Ogatsu Journey, Part 2: “Beyond the Mountain Pass, a Slow Recovery”

A Journey of Shorelines and Mountain Passes


This article was translated by Yiyang (Ian) ZHONG, Jamie DING, John CARLYLE, Julie EMORY, Jung hun CHEON, Kenzo STURM, Linnea PEARSON, McKenna STRICKER, Minnie THOMPSON, Rebecca LEVEQUE, Tyler FRAGIE, Cindy XU, and Yen-Han NGUYEN. This collaborative translation was part of an advanced Japanese language class at the University of Washington taught by Justin JESTY.

But Ogatsu completely changed in the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The town center was destroyed and the beautiful townscape has disappeared entirely. The local government General Branch Office (the former Town Hall) was damaged, demolished, and relocated. What used to be a symbol of the town, the Ogatsu Inkstone Traditional Industry Center, has become a vacant lot. Reconstruction plans have been drafted of course, and development of the new town has started, but that construction, which is focused on relocating the town center to higher ground is far behind schedule, as is the construction of a seawall.

Ogatsu General Branch Office (former Town Hall) awaiting demolition

Ogatsu Inkstone Traditional Industry Center being demolished





Meanwhile, population outflow has worsened. The number of residents has dropped precipitously, from 4,366 total residents in 1,647 households before the earthquake (as of September 30, 2010) to 1,207 residents in 617 households (as of February 6, 2020). When I compare the situation in Ogatsu with other places, even in the same city of Ishinomaki like the city center or the new development moving ahead in the Hebita Area, the difference is all-too obvious. Ogatsu, once a classic Sanriku townscape, has now ended up as a classic case of reconstruction delays.

July 2013

 May 2017

November 2019 The seawall remains uncompleted and the floodgate still has tsunami damage.

Ogatsu Journey, Part 1: “Beyond the Mountain Pass, Neighborhoods of Ogatsu Slate” A Journey of Coastlines and Mountain Passes

Ogatsu Journey, Part 3: “Beyond the Mountain Pass, Life Continues”