The agony of defeat and ecstasy of victory on the go board were put into perspective Thursday when the WAGC participants took a somber tour of South Sanriku in Miyagi prefecture, less than an hour from the tournament site in downtown Sendai, and one of the areas hardest-hit by the 2011 tsunami.
Although the region — a spectacular landscape of misty mountains, gently-waving rice fields, stands of bamboo, wide rivers and coastal views — has largely recovered since the disaster, the go players were uncharacteristically subdued as they took in the scope of destruction, with whole towns swept away. The three-story South Sanriku emergency center’s rusted skeleton bore mute witness to the towering wall of water that took the lives of so many; the few workers there who survived did so only by climbing the radio tower atop the building.
Most affecting was a visit to the Okawa primary school where almost every student and teacher perished. The once-thriving community is gone, the houses destroyed, completely erased from the earth, leaving only the gutted school as a sad memorial to the young lives lost here. As the buses rolled through under grey and drizzling skies, guides explained how this empty patch used to be a community center, that one was a hospital, another was a neighborhood. Roads once lined with houses are now vistas of weeds and the occasional flash of a wild sunflower or glimpse of a white crane standing on a solitary leg. The rubble is gone and new houses and buildings are slowly rising. The rivers flow past quietly. Life goes on.
- Chris Garlock; photo by John Pinkerton