavic language. My thoughts are a bit slow because of the orange tent right now but I end up noticing that that language is Czech.
"Are you Czech?"
"Yeaaaaaaah!!! Waaaaow! Lubo! Come here! He is Czech!"
Luba and Jerry, two other Czech guys come here. They are a little big drunk and in a great czech party mood.
"Czech Mafiaaa!," screams Jerry, "Do you want some boooze?"
"What is it?"
"Japanese fruit stuff. Gets you drunk before you know it."
"That stuff tastes really good!"
"It does, doesn't it!"
I meet Jerry the Czech

Turns out the only foreigners (non-residents) in the whole festival are Czech People. Luba, Andrea and Jerry have come here blackriding the local transportation and I came by hitchhiking from the mother land.
"Czechs are crazy!!!" we must all agree on that.
We dance like crazies, especially Andrea and I get to know their story too. Andrea, though she strikes you as the most extroverted one doesn't like to talk about herself. She is Luba's girlfriend and Jerry is their friend they randomly met in Japan. One day they decided that since Japan closed down nuclear power plants, they will start installing solar panels on people's rooftops. So they are doing this and being relativly successful until now.
Jerry is on his way home though, he doesn't know how he'll get there, probably through siberia, mongolia and maybe Kyrgyzstan. He says he wants me to talk at a conference in Karlovy Vary and Ilona could come too. That would be great. He says that he is always travelling with a "Lonely Planet" guidebook; that way he knows where not to go. I could guess that this hippie festival is the kind of thing that would not be in the lonely planet.
"Czech mafia" and friends


"You should stay the whole three days," says the American-Israeli guy who speaks japanese, "it may not look like it but this is Japanese woodstock."

The czech people invite me to their tent and we smoke weed. In the evening I am more stoned than a castle wall and we dance in a bright light alongside japanese hippies who look like American indians.
We go back to the tent to get stoned even more but I start going easy on the weed, I do know my low tolerance and while I have friendly Czech people who I somehow trust, they are not Ilona.
Everybody is completly out. Now they are pulling a leopard blanket over our feet and keep saying "Mocha Mochaaaa, save us from Mochaaa!"
I later learn that Mocha is a name of a 75 year old japanese woman who dresses in leopard clothes, a leopard version of the french infamous "Madame de Fontenay".
"This is real... POHODA!" says one of the friends of the Czech people. He is japanese but he speaks english and he is learning some Czech words. Actually some people in the festival are starting to learn some Czech. Especially "pohoda" which means like "alright".
There is another japanese guy who is so stoned that he doesn't even talk, he just says "pohoda" all the time and smile to everybody. He is like a big happy teddy bear who is looking into the real world. I wouldn't be surprised if he was on something else than weed.
It is in that moment, when were smoking radioactive weed from Fukushima while repeating "save us from Mocha the leopard woman" with three other Czech people and a Japanese guy who thinks he is a teddy bear that I think to myself: "this does not make any sense... even for Japan.".

I stay a total of two days, leave in the morning of the last day. It takes the whole morning to say goodbye to everybody. So many people are waving me goodbye, I get so many support messages for my ferry hitch to Hokkaido. They wrote them down on every space left on the piece of paper that explains my hitchhiking journey.

So I leave North. I pass through regions where the tsunami hit. It didn't look so bad before, it looks bad now. The seacoast is filled with flat rectangular spaces which used to be houses. Now, there are only foundations left. Gravels. You would expect a room left, maybe some furtinute. No destruction, no rubbish, no nothing. Washed down, not destroyed erased. The houses are erased from the ground as you would delete them in a video game. This makes no sense to me but it is true.

"My friend is dead," says my driver, "and my parents too. My house is ok because it's on a hill" The japanese don't complain much. They are factual about it.

I don't know what to say.
Tonight, I want to see the sunrise. I want to get to a peninsula near Kasenuma-city. For a while I drive with a freezer truck who sticks something in my pocket and drives away. I realize a while after he is gone that he has given me 10,000 yen, that's a hundered dollars, that's crazy! I can pay for my russian visa with that!
When I get there and after various gifts (the people in the disaster area are more generous that others) I get to the peninsula. There, some random guy told me to go to his grandmother's house where I got dinner and a shower.
The mother was so sweet, she prepared for me rice balls and she carefully wrote "morning" and "lunch" on them.
Three years ago, the tsunami flowed in the peninsula, erasing everything in his path.
"My parents are dead," she says, "their house was in the valley, just under mine."
Turns out that her parents house was just a few meters lower and got hit. She survived because her house was a little bit higher, a few meters further from the water.
"What is done is done. Now we can just pray and be kind to each other," she says.
Sunrise

Everybody wishes me loads of luck, gives me tons of sweets and in the morning, they drive me in the direction of Aomori.
Good luck messages on my hitchhiking note

The next day I continue North passing towns and townes hit by the tsunami eraser. My next driver lives in Yamada. There is more destruction, or should I say deletion in this town than everywhere else. His house was erased from the ground

One of the guys drives me very far, towards Kuji. His house was destroyed three years ago but he has rebuilt. He lives in a nice place now whith his wife and newborn daughter. He shows me pictures from 2011. There is water and fire everywhere.
My driver's house, 3 years ago. Erased

Yamada, after the tsunami.


My next ride takes me a long way, all the way to Kuji. He is a system administrator but the tsunami, which he survived left him a bit lost in the world. People died, house lost, what is my purpose in this world? These are very common questions in people's minds.
My last ride for the day is to Hachinohe and I hear great news. I don't have to go all the way to Aomori, there is a ferry from Hachinohe to Hokkaido!
The driver leaves me on the other side of the city it takes me until 1AM to walk all the way to the seaside. The next day I try to hitch the ferry but I don't get it. The manager is really kind though, he just can't push that request through the hierarchy. He leaves me a good luck message and tells me to try my luck in Aomori.

My last ride out of the city is a japanese diver who looks like Milan, my parent's friend and speaks english. He often dives near the coast around the town of Mizawa and often pulls out dead bodies from the water. Or broken ships.

"I have spotted thirteen broken ships so far while diving underwater," he says.
He leaves me at a kombini and wishes me good luck to Aomori. He tells me that I won't have luck with the ferry though, I should try the fishing boats instead.
"Farewell my crazy friend!" And he leaves me with two sendwiches and a bottle of milk tea.