Two month after leaving Ofunato, in a pitch-black theatre in Johor Bahru (no longer able to accept the ticket price here in Singapore), I kindna have a teenie-tiny little epiphany of sort. Strip away all those pyrotechnics, Pacific Rim is a movie about earthquake, nuclear disaster and tsunami. Trust me. The director himself had acknowledge that in Pacific Rim, he was paying homage to Japanese Kaijyuu monster and Mecha movies and anime.
Now, what is the mother of all Japanese Kaijyuu? Godzilla, of course. These Kaijyuu origin-of story usually involve them born out of a nuclear explosion or volcanic eruption, then left its atoll and swam across ocean to wreck havoc on the islands of Japan.
In one scene, a Jager grapped a ship and used it like a battering ram against a Kaijyuu. Before such force as great as the Kaijyuu and Jager, the ship can be tossed around like mere toys. Before the force of a tsunami, ships can land on dry land.
The remaining four monster-fighting Jagers retreated into their fortress in Hong Kong. Isn't this similar to Macross, giant robot built to fight aliens out to destroy earth. I think in anime, the threat of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion has always been personified in aliens and monsters.
As I watched scenes of the Jagers (Jaegers) getting on with the Kaijyuu(Kaiju), I couldn't help thinking that this is the long recurring struggle of Japan against earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster given shape and form. The Kaijyuu intrusion into the cities are even given level based on their destructiveness. Think Richter scale.
How about that non-Jager defense system the cities were putting up as they de-comissioned the Jagers? The Wall of Life? Kaiju Wall?
Here in Ofunato, they are building higher coastal to replace the ones destroyed by the last tsunami.
Of course, Pacific Rim being a Hollywood production, it's Go big or go home. Localised disaster just can't do, it has to involve everyone on the rim of the pond that is the Pacific. So in the reel world, three-arms Chinese Jager joint force with Australian father-son pair, Russians and the America-Japan partnership. In the real world, months after 3-11, residents in America coastal cities were picking up debris from the Sanriku area.
The trip from Kesennuma to Ofunato took about 30min. Along the way, the sea is never too far away, but the bus travelled on higher ground. Here away from the coast, the houses a sturdy, mostly built with ceramic-tiled roof.
In coves, the fleet of fishing boats are back. Although the capabilities to fish is back, whether the consumers are ready for seafood tainted with the suspicion of nuclear radiation is another matter.
Living up to it name, the BRT bus travelled part of its way on dedicated lanes.
As the bus slip into the Ofunato busstop, the only building standing out from a rather barren landscape was the Ofunato Plaza Hotel. I first thought the hotel was no longer operating, but as I approached the lobby, it was obvious the Plaza Hotel of Ofunato is back in business.
Again, if you were away from earth during 3-11 and had no idea 3-11 had happen during your absent, you would have thought that this is simply a far-out place that's under-developed. That the absent of buildings had nothing to do with a tsunami. Again, a comparision of the then-and-now would give an idea of the stark reality.
The factory complex by the water seems to have survive rather well. Or, it was restored ahead of other facilities nearby. I believe this is a cement factory, so it was probably given top priority.
The first thing I remember about stepping off the bus was how bloody cold the place was. While it was a warm comfortable May day in Kesennuma, the cloud here was blocking out the sun, and the cold wind was blowing in from the sea. Just imagine how it was in the month of March.
Behind the busstop was the usually brightly-colored little commercial district of temporary housings. As I made my way there, an elder lady stood at the edge the barren gravel-strewn square, pulled up the collar of her long coat, brace herself for the cold and walked onto the square, in her arms bags of offerings for her dearly departed.
Back in IshinoMaki, Kesennuma and Rikuzen Takata, I was either too late for lunch or too early for dinner. Here at last, I could try out the offering in one of the restaurant here, a bowl of steaming-hot ramen.
Check this out and tell me this is not too shabby, even for a temporary housing.
Maybe, it has to do with the fact that to our foreign eyes, Japanese houses and shops, even the 'permanent' ones, always have a transient feel to it. What with the thin wooden planks, creaky stairways, light sliding doors with paper pasted over and tiny unit-toilets, even houses handed down through generates seems somewhat temporary. As if, if heaven wills, the occupants would simply uproot and move on, or cleanup and rebuild.