English translation of explanation panel
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Remnants of Namie Town Ukedo Elementary School
Namie Town was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The tsunami destroyed most houses in the town's coastal area near the Pacific Ocean, and the Ukedo area (Oaza Ukedo and Oaza Nakahama Oaza Morotake) was also severely damaged, with only the school buildings and gymnasiums of Ukedo Elementary School and a small number of houses remained.
The scenery of the area changed significantly after the tsunami, so we kept Ukedo Elementary School as a reminder of the disaster to express a piece of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a site to remind you of life before the disaster and to portray a compound disaster (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster).
The Great East Japan Earthquake taught us that we never know when, where, or how a disaster may strike. May this remnant be a reminder to reaffirm your disaster preparedness by witnessing and experiencing the threat and outcome of a disaster, and we hope that you can prepare for the disaster to come.
About Namie Town
It is located in the center of Hama street, Fukushima Prefecture, surrounded by the mountains of the Abukuma Highlands in the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The Ukedo River in the northern part of town and the Takase River in the southern part merge near the waterway to form the Ukedo River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean.
The town is a pleasant place to live blessed with a natural environment and conditions, and the flat land is blessed with a warm climate with almost no snow.
Profile of Namie City
Location: 37°29’29”N 1412°0’1”E
Area: 223,14 km
Population: 21,434 (including 108 foreigners) *As of March 2011 (before the Great East Japan Earthquake)
Number of households: 7,671 households *As of March 2011 (before the Great East Japan Earthquake)
Employment: Employment population by industry
Primary industry Secondary industry Tertiary industry Year 1960 Census 60.2% 15.2% 24.6% Year 2010 Census 9.1% 32.9% 57.9%
After high economic growth, people shifted from a lifestyle centered on the primary industries of agriculture, forestry, and fishing to secondary and tertiary industries.
Ukedo Elementary School
Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, Namie Town had six elementary schools (Namie, Kiyohashi , Ukedo, Karino, Ohori, and Tsushima Elementary School). Among them, Ukedo Elementary School was the only one attended by children in the Ukedo district.
Ukedo Elementary School was founded in July 1873, when Hirogyo Elementary School was established at Zenichi Hamatani's residence. After that, it was renamed five times until becoming Namie Town Ukedo Elementary School in October 1953, and has been loved by the residents for many years in the Ukedo region. It was in March 1998 that the reconstruction of the current school building was completed. The current Ukedo Elementary School is located about 300 meters from the coast.
Overview of the Great East Japan Earthquake
Earthquake name: 2011 Tohoku earthquake off the Pacific Coast
Occurrence time: March 11, 2011 14:46
Epicenter: Off Sanriku (130 km off the east-southeast coast of Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture)
Latitude and longitude of epicenter: 38°06.2‘N 142°51.6’E
Depth of epicenter: 24km
Japan's largest seismic intensity: seismic intensity 7 (Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture)
Situation of Namie Town (due to the Great East Japan Earthquake)
Seismic intensity: Seismic intensity 6
Tsunami arrival time: 15:33 (Namie town coast)
Provisional tsunami height: 15.5m (2012, research by the University of Tokyo Graduate School and Fukushima Prefecture)
The town, which recorded a seismic intensity of 6, and the subsequent aftershocks, caused damage to houses. The tsunami hit the Ukedo, Morotake, Nakahama, Kitatanashio, and Minamitanashio districts, which face the Pacific Ocean, claiming the lives of many residents and washing away their houses. The area inundated by the tsunami is about 6 km (3% of the town area).
Situation of Namie Town (evacuation orders due to evacuation orders of the nuclear plant accident)
The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which worsened immediately after the earthquake, led to the explosion of the reactor building and the release of radioactive materials into the air and seawater.
The reports are based on the "Communication Agreement" signed by the town and Tokyo Electric Power Company, as well as the SPEEDI results. (*) Radioactive material spread predictions did not reach the town, putting future residents at risk.
