First Step Toward Recovery—Opening of the Onagawa Container House Village Shopping Arcade

The shopping arcade finally opens on July 1st!

AAR JAPAN has been providing easy-to-build container houses for victims of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Used as both residences and shops, 26 houses have now been set up in Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture’s Oshika County.

Located near the seaside, the shopping arcade in Onagawa suffered extensive damage from the tsunami. Since then there have been only two stores where residents could go shopping—a convenience store and a small shop. On June 7th and 8th, AAR JAPAN set up 10 container houses at Washinokami-hama in Onagawa Town, responding to a request from the youth section of Onagawa’s Commerce and Industry Association, which wanted to use container houses to rebuild the shopping arcade. 8 container houses were to be used as shops, and 2 as residences.

On July 1st, the new shopping arcade finally opened, being dubbed the Onagawa Container House Village Shopping Arcade. There are 7 shops in total, including a fruit and vegetable shop, a shop selling frozen meat and fish, a flower shop, a delicatessen, and an electronics shop. The shops will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

July 1st – Fruit sales are brisk. Mr. AIHARA (left), chairman of the shopping arcade, lost his original shop to the tsunami. (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

A Base for Creating Smiles

At some shops, the wares were lined up so tightly that the six-by-two meter container houses were completely full. At the delicatessen, the staff cooked inside while selling under a blue tent out front. Every store was crowded with locals who came bright and early to shop.

A woman in her 70s told us that she walked to the shopping arcade from her shelter nearby. Holding a melon she had purchased at the fruit and vegetable shop, she said with a broad smile, “Since my car has been swept away, it’s been hard taking the bus to go to the supermarket. Now we have a shopping arcade nearby, which really helps. Thank you very much.”

The container house selling frozen meat and fish was full of customers. A woman in her 60s who has been taking shelter nearby told us, “Without a refrigerator, we haven’t been able to eat sashimi or tofu. I’ll come again before dinner.” Lacking a washing machine and still unable to move into temporary housing, she has been anxious about her future. Enjoying the smell of fried food from the next container house, she looked into the shop and remarked, “They also sell fried food! A delicatessen is convenient.” Encountering an old friend in the shop, a smile spread across her face.

“I hope this shopping arcade will bring a smile to everyone’s faces” says Mr. ABE, a member of the youth section of the Commerce and Industry Association, which has devoted so much effort to the recovery of the shopping arcade. True to his words, smiles have been created here one after another.

In the disaster area, there are still many places in need of this kind of base for creating smiles. AAR JAPAN has been receiving many requests from people who want to use container houses as temporary offices, welfare facilities, and meeting places. I ask for your continued support so that we can provide as many container houses as possible.

July 1st – The Onagawa Container House Shopping Arcade. The white and blue tents are nicely suited to the blue lines on the container houses. (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

July 1st – There is a lovely flower shop at the entrance of the shopping arcade. Some people buy flowers to offer before the markers of the deceased. (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

July 1st – The electronics shop sold 5 fans within an hour of opening. The owner told us, “Although many places have been facing a shortage of supplies, I made sure I had a large stock for today.” (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

July 1st – Members of the youth section of Onagawa’s Commerce and Industry Association, who have devoted so much effort to the recovery of the shopping arcade. At center is Kaori YAMADA of AAR JAPAN. (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

July 1st – Stepping out of the shopping arcade, the remains of the town form a bleak reminder of the effects of the tsunami. (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture)

                                                                       Kaori YAMADA, AAR JAPAN Tokyo office
Worked at a Japanese NGO for 8 years before joining AAR JAPAN. Has been in charge of public relations and supporters at AAR JAPAN’s Tokyo office since November 2007.