Some are leaving the quake-hit city of Wajima. But this Japanese fishmonger is determined to rebuild

Some are leaving the quake-hit city of Wajima.  But this Japanese fishmonger is determined to rebuild

Like the cat, she is a survivor of the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that rocked Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture and surrounding areas on New Year’s Day, killing at least 202 people, leaving dozens missing and destroying buildings — including a Minamidani seafood shop.

“We’re coming back. I’m determined,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. “There’s a lot we have to protect, even though we’re starting from scratch.”

Her chest tightened and she was unable to speak when she first saw the lopsided storefronts, the ceiling tiles smashed on the cracked sidewalk, and the yellow tape blocking the way to an entire department burned down by the fire.

“The Asaichi Dory I grew up with is gone,” she said.

Japanese-style anchovies were among the containers of fish treated in various sauces that tumbled down the hillside from the storage area of ​​its processing plant. She wasn’t sure when it would be restored, if ever.

She said it was precious, requiring many days of hard, loving work.

Her city was among the worst affected. Among the deaths, 81 people were in Wajima, 91 in Suzu, while 102 people are still missing, and 565 people were injured. Tens of thousands of homes lacked running water or electricity. Many, including Minamidani, found their homes too damaged to live in.

The floors in the Minamidani shop and processing plant collapsed, making it extremely dangerous to live there. Fortunately, another nearby house was still standing and is now home to nine people, including her husband, two children, and other relatives who have lost their families. Role.

Electricity is back on, but there is no running water.

Ishikawa counted more than 1,400 homes destroyed or severely damaged. Evacuation centers house 30,000 people. Heavy snowfall and more than 1,000 aftershocks increased the risk of more landslides.

Minamidani considers herself lucky. She was in the car with her husband and two children, on their way to the temple to celebrate the New Year and pray for good luck, when the major earthquake struck last Monday. None of them were hurt.

Audio earthquake warnings blared on their cell phones. She called her mother to make sure she was okay.

The recently spotted cat, Chi-chan, is a neighborhood celebrity of sorts. Her twin Dai-chan has never been seen.

Minamidani grew up watching her grandmother board the train with loads of seafood to sell at the market. I ran back from school to help her prepare the fish.

She opened her store when she was 17, three decades ago.

Her motto is to remember that business connects people with people. Customers come to buy her fish, not just for the fish, but because they want to buy fish from her. So she can’t let them see a sad face. She has to keep smiling.

Minamidani has already gotten together with about a dozen other people in Wajima to rent a place in the nearby city of Kanazawa, which was relatively unscathed by the quakes, to start their fish business together. They may have to use fish caught in other ports, as Wajima Port and boats there were severely damaged. Fishermen in Wajima say more time is needed before they can return to sea.

I realized that some in Wajima had given up and left. She said she was staying and would bring Wajima back.

When things settle down, she wants everyone to come visit her, from other countries and all over Japan. The great thing about Wajima isn’t just the seafood and the people, she said.

“Time flies slowly here,” Minamidani said. “When you look at the sunset, without thinking about anything, your heart becomes clean and pure.”

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Yuri Kageyama is at X https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

(tags for translation)evacuations

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