Japan: Onagawa, the Hometown I Once Knew

This post is part of our special coverage on the Japan Earthquake 2011.

Twitter user @kombu_s evacuated to Sendai from her hometown of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.

Here is her profile:

現在、宮城県女川町で見てきた範囲のみの情報をツイートをしています。※ツイート履歴を確認してください。※ 不安なのはとてもわかるのですが、私が見た範囲でしかわかりません。通ってない地区や個人の安否等はわかりません。車で第一保育所まで行き、総合体育館まで瓦礫の中を歩いて家族を迎えに行っただけです。

I’m currently tweeting what I saw in Onagawa City, Miyagi Prefecture. Please check my Twitter timeline. I understand that everyone is anxious but I only know what I see. I do not have information about areas that I haven’t been in or the status of individuals. I drove to the Number One Day Care Center and walked through the ruins to the General Gym to pick up my family. http://twitpic.com/photos/kombu_s

After reaching safety in Sendai, she posted photos that she took along the way on March 12.

@kombu_s: ※リプライはしません。見たことしかしりません。普通の一般人が自分の家族を迎えに行っただけです。当然、他の個人の安否は名前や住所を聞いてもわかりません。今ツイートしてる本人は仙台にいます。ツイート履歴を見てください。 #onagawa #save_miyagi_onagawa

Please note that I am not replying to tweets. I only know what I saw. I am an ordinary person who went to pick up her family. I don’t have information, even if you give me an address or a name. The person tweeting this is in Sendai. Please look at my timeline. #onagawa #save_miyagi_onagawa

The following is a selection of tweets in chronological order.

@kombu_s's first earthquake related tweet was on March 10th:


The earthquake woke me up many times, so I’m tired!

On March 11 she tweeted:

@kombu_s: あ、生きてます けど街は死んでるし部屋もぐちゃぐちゃ

Well, I’m alive. The town is dead though, and my rooms are a mess.

Her following tweets are all from March 12.

@kombu_s: 無事です。生まれ育った街が、家が、すべて波に流されました。写真は本来、住宅街だったところです。 http://twitpic.com/48q6zl

I’m safe. The house and the town that I grew up in has all been washed away by the waves. This image is of a former residential area.

@kombu_s【RT希望】宮城県女川町についての情報です。地元民が本日現地に行きました。町は清水地区まで津波に流されほぼ壊滅状態です。避難した町民は総合体育館 に集まっています。町内がケータイ圏外の為、連絡することが不可能に近いです。繋がらないと不安にならず、ご家族の無事を信じてあげて下さい。

[Please RT] This is information about Onagawa City in Miyagi Prefecture. Locals visited the affected area today. Evacuated folks have all gathered in the General Gym. Communication via cell phones is almost entirely impossible, since they are out of range throughout town. Don’t become worried because you can't speak with them directly. Believe that your family is safe.

@kombu_s: 家族と仙台の私の家に戻りました。皆さんありがとうございます。ご心配をお掛けしてすみません。ここは電気のみ復旧してます。

Returned to our home in Sendai with my family. Thank you very much, and I'm sorry to have worried you. We have electricity here.

@kombu_s: 地元女川町の情報を出来る限り流していくつもりです。もしよろしければ、可能な範囲でRTしていっていただけるでしょうか?苦手な方はリムお願いします。これを見てどうしても聞きたいことがある地元民の方はDMしてください。見た範囲、可能な範囲のみですが、対応します。

I intend to keep posting information about Onagawa, my home town. I ask that you retweet it as much as possible. Please stop following me if you don’t want to see this kind of information. If you’re a fellow local with a question, please send me a Direct Mail. I will answer from within what I’ve seen so far.

@kombu_s: 女川駅の線路です。右奥にある白と緑の車両は第二小学校の下の墓場まで流されています。

These are the rails of Onagawa Station. The white and green car was washed down to the cemetary near the elementary school.

@kombu_s: 正午に総合体育館に到着。一中の体育館が屋根にひびが入って危険なため、生徒も含めそこに避難した人は全員総合体育館に移動したそうです。その時点では食糧や防寒対策が不足し、とても疲れた様子でぐったり横になっていました。 #onagawa #save_miyagi_onagawa

I arrived at the General Gym around noon. The roof of the junior high school had cracked, so everyone who had evacuated there moved to the General Gym. There wasn’t enough food or blankets at that point. Most people were laying down, extremely exhausted.

