Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Rebuilding lives in the wake of Japan's dual disasters

Takaaki Watanabe, a seaweed farmer, is one of thousands of Japanese trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged much of the country on March 11, 2011 . Watanabe was one of the lucky 5.8 percent from his hometown whose boat survived the tsunami that swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations. He now struggles to priovide for his three daughters in their temporary home in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan.

1 of 18

Snow falls over Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. The fishing town of Minamisanriku was devastated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

2 of 18

Takaaki Watanabe, 48, and fellow seaweed farmers take a break from preparing seaweed for shipment outside their newly built workplace in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. Traditionally farming is carried out in family units, however after the tsunami, the farmers of Minamisanriku created a guild to combine their businesses. They decided to collaborate since there was no way to restart their business individually.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

3 of 18

Takaaki Watanabe, 48, a seaweed farmer, prepares in his temporary home, for a parent's day event held at his youngest daughter Manami's elementary school in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Since the tsunami Watanabe works a full day, attends school related events with his daughters, cooks, washes the dishes, does the laundry and shuttles his daughter to a train station 20 minutes away every morning and night. Once every few days his sister comes to cook dinner but still there is no time for him to rest.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

4 of 18

Takaaki Watanabe, 48, a seaweed farmer, prepares dinner for his children in his temporary home in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. "I have never done house chores before, and I still haven't gotten use to it," Watanabe said, as he sat inside a room that was cluttered with his daughters' clothes. "There is just not enough space and no time to clean up."

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 18

Satomi Watanabe, 17, studies at her temporary house in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Since the tsunami, Satomi's father works long days and then struggles to maintain a home and family life for his children, leaving him no time for rest. Picture taken February 24, 2012.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

6 of 18

Lights are turned on in the rooms of a temporary house, where Takaaki Watanabe, 48, and his three daughters live since the tsunami swept away their house, in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Seaweed farmer Watanabe's boat was among the 5.8 percent in his hometown that survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, however what he lost was much greater. Tsunami waves swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

7 of 18

Manami Watanabe, 11, takes a nap at her family's temporary house in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Since the tsunami washed away his home, wife and mother, Manami's father works long days and then struggles to maintain a home and family life for his three children, leaving him no time for rest. Picture taken February 24, 2012.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

8 of 18

A family photo taken by Takaaki Watanabe, showing his wife, mother and three daughters, is pictured at his temporary house in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Watanabe, a seaweed farmer, was one of the lucky 5.8 percent from his hometown whose boat survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, however what he lost was much greater. Tsunami waves swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

9 of 18

Takaaki Watanabe prays in front of portrait photos of his late wife Yukiko and his mother Kyoko, in his temporary house in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Watanabe, a seaweed farmer, was one of the lucky 5.8 percent from his hometown whose boat survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, however what he lost was much greater. Tsunami waves swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

10 of 18

Takaaki Watanabe, 48, smokes a cigarette in his temporary home on February 24, 2012. Watanabe, a seaweed farmer, was one of the lucky 5.8 percent from his hometown whose boat survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, however what he lost was much greater. Tsunami waves swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

11 of 18

Manami Watanabe, 11, plays on the remaining foundations of her family's house in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Tsunami waves swept away her mother and her family's house, that was built on land handed down through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

12 of 18

Manami Watanabe, 11, walks along a railtrack which is no longer used since last year's tsunami in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 24, 2012. Watanabe's mother, grandmother and family home were swept away by the Tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

13 of 18

A car perches on a building in Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. The fishing town of Minamisanriku was devastated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

14 of 18

Demolished ships are pictured near the fishing port of Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. Only 5.8 percent of boats in the fishing town survived the March 11 tsunami according to the municipal government.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

15 of 18

Seaweed farmers prepare seaweed for shipment in their newly built workplace in Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. Traditionally farming has been carried out in family units, however after the tsunami the farmers of Minamisanriku created a guild to combine their businesses.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

16 of 18

Seagulls are pictured near the fishing port of Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. Only 5.8 percent of boats in the fishing town survived the March 11 tsunami according to the municipal government.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

17 of 18

Snow falls over Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan February 23, 2012. The fishing town of Minamisanriku was devastated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

18 of 18

Portrait photos of Yukiko Watanabe, 44, and Kyoko, aged 69, are placed on a table inside Takaaki Watanabe's temporary house. Watanabe, a seaweed farmer, was one of the lucky 5.8 percent from his hometown whose boat survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, that swept away his wife, mother and his house, that was built on land handed down to him through 13 generations.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

Report an error