Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Looming Landslides Close Road: Kazamaura Cut Off and Divided

Kazamaura has been cut in half. Last night around seven o’clock one of the mountainsides crowding Route 279 into the sea was judged unstable, and the already existing barrier gates came down. Apparently there are 140 tonnes of rock and earth imminently about to crash down onto the narrow strip of asphalt connecting northern Shimokita to the rest of Japan, and until it is sorted out we are cut off. Well, not really. Those of us on the Oma side of the critical zone can go the long way to Mutsu by traveling down and around the other two sides of the Shimokita “axe head” through Sai, Wakinosawa, and Kawauchi. It only takes about two extra hours. In the meantime, school is cancelled because over a third of the students are on the wrong side of the roadblock.

The NHK man has already been here to take some footage of the desolation that is our empty classrooms. Some of the teachers have had to check into local inns, and people who were one moment about five minutes drive from home have suddenly found themselves to be about three or four hours drive from home. The few roads traversing the mountainous interior are closed during the winter, but it has been decided to clear one of them (the Kamoshika Line) early in order to provide a narrow and windy alternative—of sorts. It won’t help local travel at all. Since there is no knowing when the road will be reopened (wild estimates are running in the range of a week) Kazamaura junior high school laid out a contingency plan in a special staff meeting this morning. Those teachers whose homes are on the other side of the road block will make the long roundabout journey tonight in order to facilitate a study hall at the Shimofuro Community Centre for the students cut off from school. Everyone else will return to school, but there will be no regular classes. Since I am scheduled to teach at Shimofuro Elementary School tomorrow, I’m not sure what is happening with me. Perhaps I will hike over Mount Hiuchi (Hiuchidake) over night in order to get there.