@kombu_s: 正午の時点の話ですが、被災してから食糧は汁物一杯と小さな羊羹を2~3人で分けるよう言われたとしか聞いていません。毛布ではなく、みんなカーテン?を巻いて寝ていました。個人的に物資の供給は十分ではないと思いました。 #save_miyagi_onagawa #onagawa

At around noon, I heard that there was cups of miso soup and packaged jelly going around, to share with 2-3 people. There were no blankets, and people were wrapped up in what looked like curtains. I thought there wasn’t enough supplies being provided. #save_miyagi_onagawa #onagawa

@kombu_s: 正直、熊野神社から下の風景を見た時は何も言葉が出ませんでした。涙が出てきたし、乾いた笑いが込み上げるだけでした。そのくらい悲惨な状態です。でも逃げ延びた人々は自分達よりも町の外の親戚や知人のことを心配していました。 #onagawa #save_miyagi_onagawa

I was speechless when I first saw the sight from Kumano Shrine. My eyes filled with tears and dry laughter erupted from within me. It was that terrible. However, the people that managed to evacuate were worried about their relatives and friends outside of town.

@kombu_s: その時点ではケータイも圏外、ワンセグも対象外の地域で見ることが出来ませんでした。ラジオのみでは詳細が分からず、女川から無事を知らせることも出来ないことにとても心を痛められていました。連絡出来ないので不安になるとは思いますが、ご家族を信じてあげて下さい。 #onagawa

At that point, our cell phones were out of range, and 1seg was not working in our area either. The information from the radio was not detailed enough, and my heart ached that we could not let anyone know that we were safe in Onagawa. I know the lack of personal contact is worrying but please believe in your family.

@kombu_s: 毛布や暖房器具、食糧や水、あとはトイレ事情が最悪だったのでトイレットペーパー等、生きるのに必要な物資の供給があれば助かると思いました。あとはやっ ぱり情報が欲しいと思います。テレビもケータイも使えませんので。女川の外の状況を動画や写真で伝えてあげる手段があればいいと思うのです。

I thought that we will be saved as long as there are supplies necessary for survival; blankets, heating equipment, food, water, and toilet paper (the restroom situation was terrible). Also, we’d like more information! Television sets and cell phones aren’t usable. I wish there was a way to share video and photos of what’s happening outside of Onagawa.

@kombu_s: というのも、どうしても田舎ですから、比較的高齢の方が多いので…ラジオや新聞じゃ耳が遠かったり目が見えずらかったりする方も多いとおもうので、映像っ て大事だと思います。災害掲示板や災害ダイヤルにしても、高齢の方にはややこしいと思うのです。そもそもその時は繋がらない状態だったのですが

(cont) This is the countryside and there are many elderly people. Video is important because radio and newspapers are not sufficient for those with bad eyesight or hearing. The emergency bulletin boards and emergency dialing systems are pretty complex to the elderly. Of course, we didn’t have connection to those at that time anyway….

@kombu_s: 祖母やその友人の方たちから、残酷な話もたくさん聞きました。ただそれは田舎特有の横のつながりで広がってきた話ですので、正確性に欠けるかと思いツイー トを控えています。実際不安からの想像もいくつかあると思いますので。ですが、そんな話も出ている、ということは事実です。 #onagawa

I heard some horrible stories from my grandmother and her friends. However, it’s gossip talk that spread in a way that’s unique to the countryside, so I’ll refrain from tweeting about it since it might be inaccurate. I think a big part of it is imagination rooted in worry. However, it’s a fact that this kind of talk is happening.

@kombu_s: 女川病院から、マリンパル通り?下はマリンパルから女川高校へ登っていく坂で商店街だったところを撮影 実際歩いたとき生魚がたくさん落ちてました http://twitpic.com/48s41e

From Onagawa Hospital, I photographed a commercial street while climbing slope from Onagawa School to Marinpal road. As I actually walked over many raw fish were on the ground. http://twitpic.com/48s41e

@kombu_s: そういえば、体育館へ向かう途中、小さく火が出ているのを見ました。石巻で、11日夜に無理矢理女川へ向かった知人の方から、赤い光と煙がいくつか上がっ ているのを見たとも聞きました。何とかしたくても消火活動が行える状況ではなく、そのまま見過ごすしかありませんでした #onagawa

Now that I mention it, while on my way to the gymnasium, I saw a small fire. In Ishinomaki, I heard from a friend on the evening of the 11th who headed to Onagawa despite the danger, that he saw red light and flames. Although he wanted to do something, it was not a situation for action, so he had to just pass by and move on.

