Life in Japan’s Emergency Shelters

OTSUCHI, Japan—Across Japan’s northeast coast, as residents resign themselves to hunkering down for months in emergency shelters and waiting longer still for rubble to be cleared from their tsunami-swept towns, many are settling into new and surreal rhythms.

In refugee centers in this and other towns, survivors are structuring new lives around the few activities available to them—reading donated comic books, organizing self-help projects at evacuation shelters, visiting morgues and cleaning out family homes they may never again inhabit.

Makoto Umetsu, a 31-year-old steelworker in Otsuchi, reads newspapers and watches baseball games at the shelter where he sleeps on a foam mat wedged into a doorway. He isn’t sure when he will find another place to live or hear from his employer, whose factory was badly damaged by the waves.

Read the rest of the story: In Japan’s Shelters, Lives Are Left Off-Kilter.

Otsuchi: Quake-hit Japanese City May Not be a Survivor

You can see the survivors making the choice as they walk through the debris-strewn main street of Otsuchi in Japan — stay or go?

Some ramble as they walk, as if in a daze, trying to comprehend the present and match it with an uncertain future. Others look like tourists, coolly trying to place a cousin’s house or a grandmother’s garden.

But the dilemma is the same for them all: do you stay and rebuild in a devastated small town, struggling economically even before the tsunami, or pull up stakes and start anew in a big city?

Twenty-one-year-old Ayano Okuba doesn’t hesitate with her answer. "Even though I like Otsuchi, I can’t come back here." The tsunami flattened Okuba’s childhood home and killed the matriarch of her family, her grandmother.

Read the rest of the story: Quake-hit Japanese city in danger of dying.