Location: Sendai and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Host: Trip was done in cooperation with Umari and scallop fishermen in Ishinomaki
Duration: October 27-28, 2012
Impressions of the Trip:
Roshni first went to Ishinomaki in August, 2011, just months after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami devastated the town, washing away much of the coastal infrastructure, including the boats, farms, and farmhouses that formed the backbone of many residents’ livelihoods. Many beloved community members were lost that day. The stillness and beauty of the clear skies and sparkling water was an eerie contrast to the ruined town.At that time, kilometers away from the ocean, she noticed that the watermark on the walls of the buildings (showing how high the tsunami waters had remained) was several feet above her head. Along with several other volunteers, Roshni set up food stalls and carnival games for the town’s children, many of whom were dressed in donated clothing several sizes too big.
More than a year later, we returned to Ishinomaki together to find a place still recovering, but looking and feeling much more like the vibrant town it used to be. We started the day by meeting Abe-san and his son, who work with a small team of scallop fishermen to grow and harvest scallops in the coastal waters of Ishinomaki. The Abes grow scallop seeds into full grown scallops on a three year life cycle. First, they collect tiny scallops in their floating, plankton stage by hanging bags filled with a fine net, or else rope threaded with heavy-duty plastic barbs, for the tiny animals to attach to. The scallops attach and begin to develop into tiny bivalves, and when the nets or barbed ropes are hauled up a year later, the Abes can pick the tiny scallops off of the materials for cultivation. Next, the scallops are put in special nets and transported by boat to ideal locations on lines anchored to buoys where they can reach full maturity. Prior to 3.11, the Abes were working with a stock of 80% mature, adult scallops and 20% immature scallops, but since scallop stocks were ravaged by the tsunami, the family is now contending with 80% immature scallops, and only 20% mature, adult scallops.
10 of the 18 boats owned by members of the Abes’ close community were destroyed in the tsunami, and throughout the day we heard some heart-wrenching stories about the trials and tragedies the fishing community faced on March 11, 2011. The older Mr. Abe told us that one of the local fisherman was on his boat at the time of the disaster and realized that he had no chance of surviving the tsunami. He tied himself to his boat so that his body could be found and returned to his family. “Those are the kinds of things that we were thinking about that day,” Mr. Abe shared.
Although the Abes and their team currently live in temporary housing with other tsunami survivors who lost their homes, they have been able to rebuild their scallop farm, a seaweed processing plant, and other critical infrastructure to get their operations up and running again. They are currently focused on selling live scallops directly to consumers via commercial express delivery service (Japan’s “Black Cat”). A package of 10 freshly harvested scallops go for 1500 yen, a fraction of what they would cost if offered via a wholesaler or supermarket.
再生，or regeneration. Much the same way the Abes’ scallops are slowly multiplying and building up to their pre-3.11 levels, the Abes’ business, infrastructure, and the surrounding community is rebuilding, regrouping, and attempting not to just return to their previous livelihoods, but to adapt, change, and grow their community into something better.