@kombu_s: 指入ってる>< 熊野神社から女川病院への階段下りたらいきなりこんな感じでした…街灯も根本から折れてた http://twitpic.com/48sk5z

Oops, my finger is in the photo. I encountered this while going down the stairs from Kumano Shrine to Onagawa Hospital. The streetlights were also bent at their roots.

@kombu_s: 解りづらいですが、女川病院に自衛隊のヘリが降りてきたところ 病院関係者が誘導してたみたいですが、病院の中は見てないのでどんな人達がいたかはわかりません http://twitpic.com/48sosz

It’s a bit difficult to see but here’s an image of a Self Defence Force helicopter as it reached Onagawa Hospital. The hospital staff was guiding it but I didn’t see what kind of people were inside the hospital.

@kombu_s: 私たちが女川に着いた時にはいくつかの避難場所から総合体育館や第一保育所に移動している方々とたくさんすれ違いました。高齢者は多いけれど、お互いに助け合って、男性陣は女性や子供、お年寄りの避難の補助をされていました。本当に良い町です。 #onagawa

While we headed towards Onagawa, we passed many evacuees moving from initial evacuation spot to [larger ones such as] General Gym or Daiichi Kindergarten. There are a lot of elderly people but people were helping each other. The men were helping women, children, and the elderly escape. Really good town. #onagawa

@kombu_s: 言おうか言わまいか迷っていることがたくさんあって 不安にさせたくてツイートしているわけじゃないから、本当にどうしようって さっきの中学生についてもちょっと悩んだけど、無事でいてほしいからツイートしました 心配ですよね、不安ですよね、本当にごめんなさい #onagawa

There are so many things running through my head that I’m not sure whether I should say them or not. I’m not tweeting to spread anxiety, so it makes me wonder what the best action is. I hesitated with whether I should mention the junior high students [referring to a previous tweet] but I tweeted about it because I hope they are safe. I share your worries and anxiety. Really sorry. #onagawa

Her last tweet was past midnight in Japan.

@kombu_s: う、わたしも寝ておくかな… また何か思いだしたりリプ見て何か言えることあったら起きてから呟きますね~>< おやすみなさい!

Oh, I should probably get some sleep. If I remember something, I’ll tweet tomorrow. Good night!

This post is part of our special coverage on the Japan Earthquake 2011.

This post was written with Chris Salzberg.


  • Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds

    Thank you for the translation! Very much appreciated (and shared).
    One note — the original author is not @konbu_s, but @kombu_s — it’s right everywhere in the post except for the very first mention. (I just accidentally mentioned @konbu_s, and she alerted me). Can you fix it so nobody else does that to @konbu_s by accident?

    Thank you again for your hard work!

  • Beth Swarbrigg

    I lived in Onagawa 10 years ago as a JET ALT at the chugakko. I am in tears at the loss of the town I loved. All of my thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope my students, colleagues and the community of Onagawa are well.

    • Kelly Warnock

      This is definitely heart-breaking. I also lived in Onagawa from 2003-2004. It’s hard to see the pictures and think about how much was lost. I pray that everyone is safe and the town can recover quickly.

  • Valéria Silva Custódio Yogi

    I am looking for Brazilians, who are in Onagawa, namely: Ilton Toshiaki Hanashiro Yogi, Yogi Roseli Hiroko Nelson with her ​​husband and daughter Micheli. We have not heard from them since Friday

  • […] @kombu_s has tweeted of her experiences in the earthquake and tsunami in Onagawa. Tomomi Sasaki has compiled the tweets and translated them into English on Global Voices. […]

  • Ana Candido

    I lived in Onagawa 1996 to 1999 as a JET ALT for the BOE–my lovely Onagawa it is so hard to see the pictures. I pray that everyone is safe–I think of all my students and the lovely people of Onagawa–may god be with you all. If anyone is looking for the Yoshida family–who lived there at the same time as me and worked for the Tohoku Company–they have sent me a message that they are safe in Sendai. I hope to hear from more people and share information.

    Bless you all!

  • Madelaine Murray (nee Pelletier)

    I also lived in Onagawa as a JET from 1999 to 2001. Like many of you, I absolutely loved the town and its people. I hope and pray for the safety of this wonderful community. I am also very concerned about some friends from Ishinomaki that I have kept in touch with since leaving Japan. They were students in the Bijou Takahashi English class held in Ishinomaki. I know a number of Onagawa JETs taught this adult class. I am hoping to hear from Masa and Setsuko Kawada. If anyone hears anything please pass it on. Thanks so much. And thanks to Tomomi Sasaki for sharing what she knows.

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