Kesennuma’s Recovery

Japan Guide has an ongoing series where they revisit some of the 3/11 disaster sites every six months.  They’ve just published their 3 year anniversary piece.  While a nice enough series overall, this bit rubbed me the wrong way:

Picture 2

“A twenty minute car ride further south the coast across the prefectural border in Miyagi Prefecture, we visited Kesennuma City. The stranded ‘Kyotoku Maru 18’ ship, the most striking monument of the March 2011 disaster, has now completely disappeared from the city’s Shishiori district. As a result, visitors to the city and its recovery markets have decreased considerably, and Kesennuma now lacks a major monument for remembering the disaster and educating future generations.”

How judgmental!  Writers like these can get annoying when they get too focused on their bread and butter of tourism.  Oh no, the number of disaster tourists has decreased?  Those people that go trampling across where people’s homes used to be, snapping photogenic pictures of death and destruction?  Who said Kesennuma wanted them?  Who said that Kesennuma wants to be known only as a place that got washed away, where over a thousand people died?  Why should they have to be a theme park for the morbidly obsessed?  Heck, if tourism is all that matters, they should keep not just the boat, but as much destruction as they possibly can.  Leave the whole destroyed town just as it is, put a fence up around it, call it City of Terrors and charge admission.

No, the reality is that Kesennuma is a little Japanese coastal town where people live.  That the citizens want to go back to being a fishing town known for its seafood rather than a hub for macabre fetishists I think is perfectly reasonable and understandable.  (And it is indeed the citizens’ will, as they held a vote to decide what to do–the city government had actually wanted to keep the thing [probably also seeing the tourism boost] and the people voted to remove it.)  It is horribly wrong for some tourism writer based in Tokyo or wherever to criticize them, and especially wrong to do so hiding behind ‘education’ when their real interest is obviously interesting and unique tourist spots.  That was completely out of line.

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