Tuesday 15 March 2011

Alex Thomson in Ofunato

'There is desolation in Ofunato today, almost beyond words.'
Watching Alex Thomson's report for tonight's Channel 4 News, from what used to be the town of Ofunato, in Northeast Japan, I admit I wept.

This is from his blog but it follows the report in its essentials:-

"..there is no chaos. No mayhem. There is a nuclear powerstation with some heating issues. There is a forest fire, a blizzard tonight and coastal obliteration on an unimaginale scale.

But this is Japan. They do not panic. They do not do mayhem. They don’t litter and they don’t loot.

But they do direct you quietly past their police checkpoints to their ruined towns.

Ofunato, this afternoon. Into its industrial quarter we wandered. Gooey silt, broken glass and the slime of rotten fish underfoot.

Above the splintered fish factory hundreds of gulls, crows, buzzards scream and wheel about; we've imposed, broken up this sudden feast of fetid tuna lying in the slime.

We are the only people around this desolation of warehousing and factories, ripped, splintered, spilled by the tsunami's passing. A ragged Japanese flag is torn among the debris.

The sky today gunship gray and heavy. The cold bites today, drizzle now, but snow to come, surely.

There is desolation in Ofunato today, almost beyond words."

Apparently, many Japanese towns have a quaint tradition: a piece of music is played over the public tannoy at 5pm, to remind the children it's time for home. In Ofunato, the system somehow remained intact, and the town's song happens, of all pieces, to be Paul McCartney's Yesterday. Thomson's very tender report ends without words - just a bizarrely synthesized version of the most-played song of all time, echoing tinnily over a broken and unpeopled townscape.

The link for Alex Thomson's Channel 4 News piece is http://www.channel4.com/news/tsunami-japanese-fishing-town-of-ofunato-in-ruins?m
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