Today was our last day in Ishinomaki. It has been a whirlwind trip and although I am a bit tired, I am quite content and very excited that we are moving to this city in July. Yesterday we really surprised another American couple who thought we were just hoping to move here in July – “Nope, we really are moving here. We’ve got our tickets and everything!”
Last night we had a real treat. Below is THE video that first got us thinking we should consider moving to Ishinomaki. Back in Germany, I used to watch this video over and over and I felt so drawn to a place with such open, frank, opinionated and thoughtful people who had suffered so much. Last night we went to the bar (復興バー) mentioned in the video and actually met Matsumura Gota, the bar owner! We talked for hours with Matsumura-san, the other bartender, and some very friendly locals – the people here are incredibly open, so easy to talk with. I was so nervous meeting Matsumura-san, though – it was kind of like meeting a major celebrity! 🙂
A few more examples of the open spirit here: we stopped by a sports shop to get “がんばっぺ石巻” (hang in there, Ishinomaki) t-shirts and the owners brought us tea and desserts and invited us to sit down with them and chat. Yesterday we stopped by a tiny cafe (in the photo above) to ask for help, and the owners invited us in for drinks and to chat. I met a lovely woman at the Easter celebration and we went out for sushi today and we talked for hours. I had been seriously worrying a bit about the thought of moving to a whole new place and starting from scratch relationally speaking, but I know that we’ll be able to make lots of friends, young and old, once we are settled here long-term.
Two things we’ve noticed: first, the people are quite disgusted with the local government. “We can no longer rely on the government” and “the local government office stinks” are things we often hear. Second, the people are extremely grateful for all the help from foreign groups, NGO’s, churches, volunteers, etc. They are so quick to say “thank you” and tell their story of how various groups from around the world have helped them in significant ways. I’ve never felt so accepted and welcomed as a foreigner during my time living in Japan.
I think one thing we’d definitely like to do once we move here is to frequent the local businesses as often as possible and encourage others to do so as well. No matter how small, we want to contribute to the rebuilding and restoration of this city. Even thought it’s been a short stay (only two weeks!), we’ve loved chatting with the sweet people we’ve met and really look forward to making Ishinomaki our home this summer. がんばっぺ石巻！楽しみにしています。