Lost Railroads by Mitsuo Hosoda, Miyagi prefecture

Lost Railroads by Mitsuo Hosoda, Miyagi prefecture

It has been over two years since the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami known as ‘The Great East Japan Earthquake’ devastated the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan on March 11 2011. Still today, various news events are reported daily from the stricken areas. I feel impatient whenever I hear about the slow process of recovery.

After the earthquake and the tsunami, Japanese letters and signs promoting “Kizuna” (Bond) and “Gambarou” (Let’s do our best) were seen in many places and repeated by many people. As time goes on, memories of a world‐shaking event fade away from people’s minds. That might be the way of the world. However, the mental and physical scars of disasters cut deep and stay with the victims and the affected areas.

Walking along the coastline, we can see heaps of rubble covered in dust. Community leaders in these rubble-ridden areas are begging for it to be removed. However people are worried about radioactive contamination and no matter what the actual level of radioactivity is in the debris, other regions refuse to accept it. Previous words and statements of solidarity made to the victims suddenly seem very hollow.

Besides pollution from radioactive contamination, there are numerous other problems to overcome. The first priority should be tackling radiation, but it is also very important to recover the railroad systems. Unfortunately this is not being covered in the news. Unlike urban areas, people in the rural tsunami and earthquake-hit regions highly depend on local railroads as a means of transportation. The tsunami destroyed 23 railroad stations and 60km of railroads. Today, still nine sections along seven routes (a total of 300km of railroad) are suspended and 18,000 people have to use buses – now their only means of transportation. Last year, the East Japan Railway Company (JR-EAST) began to operate the BRT system as one solution. BRT is a fast transportation system where express buses use exclusive lanes. However, the main hope for locals is the full recovery of the railroads.

With government authorization in place, the reconstruction of local railroads and the inland relocation for coastal lines has begun. The Ishinomaki Route between Sendai City and Ishinomaki City is expected to be complete by 2015, followed by the completion of the Joban Line’s reconstruction work in 2017.

With the recovery of the railroads back on track, commuters can look forward to riding the trains again in the not too distant future.