Evacuation orders were issued throughout the town as a result of the nuclear disaster, and entry to the town was limited for a long period of time. *SPEEDI・・・Emergency Rapid Radioactive Effects Prediction Network System
It says in the display panel that "It exceeds the normal value, but we are investigating the cause."
The 24 units installed in the prefecture before the accident, 23 became unusable due to the earthquake and tsunami. ・June 5, 2011 A monitoring post was installed on the school grounds of Kiyohashi Elementary School.
The residents lived together with their pets and livestock. During the evacuation, people thought that they could return to their homes immediately with their animals. Then the government ordered the euthanasia of livestock in restricted areas. As soon as the owners gave their consent, the procedure was performed. ・June 2011 in a private residence
Damaged Ukedo Elementary School and its current situation
Ukedo Elementary School had one class for each grade level at the time of the earthquake, with a total of 93 students enrolled.
Students in grades 2 through 6 who were enrolled at the time escaped the tsunami by evacuating the school with the teachers. The first-year students had finished the fourth period and had already left school when the disaster occurred.
The tsunami reached the second floor of the school building after the children were evacuated, and after a long period of evacuation due to the nuclear accident, the school could not be reopened, but it changed its role as an earthquake disaster remnant.
・May 9, 2011 Damage in the 1st floor school building
・June 24, 2011 Message of encouragement left in the school that was the base of the search (music room)
・December 12, 2016 It took about five years until full-scale cleanup began.
・February 8, 2019 The review committee made a proposal for the preservation of Ukedo Elementary School as an earthquake disaster remnant.
Ukedo district before the tsunami
Although some houses collapsed due to the earthquake, most of the buildings remained on site until the tsunami hit. (as of March 11, 2011 at 14:57).
Ukedo district after tsunami
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the huge tsunami swept in and washed away most of the houses.
Ukedo Elementary School Story Beyond Mt. Ohira
On March 11, 2011, the students and teachers of Ukedo Elementary School hurried to Mt. Ohira, 1.5 kilometers away, and were evacuated with no one missing from the tsunami that surrounded the town. Let's take a look at the school's damage, as well as this true-life story about how they managed to escape that day.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Ukedo Elementary School had 93 children attending school.
Eleven 1st graders went home after the 4th period, but the students from 2nd grade to 6th grade were still at school.
The 5th graders were preparing for the graduation ceremony to be held on March 23 (Wednesday) in the gymnasium.
I'm about to say goodbye to the 6th graders and meet the new 1st graders. The gymnasium is beautifully decorated with the graduation ceremony banners. Fifth graders will be the seniors in the school.
The 1st graders will be the older brothers and sisters. Everyone is filled with expectation and anxiety.
It was right before the end of class.
With a loud roar, the school began to sway. "Oh、 Earthquake!"
14:46 An earthquake with a seismic intensity of upper 6 occurred.
There had been an earthquake a few days earlier, so the children hid under their desks, wondering if there was another earthquake, and waited for the shaking to stop.
However, the shaking did not stop, and the desk moved several dozen centimeters.
The 5th graders in the gym were squatting down and trying to protect their heads with their hands.
14:47 Safety confirmation and school announcement
After calling for the safety of the children on the school announcement, the teacher gave instructions to evacuate to the school grounds.
"Hurry up to the school grounds!”
Because the pool was overflowing with water due to the earthquake, the 5th graders in the gymnasium and the 4th and 6th graders on the 2nd floor were evacuated to the school grounds through the infirmary.
Collapsed classroom wall
The force of the tsunami knocked down the wall of the second grade classroom from south to north.
The walls of the 3rd grade classrooms were washed away, and the walls of the 1st grade classrooms were left distorted.
14:49 Major tsunami warning issued
The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued a major tsunami warning for the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. In Fukushima Prefecture, it was announced that a 3m tsunami was expected.
14:50 Disaster prevention administrative radio broadcasting
A major tsunami warning was issued by the disaster prevention administrative radio as follows.
