Monday, September 09, 2013

Ishinomori, manga and boats

Space design for the museum.
It’s great to find a new place to explore, isn’t it? Just over a week ago I headed with my wife and friend to Ishinomaki, a coastal city around 70 km from Ichinoseki, and we saw a movie and had dinner. Three days ago I returned to this city to find out a bit more about it and see a couple of things.
In fact I thought it was a really nice place. It lies very low, with hills appearing here and there. This part of Japan I am told dropped something like a full metre into the ocean after March 11th 2011. You can believe it when you visit Ishinomaki and see how high the ocean reaches in high tide. Ishinomaki was devastated by that tsunami. The before and after shots are horrific. Yet today,  two and a half years later, it seems to be doing ok. It’s a pretty busy, happening place.
We visited the Manga Museum. Ishinomaki is famous as the birthplace of Ishinomori Shotaro, who was a hugely successful creator of manga, including a story involving cyborgs numbered like British secret agents. I have to say, their 007 isn’t as cool as James Bond. The museum is housed in what on the outside looks like a space ship, not quite a flying saucer but flying saucer inspired. A section underneath opens out and anime figures, rather
small, pop out and music plays. Thankfully inside the museum was more interesting! (we were left underwhelmed by this)
Inside the girls dress up in some sort of space uniform, and on the second floor there is a display which is probably not worth the 800 Yen admission (the rest is free) but nice all the same. One part is examples of manga, some in English, as people continue on with his cyborg stories. The other part is slightly more interactive, angled at kids of course. There were lots of helmets from a TV series based on one his characters, and various other examples of characters from his work. Unfortunately cameras were not allowed for most of level two.
Level three had a couple of food shops and a library, and the first floor had the entrance and gift shop. We were also able to watch a 15 minute anime short which we both enjoyed.
The museum was hit but the tsunami. It’s on a small island in the bay, and must have born the full brunt of the thing. The island can only be about 400-500 metres long and 100 metres wide, and we were able to see before and after shots at the museum (in a photobook) and we could see there were a number of buildings on the island pre-tsunami. Today I think there were three. The museum survived, although a massive cleanup was needed and glass had to be replaced afterwards. Elsewhere on the island a much-smaller-than-the-real-one Statue of Liberty stands, missing part of its plastic exterior. It’s very eerie.
There is a Spanish galley moored in the harbour, next one along that is. It’s about 8 kilometres from the museum, and this particular harbor is really beautiful. The water was very still, the boats hardly moved moored in the bay. The San Juan is an immaculately maintained and restored galley from  Spain back when Europeans were trying to convert the Japanese – about three centuries ago. It looks brand new today, although the museum was closed and we couldn’t go on the ship, rather take a photo from a gate 30 metres away.

Outside the San Juan museum and centre it said the opening hours were 10-4pm. To be honest I don’t know if it’s reopened since the Tsunami. People were hard at work near the boat where they seemed to be constructing some of shaded viewing area. I wondered how much damage was done to the ship by the tsunami too. It’s a very strange feeling to stand next to the bay knowing what happened there in 2011. I was happy though that life seemed to be continuing for the locals. A lot of new houses being built, but still some people are living in emergency accommodation that we saw.

From the outside it appeared a fair amount normalcy had returned to Ishinomaki. But, who am I to judge that? I can’t comprehend the effect on people’s lives the tsunami had, and still has today. I was glad though that I was able to visit.

No comments: