American Go E-Journal

The Traveling Go Board: The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Two Years Later

Thursday September 5, 2013

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