“Right now, a major tsunami warning has been issued. Residents of the coastal districts of Tanashio, Ukedo, Nakahama, and Ryotake should immediately evacuate to the designated evacuation shelters.”
Gymnasium emergency exit on the entrance side
This emergency exit was often used by children to enter the gymnasium.
After the shaking subsided, the 5th graders in the gymnasium evacuated through this emergency exit, which led from the infirmary to the balcony.
This door was also bent due to the tsunami, but it remained intact.
Composite board torn off the wall
The wall was washed away by the tsunami, and this composite board that collectively managed the clocks and fire alarms in each room was exposed and stopped functioning while it was tilted.
As a result, all the remaining clocks on the premises have stopped at 15:37.
14:54 Teachers and students headed to Mt. Ohira
The 82 children in the 2nd grade and above who were in the school moved to the school grounds and lined up according to grade.
After confirming that all students had evacuated to the school grounds, they began evacuating to Mt. Ohira under the supervision of the school affairs chief.
The 6th graders took the lead, and everyone ran without any luggage. They ran out without even having time to put on their jackets, so they began to evacuate while enduring the freezing wind.
“Hurry up! Go to a higher place!”
"To Mt. Ohira!”
Safe in the principal's office
Even the sturdy and heavy safe was swept away by the force of the tsunami and collapsed.
On February 29, 2016, we opened a safe that had been locked for many years and retrieved the documents inside.
Due to the effects of sea breeze and rainwater, it has now turned completely black with rust.
14:54 Earthquake off the coast of Fukushima prefecture
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake and several aftershocks in Namie Town with seismic intensities under 5 occurred at the same time as the evacuation to Mt. Ohira started.
15:14 Major tsunami warning (height correction)
The tsunami height, which had been announced as 3m, was raised to 6m.
If there is an earthquake, there will be a tsunami," said by an elderly neighbor. The teacher and students ran away and approached the HamaKaido.
The HamaKaido was filled with people trying to escape from the tsunami, and there were many cars, but the teacher managed to stop the car and let us cross.
"Teacher, where is my child?”
"First we have to escape!”
Some parents came to pick up their children, but the teacher continued to evacuate the children.
15:15 Arrived at the foot of Mt. Ohira
The teacher and students ran hard and reached the foot of Mt. Ohira.
A student from the sports club led them to the entrance.
"Sensei! Over here.”
"You can enter the mountain from this road! I've been practicing here before.“
3:25 p.m. Vice-Principal Heads to Mt. Ohira
While the teachers and students were evacuating to Mt. Ohira, the vice-principal remained at the school and told the parents who came to pick them up as follows, urging them to evacuate immediately.
・All children must evacuate to Mt. Ohira.
・Meeting with children must be on Mt. Ohira.
Around 3:15 p.m., parents stopped coming to the school, and the vice-principal confirmed that no one was in the school building, and they finally started evacuating from the school to Mt. Ohira by car.
15:30 Major tsunami warning (height correction)
The tsunami height, which was originally announced as 3m, was raised to 6m, but was again raised to more than 10m.
15:33 First wave of tsunami reaches coastal area
15:34 Disaster prevention administrative radio broadcasting
"A tsunami is approaching right now. Please evacuate to high ground on the mountain side immediately. Also, please dispatch the fire department. “
Tsunami hits Ukedo Elementary School
The tsunami swept a large number of objects, including cars, and they slammed into the pillar at the catering room's entrance.
While climbing the mountain, strange sounds were heard from the sea. Teachers talked to the children and tried to distract them from their anxiety.
Surge of the Great Tsunami
Even after the tsunami's initial wave hit, it continued to rise and eventually reached the foot of Mt Ohira.
15:51 Disaster prevention administrative radio broadcasting
"Higashi Junior High School has been hit by the tsunami. Please continue to remain cautious and seek higher ground. Also, the fire department should contact the town hall about the damage.”
16:00 Teachers and students arrive at Mt. Ohira
With the sound of the trees rustling, everyone finally made it to the top. None of the children witnessed the tsunami since there wasn't a well-maintained high ground nearby; it was just a mountain.
The teachers did a roll call to make sure everyone was there.After that, the two teachers went back down the way they came to see what happened to Ukedo.
The teachers began climbing, and the city that had been there only a few minutes before had entirely transformed, and the surrounding area had all turned into water, and a sense of hopelessness washed over us.
"We can't go back..."
16:05 The evacuation destination has been changed to the city hall.
The teachers decided that they could not stay at the summit of Mt. Ohira, so they decided to go further west from the mountain onto Route 6 and head for the city hall.We had a local guide lead us down a narrow road.
"There were fallen trees along the way, and I was horrified to think, 'What if they fell while we were walking? (Notes of a teacher who was evacuated with a child)
16:30 Arrive at Kogusa district of Futaba town
"When I was walking on the animal road, I remember being surprised when I saw a small sign indicating the town boundary called [Futaba] on the way." (Story of an evacuated child)
When the teachers and children went down the mountain and took a break in the parking lot along National Route 6, there were many aftershocks, and cracks appeared in front of the students and teachers.
The cracks in the ground on the roads were severe, and there were places that were closed to traffic, and the area was heavily congested.
"Get on the truck! Let’s get out of here!”
16:40 Miraculous rescue
As I stood there wondering what to do, a large truck suddenly stopped in front of me.A courier company from Iwaki City passed by, and they put everyone on the back of a truck and took them to the city hall.
"I evacuated with only the clothes I was wearing, so it was very cold in the uncovered luggage carrier. However, I was able to reach the office, for which I am I am very grateful. (A story by an evacuated child)
17:00 Arrived at Namie City Hall
After confirming that all the children who had evacuated were safe, the teacher went to the city hall, and some children and their parents finally reunited.
A gymnasium called "Sunshine Namie" next to the town hall was designated as the evacuation site for residents of the Ukedo district, so everyone moved to the gymnasium.
When the truck arrived at the city hall, everyone evacuated to the gymnasium.In this way, all of them at Ukedo Elementary School were able to evacuate.
You won't know when an earthquake or danger will come to you.
“Where is Mt. Ohira to you?”
Due to the effects of the nuclear accident, everyone had to evacuate to various parts of the country, so it was not confirmed until April of the same year that everyone was safe, including the first-year students who had already left school when the disaster struck.
Ukedo district immediately after the tsunami
The tsunami that hit this area following the earthquake caused the loss of many lives and properties.
The water from the tsunami reached the second floor of the school building where you are.
The tsunami washed away or damaged 604 houses in the coastal area of the town: 402 in the Ukedo area; 58 in the Nakahama area; 32 in the Ryotake area; 101 in the Tanashio area; and 11 in the Kita-Ikusebashi area.
・Around 15:54 on March 11, 2011, around Kodo Elementary School after the tsunami
・Ukedo Elementary School is located in the center of town (in the direction of Ryotake) from the foot of Mt. Ohira.
Casualties of the tsunami
Teachers and staff of Ukedo Elementary School and residents who accompanied the evacuation and crossed Mt. Ohira were able to escape the threat of the tsunami.
People who remained at home in the town's coastal area, including the Ukedo district, and their families who went to pick them up, police and firefighters who guided residents to evacuate, and drainage pump station managers who tried to reduce damage to the district all died in the tsunami.
The clock that was installed on the school grounds
Due to the tsunami, the dial of the watch was bent. At the time of the disaster, it was attached to the school building, but over the course of 10 years it gradually sagged and fell, so only the board is what's left.
Was the tsunami hazard map utilized?
Following workshops with local residents, they prepared and distributed tsunami hazard maps and conducted disaster drills, including tsunami evacuation.
While it raised awareness of the tsunami, it also changed the misconception that there was no greater damage than the hazard map.
