Kumamoto Earthquake Aftermath Photos (a.k.a. the Case for Resilience)

As I relate in my Watson Returning Fellows’ Conference post, I visited Kumamoto, the epicenter of Japan’s huge earthquakes in mid-April, about three weeks into their rebuilding process. Rather than burying pictures at the bottom of that post, I wanted to dedicate a separate space to pictures from my meanderings around the city. First, an excerpt from the aforementioned post:

May 9, 2016Yokohama, Japan

…[M]y visit to Kumamoto, the epicenter of Japan’s huge earthquakes three weeks ago in mid-April, was so powerful. It reflected the reality of a Japan where rebuilding is a common event, where resilient infrastructure has innumerable value. The earthquake had caused major power cuts, gas leaks, and water shortages in Kumamoto, and train and plane services to Kumamoto were stopped for a while. Since Kumamoto is on the Japanese island of Kyushu, it was then basically isolated form the mainland. The rebuilding was well underway by the time I visited – the utilities were back and train services had been restored a few days before my visit – but there was still a lot to do. As I walked around the city, I saw many modern buildings with visible cracks in their foundations, shattered windows, or red “unsafe” inspection signs. I saw older houses, small cottages with grass roofs, caved in like crushed cake frosting. I saw trash piled up three weeks deep, a mix of normal waste and cleanup debris that the city trash services simply couldn’t handle.

To me, though, what was more interesting than observing the infrastructure was observing the people. I saw community. I saw volunteers in the city center serving food. I saw trash trucks from other cities including Kyoto, sent by these other cities to help clean up. I saw temporary vendors in a main market, presumably set up there because their normal buildings were unfit for use. The result was a juxtaposition of permanent shops, closed-off buildings, and stalls with cardboard boxes piled behind them. In this market, I saw lots of people walking around, hanging out, shopping. They were smiling, socializing, and coming together as a community… I saw a city moving on and moving forward.

 

And now, some pictures:

 

Screenshot_2016-05-08-14-40-32.png

The approximate loop I walked around Kumamoto, between Kumamoto Station and Kumamoto Castle.

 

IMG_20160508_131419744

Fallen tōrō (decorative stone lantern) at a Kumamoto shrine.

 

IMG_20160508_131631170

Kyoto’s sanitation (?) department lending a hand. In the back, a taped-up building.

 

IMG_20160508_132301271.jpg

There were pieces of blue tarp everywhere, signaling structural damages.

 

IMG_20160508_132448808

Some street views were astonishingly normal, a testament to Kumamoto’s rebuilding. The tram and bus services were up and running by the time I visited three weeks after the quake.

 

IMG_20160508_132715800

More blue tarp == more structural damage.

 

IMG_20160508_134055185

There were high piles of trash everywhere.

 

IMG_20160508_134122983

Damage on the street.

 

IMG_20160508_134149504

A red “unsafe” inspection sign.

 

IMG_20160508_134703963

A fallen old-style Japanese building, with the nearby section of street taped off.

 

IMG_20160508_134738982

Debris on the street, fallen from the roof overhead.

 

IMG_20160508_134928856

Many large apartment buildings had their windows taped up, I believe for structural support.

 

IMG_20160508_135014870

Green “inspected” sign, indicating the building is safe.

 

IMG_20160508_140404410

A tented area in the middle of Kumamoto, which I believe was providing food to those in need.

 

IMG_20160508_135849110

Delivery of supplies to the tented area by a Coca Cola truck.

 

IMG_20160508_140722802

The market in the city center was bustling, and I felt an overwhelming sense of community and moving on. There were many temporary stalls, I presume from displaced vendors.

 

IMG_20160508_141602833

A temporary market stall from a (presumably) displaced vendor. Behind the counter are dollies stacked with cardboard boxes, and the stall itself is selling fragile kitchenware such as plates and tea kettles.

 

IMG_20160508_142610577

Structural damage near Kumamoto Castle. An old-style Japanese house fallen from the top of a hill, and a lower-level house with blue tarp on the roof.

 

IMG_20160508_142950588

Many locals were taking pictures of the damage near Kumamoto Castle.

 

IMG_20160508_143046906

More structural damage near Kumamoto Castle, in the form of fallen/damaged statues and monuments.

 

IMG_20160508_143344637

There were many cracked sidewalk tiles.

 

IMG_20160508_143651129

A man sleeping on a bench near Kumamoto Castle. I had no way of knowing whether he’d been displaced from his accommodation or whether he was just taking a nice afternoon nap in a public space (the later isn’t uncommon in Japan).

 

IMG_20160508_154500471

Kumamoto Station’s escalator was not yet working the day I walked around.

 

IMG_20160508_154321851

Kumamon, Kumamoto Prefecture’s giant happy bear mascot, brightening up the train station. He was my comforting companion on an otherwise sobering day.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Kumamoto Earthquake Aftermath Photos (a.k.a. the Case for Resilience)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s