And so the inevitable suffering after the night before. Chris was pretty certain he was still drunk at breakfast. I felt OK then, but got worse as the day went on.
We took the shuttle to the station and got a train to Nagata, Kobe. We started our day at Nagata Fire Station, then wandered around Kobe streets affected by the 1995 earthquake, and then to a school practicing disaster stuff. The kids were fascinated by Chris (tall, big, ginger) and Bernard (black).
Then our Japanese firemen left us and went to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution. Hideyuki wasn’t with us today, but two of his students met us to look after us for the rest of the day. There was a big event about disaster risk reduction (DRR) marking the anniversary of the earthquake. We hung around for a while, met someone really important for a few seconds (and we have no idea why), then got some desperately needed lunch. We spent about an hour in the museum, which was very interesting but it was disappointing that more wasn’t in English, and that we only had an hour. It was still easy to see the effects from the photos and videos, and apparently there is an audio guide: it just wasn’t available today.
We moved on to the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum on Awaji Island. The museum and Hokudancho Earthquake Memorial Park are built around a preserved bit of the Nojima fault, where you can see various points of bifurcation. There is also a house built on the fault line which has been preserved in its “broken” state. There are lots of facts about Japan’s seismic activity and also an “earthquake experience room” which mimics the intensity of the Kobe 1995 earthquake, while you sit on a sofa or at the dining table.
We then had a 3-hour bus ride to Kamikatsu village on Shikoku Island. It is a traditional Japanese hotel (called a ryokan): sliding doors, futons, kimonos. And toilet shoes.
We were a bit late so we basically checked in, dropped bags off and went for our feast. There was an enormous amount of food, and I’m pretty sure I had more than everyone else. Too much to finish. I had something that looked a lot like fish, even though they said it wasn’t. Hideyuki was joining us but hadn’t arrived yet, and his students were struggling to tell us what this stuff was. They said potato, but we all had a hard time believing it. When Hideyuki arrived he confirmed it was in fact potato: a traditional Japanese dish of mashed potato which is then squashed into blocks or something! Still, tasted a bit weird.
So the reason we went to Kobe today was because it was the anniversary of the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995. It hit at 5.46am and measured 7.2. The epicentre was only 16km underground and 20km away on Awaji Island. Kobe was the closest densely populated area. In total over 6,000 people died, about 300,000 lost their homes, and it caused about $100 billion damages. The central and local authorities were seen to have dealt badly with it, and it has led to most of the disaster education in Japan today. Along with the damage caused by the seismic activity (like falling buildings, roads and railways), over 100 fires began (and I mean big fires). The people of Japan and Kobe especially are still greatly affected by this earthquake, and I imagine even more so after last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
On the anniversary, people put candles out in streets where people died, school children practice disaster techniques like first aid, and the whole city is dedicated to disaster awareness.
Anyway, I advise you to check out photos and videos of the earthquake to see just how bad it was. Here is a small selection. You can also search for “Kobe earthquake” on YouTube.