During the workshop, some comments were "There are many people who have never experienced a tsunami and have never experienced the horror of it, so they may not evacuate.”
“Will I get caught in the tsunami if I go home?”
“How should we deal with bedridden, elderly people living alone and physically handicapped people?”
The Great East Japan Earthquake suddenly occurred while we were working on these awareness system for tsunami evacuation based on these opinions.
that day, that time
Here are some experiences of those who saw the tsunami that surged into the coastal area of the town and those who were caught up in it after a long and large earthquake.
There was sand smoke all over on the east side. The scenery changed in an instant, and it was like a dream.
The residents thought a big tsunami would not come. This is because our predecessors told us that Ukedo Beach is a shallow sea, so a large tsunami would not come. On the eastern side, there were black waves on the sea. Suddenly, a tsunami was coming towards the town.
While evacuating from the tsunami, the blue sky seen through the train's rear window became frightening because the tsunami looked like white clouds.
The tsunami rushed in with sand smoke and a terrifying sound of crunching. Before I knew it, I was swallowed by the tsunami and washed away toward the rice fields. I was swept up to the junction of the Takase River and the Izumida River, but I desperately endured by holding on to something that was flowing.
When the second tsunami came, the current was strong and I drank a lot of muddy water. I had to grab hold of something as soon as possible, so I was holding on to various things and floating. I caught sight of an acquaintance of mine going up to the roof and calling out to me, so I approached him and went up to the roof.
There were a lot of blankets in the attic of the house that came over, so I wrapped myself in them. At that time, all I could see was This School. The tide was rushing in, but luckily I was dragged to the bank of the Ukedo River, saving my life.
that day, that time
Since a major tsunami warning had been issued, we were instructed to first publicize this to residents living in coastal areas. I confirmed the tsunami and was on my way back to the town hall while I was announcing the evacuation in my car.
What caught my attention at that time was that they called out quite a few calls to evacuate.
There was a person standing on the side of the road who said, “The tsunami won't come anyway." It was difficult to persuade them, but now I wonder if I should have been more forceful in my instructions to evacuate.
-A disaster prevention department employee who announced the evacuation
It was like walking in a rice field before rice planting. It's a mess, and if you don't look closely, you don't know what will hit you. Cars, trees, and even houses that were washed up were on the road.
While heading to the site, I guided people by telling them that there is a road or a sidewalk over here.
-Local employees headed out at night to pick up and drop off residents who had evacuated to higher ground.
There was a meeting to search for the tsunami-stricken area after dawn. First, the construction company cleared the road, and then the fire department and police began searching for the missing people. We were promoting such a division of roles.
Surviving Life after Evacuation and Disaster-Related Death.
We left our familiar homes and started living in evacuation places where we can’t see the future.
Many people had to move in and out twice until we moved to temporary housing or private rental housing (rented housing). I continued to live in a strange land, struggling with personal relationships and worrying about the future.
Among them were those who died as a result of disaster-related causes such as repeated movement following the nuclear accident, interruption of medical treatment, deterioration of symptoms, changes in living environment, and loss of frustration, and etc. This is more than double the earthquake and tsunami's 182 casualties.
-Emergency temporary housing
In some houses, construction work such as installation of occupancy rooms, insulation of the walls, and double sashes was carried out.
Many houses were forced to be demolished due to the earthquake.
Toward rebuilding houses
It wasn't until 2013, two years after the disaster, that the movement to rebuild the homes of the tsunami victims began in earnest, when the areas under evacuation orders in the town were reorganized.
After repeated surveys of intentions toward the implementation of a disaster-prevention group relocation promotion project, which aims to relocate groups from tsunami-damaged residential areas to other locations within the town, most of the tsunami-flooded areas were designated as disaster-risk areas. This was designated as an area, and restrictions were placed on new construction, extension, and renovation of houses, etc.
