Among the survivors are the owners or tenants of those hundreds of shops in the city centre which the monstrous wave swept away. What remains of the shopping centre – usually made of light materials – are the cemented foundation and demarcations. It wears a deserted look, with hardly any human beings visible.
As the authorities have yet to finalize reconstruction plans, most residents here are still restricted to their homes or temporary shelters. Some 300 families managed to get back into their homes, while the majority is still camping at about 2000 temporary homes the government had prepared.
Many of the families, which lost livelihoods, either moved to relatives in the nearby valleys or left for other cities in search of rebuilding their lives.
Another volunteer, Nishioka, from the Ohita Prefecture has been helping out with tea and coffee at an open air hang-out for the affected people. A look alike of the first American president Abraham Lincoln, Nishioka had been in Ozuchi since May, running the Ozuchi Open Air Coffee Corner, as a Volunteer for Tono Magokoro Network, a community initiative to help the tsunami victims.
The Japanese spirit of volunteerism – the readiness to give up lucrative careers for humanitarian work is visible all over. Mr.Sueta, 26-year-old from Hiroshima, offers another example of this spirit. He is a construction worker, but his agility and skills have catapulted him into a leadership role in the Ozuchi town, where he oversaw over three dozen volunteers, who had been helping out with the cleaning of the water and drainage ways around the main road and the university buildings.
“Just want to contribute my bit to the affected-people of the great tragedy. Want to listen to their stories, share their moments of grief,” said Sueta. What struck Ken Katai most is what used to be the central shopping centre.
“It is heart-wrenching to see the deserted site … I just listen, cannot even say to them I understand their feelings.”
The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and the serious accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station in March changed many lives. It also revitalized the spirit of volunteerism in Japan – with people from all over the country flocking to the stricken areas. Through their presence and sheer hard work, they revived hopes among the affected population and still serve as the helping hands of the authorities which have tried day and night to resurrect what was swept by the tsunami.