Tsunami-hit Sendai celebrates Christmas

By Paul Henson, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2012 12:51 PM | Updated as of Dec 22 2012 03:30 AM

JAPAN – After more than a year since a devastating earthquake triggered a massive tsunami survivors of the disaster are still coping and finding ways of helping each other to recover from the tragedy.

There's Christmas cheer in Sendai's wintry streets and commercial centers. But just over a year ago, Sendai witnessed one of the biggest natural disasters in history, the great earthquake and tsunami that killed 15,000 people.

For Filipina Marlene Shoji, a Japan resident for 38 years now, it seems this is their first Christmas since the tragedy.

“Sa isip ko ay ‘ito na siguro ang katapusan ng mundo',” said Shoji.

It took Shoji 25 years to pay for her home. It was wiped away by the tsunami in an instant, a scene familiar to many other coastal towns.

In Natori City, there is still a long way to go before those affected could fully recover.

The city was one of the many areas wiped away by the raging waters that followed the 9.3 earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan on March 2011. Around 900 people died there.

Yuko Tano lost her teenaged son who was in school at the time of the tragedy. The only thing she managed to save was her pet dog.

She built a memorial in the school in honor of the 14 students who died in this town.

A damaged wall clock, frozen in time, shows the exact hour when the raging waters came.

Many like Tano and Shoji are still living in temporary housing units. They say the process of reconstruction is painfully slow.

Filipinos, for their, part are helping one another to heal from the tragedy.

“Pag nagkaisa ang lahat may malaking pagbabago ang magagawa ng lahat ng pagsasama,” said Shoji.

Their Christmas wish is to be able to finally rebuild their lives.