March 7, 2022
TOKYO – A man in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, who lost his parents in the tsunami of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, plans to operate a small pleasure boat to allow people to enjoy the beautiful scenery of his hometown from the sea.
Norimi Shike, 62, plans to broaden the appeal of his hometown, even though he can no longer take his father out to do the fishing he loved.
When the earthquake struck 11 years ago, Shike was at work in Naraha’s neighboring town with a water company association. He called his home numerous times, but his father Tasuku, then 79, and mother Satoko, then 77, did not answer.
He wasn’t able to return home until after 9 p.m. Their home in the Namikura district, about 1 kilometre from the sea, had been completely destroyed and his parents were missing. As access to the area was restricted because of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., he was riddled with anxiety while staying at an evacuation center.
About 40 days later, the bodies of his parents were found under the rubble in a rice field about 500 meters from their home. “I felt sad and chagrined to think they must have felt cold in the water as they were swept away by the tsunami,” he recalled.
Shike moved from place to place across more than 10 locations in the prefecture including Iwaki, until five years ago when he settled in a public housing complex for disaster victims in his hometown a few kilometres from his former home. The area around his house has changed; it is now lined with facilities handling disaster waste. Shike said he often thinks about his life before the accident.
Shike and his father had a good relationship and they did many things together, including mountain climbing.
Shike got a license to operate a small boat 30 years ago so he could take his father fishing, which he loved. “But I couldn’t take him on a ride in my own boat since I didn’t have one before the disaster,” he said.
Two years ago, Shike acquired a small boat from his uncle who lives in Niigata Prefecture. He came to think about boating again, even though his father is not with him anymore.
In July last year, Shike set off in a small boat from the port of Ena in Iwaki and sailed around the coast of his hometown for five hours with an acquaintance. He said that although he still had a fear of the sea, which killed his parents, he felt as if he fulfilled a promise to his father.
Even before the disaster, he always thought the town of Naraha would look beautiful viewed from the sea. After his excursion, he said it looked new to him with its long line of steep quays, and he came to hope many people could enjoy the lovely view.
After the disaster, he did not feel like boating, but now he is filled with a dream to broaden the appeal of his hometown with the cooperation of friends who helped him repair the boat.