ISHINOMAKI, Japan --
A dock rests by the outskirts of the town, submerged before high tide even hits because of the powerful shift in Japan’s tectonic plate during the earthquake and subsequent tsunami last year.
A fishing boat, its anchor rusted and planted in the ground, sits by the whale museum, which used to bring visitors from around the city and beyond.
Between the museum and ocean, a building with torn and weathered walls which once served as a souvenir shop and restaurant is the mission for Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni volunteers March 6.
Alongside local volunteers, station volunteers worked to clean the interior and exterior of the building by tearing down the walls and clearing the inside.
The renovations will possibly allow the local community to use this building as a supply house for water and food.
“We’re volunteering to help the people who were hit by the earthquake and tsunami, helping them pick up their lives and move on,” said Christopher M. Gervais, MCAS Iwakuni volunteer. “I was here a year ago and I’m glad I get to come back and support the locals more.”
Armed with crowbars, volunteers tore into the old walls, stripping the building down to its metal frame. All four walls were steadily relieved of their deteriorating material, bits and pieces of what used to be the souvenir shop flying out with every crowbar strike.
“Getting the chance to get out here, get in the community and help, it feels good,” said Gervais. “The work we’re doing today will hopefully show the locals we really do care about them.”
Volunteers climbed the metal frames, reaching almost to the top of the building in an attempt to clear as much as possible.
These steps will make it easier for locals to construct a new shelter for supplies in this building’s future.
Volunteers without crowbars worked to pile up the remains. They scanned the work perimeter and collected trash in wheelbarrows to carry to a designated area to make later disposal simple.
As volunteers delved deeper, remnants of the souvenir shop and restaurant were found.
Old whalebones, which may have once been for sale; a refrigerator with food, along with figurines and other collectibles were littered across the ground and inside the building.
By the end of the day, almost the entire building stood cleaned and ready for rebuilding. The ledge, which faced away from the ocean, had become a makeshift shrine.
Volunteers collected bottles and other souvenirs that weathered last year’s disaster and arranged them in a display.
Hoping their hard work would help the local communities to rebuild and prosper, the group retired for the evening and set sights on their next project.
More to come next week on Japan volunteer efforts.