In terms of housing reconstruction, we provided fixed-amount subsidies for housing reconstruction both inside and outside the town, in addition to developing housing complexes in two districts of town and purchasing disaster-stricken residential land and farmland.
On the other hand, the impact of the nuclear accident casts a large shadow on the rebuilding of housing in the town, such as finding employment, going to school, family situation, settlement in the evacuation destination, and anxiety about the situation at the nuclear power plant.
Voices of Tsunami Victims: From an Intention Survey on Group Relocation for Disaster Prevention
- I wish I could go home, but I can't. This is what the people of the town will feel. Even more so for those living in tsunami-affected areas.
- Even after decontamination, living in Namie is full of anxiety. I intend to leave town as soon as possible. Please sell at a reasonable price. I can't move forward unless you do. I hope that the tsunami victims' regrets are at least partially compensated.
Even those who do not want to return to the town or who do not know at this point However, my children will end up working outside their birthplace, nor they can't live in a place surrounded by a nuclear power plant still under processing and high levels of radiation.
Even if their house was rebuilt, most of them don't want to go back.
If it was only a tsunami disaster, we evacuated to temporary housing in Namie Town, and by now all the residents of the district will participate in the group relocation. I think life in a new place has begun.
Although my house has moved, I consider Namie to be my hometown.
Does letting the residents return to the town mean they will die soon?
If it were only for the earthquake and tsunami, I would like to take the initiative in participating in the town's disaster prevention collective relocation promotion project, but it's difficult to make a decision in the current situation, which is complicated by the nuclear power plant accident
I’m not living in a different place because I want to, but I have no other choice but to live here. I think everyone has the desire to go back if they can.
At least at the grave
The tsunami destroyed not only the lives of the people, but also the cemeteries where our ancestors rest. “I may not be able to go back, but at least I want my grave to be in my hometown”
Responding to such voices, the town started to develop a cemetery on high ground (Mt. Ohirayama) in the Ukedo area that was not damaged by the tsunami, and in 2015, it was established as the "Town-run Ohirayama Cemetery.”
The residents have already moved out of the town, but they want to place their graves in Ukedo, making it as a proof of their upbringing.
We decided not to go back to our hometown, but due to the cemetery, we would like to share the bones of my mother-in-law, who passed away in August 2011, with my father-in-law. When the cemetery is leveled, I intend to rebuild it.
I intend to take care of the construction of the cemetery, and I have asked my family to bury the bones there.
I want to look at the land of Ukedo even after my death.
I have decided to live outside of town, but the cemetery is built in Ukedo, and I would like to return to my hometown from time to time and immerse myself in the memories. I'd like to put that horrible tsunami out of my mind and imagine a beautiful sandy beach with calm waves.
-Namie Town Great East Japan Earthquake Memorial Monument
-Overlooking the sea from Ohirayama Cemetery
Missing person search delays
After the tsunami on March 11th, we had planned to search for missing persons along the coast early in the morning on March 12th.
It was not until April that the actual search activities began due to the effects of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
It took more than a month (from May 26) for residents of the coastal area to enter.
-Evacuation sites from all over the country gather at the relay station and wear protective clothing.
From employee records
On the night of the 11th, I was instructed to guide the search for the tsunami-affected area tomorrow (12th).
We spent the night preparing for the next morning, but it was decided that the nuclear power plant was dangerous and the search operations would be canceled and the residents would be evacuated.
The hardest thing for me that I encountered was when the relatives of the tsunami victims said, "Anyway, let me go search. I'm begging you, let me go. " It was not the first or second time they cried at the counter.
-Transferring bus in the station
After the disaster, messages of encouragement from people involved in the search for missing persons, such as the Self-Defense Forces, police, firefighters, and local construction workers, were written on the blackboards of each classroom in the school.
Residents and graduates who stopped at the school building during temporary entry wrote about their feelings for the community and the school, but it was collected in February 2016 because the number of writings in the school record increased after the evacuation order area was reorganized.