May 12th, our first full day in Ishinomaki. Quite honestly, even after a bit of roaming around and trying to get to know the place, I still didn’t really know what to expect. Ishinomaki isn’t very well known internationally, or even in Japan. So when we were given free time to go out and find dinner, naturally I migrated with the group so I wouldn’t get lost. We ended up in the Common-Ship Hashidori area, where small restaurants were open, and where we had lunch as a group before.
While eating yakisoba (vegetarian style 🙂 ) for dinner to stay within budget, an older Japanese man offered me some of his sushi, and said he couldn’t finish it (in Japanese, so my understanding might be slightly off). Normally, when sitting with strangers nearby, if we make eye contact, I smile a bit and go about my own business. But that was different here, as the man persisted and encouraged me to take some of his cucumber-roll sushi. As reluctant as I was to share part of his meal, his smile and encouragement finally forced my hand, and I took a piece. From this moment on, he was no longer a stranger, but a friend.
Later, Luna and Victoria joined me, and that’s when the night really started rolling. Thanks to Luna translating, the old man gave us his perspective of the tsunami that changed this fishing port town forever. I, along with Luna and Victoria, were overwhelmed by his kindness (as he literally fed us an extra meal), and learned a great deal of what took place through a first hand account, and not how the media portrayed the disaster. I was in complete shock as he told us not about the buses in 2nd story buildings, but about how after every turned corner you could see dead bodies. In addition, how there wasn’t panic and rioting, but the community came together and scavenged for canned food and non-perishables to survive until the debris was cleared. It was hard to take in, and I still cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to try to survive while witnessing the trauma entirely around me.
That’s not all we were left with as a parting gift though, as we were given some life advice. To paraphrase, if we ever find something we love to do and are doing it, stick to it as much as you can. However, if you ever start hating or disliking what you are doing, quit immediately, and go find the thing you would love to do, and stick to that. As advised by my new friend, I plan to stick to doing what I love, as soon as I discover it.