I rode up to Sendai from Tachikawa with a fellow photographer friend, Jensen Walker. Gasoline is a very scarce resource, so we had around 30 gallons of gas in portable containers in the car to make sure we could get up and back without running out.
Jensen had to meet up with a client, so I jumped out with my gear and started hitchhiking. I traveled up to some hard-hit areas, hitch-hiking from city-to-city, sleeping in abandoned buildings and digging bottles of juice out of the mud when I ran out of water to drink.
I arrived at Ishinomaki Elementary School around 22:15 on March 15th. It’s being used as a shelter for around 1,200 people.
It’s not generally acceptable for journalists to use resources dedicated for those in need, and while I was prepared to sleep in an abandoned building again if necessary I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask for shelter to escape the rain. Since I had my own food and sleeping bag, they didn’t mind putting a roof over my head for the night, and I was escorted to a store room [not shown here] which smelled of fermentation which I can best describe as a mix of blue cheese and pineapple.
It was a terribly cold night and the concrete floor drained my body heat through my sleeping bag. Sleep was interrupted by strong aftershocks which rattled the windows and doors. Around three in the morning I found some discarded cardboard boxes to put between myself and the concrete which helped immensely.
Ishinomaki Elementary School Shelter, March 16
The shelter is run by elementary school teachers who ration supplies and manage and coordinate everything from meals, visitor registry, and medical care, to morning exercises, clothing distribution and garbage collection.
Since they are not professional aid workers, they asked me to let the world know: they are requesting manpower and especially medical professionals.
Above: Food, snacks and drinks from convenience stores and supermarkets have been stockpiled in this store room.
Morning exercises (ラジオ体操)
16-year-old survivor with her family
Despite many somber faces, people are generally in rather good spirits considering the circumstances. I was greeted with many similes and waves, and people seemed to enjoy whatever break in boredom my brief presence brought.
In the shelter, privacy doesn’t exist.
Medical care is needed.
Women prepare meals in the cold. Feeding 1,200 people is a tall order.
Japan Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊) standing around.