12 Years after the Great East Japan Earthquake…The Beautiful Sanriku Sea Revived: Reconstruction Now Seen from Underwater | FRIDAY DIGITAL

12 Years after the Great East Japan Earthquake…The Beautiful Sanriku Sea Revived: Reconstruction Now Seen from Underwater

Photo by Yasuaki Kagii

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New life is being born in the crevices of the rubble that has sunk to the bottom of the sea

The Sanriku Sea, where two ocean currents collide, is home to many fish.
There was a breathtaking landscape created by living creatures and the forces of nature.

Fish such as Murasoi (foreground) and the colorful sponges and corals that cover the seafloor.

When we finally went out to sea, we found driftwood and ropes floating on the surface of the water and man-made objects floating in the water, so we could not proceed as we had expected. I remember as if it were only yesterday that I was wandering around in the sea.

Yasuaki Kagii, an underwater photographer, looks back on the Sanriku Sea immediately after the disaster. Twelve years have passed since then, and reconstruction efforts on land have made steady progress, albeit slowly. But what about the sea? Mr. Kagii reveals the underwater world he has observed over the years.

Three weeks after the disaster, I dove into the Sanriku Sea. There are usually a certain amount of artifacts in the water, but they have long since decayed. On this occasion, however, there were realistic artifacts everywhere, as if they had been used by humans only yesterday. This reality made me realize once again the horror of earthquakes and the fear of tsunamis. There were pianos that could still be played with one or two fin kicks in the murky water, cars, and other things with a sense of life all around.”

Mr. Kagii was struck by this unprecedented shock, and as he continued to return to the site year after year, he noticed a change in the underwater world, where reconstruction had not yet been completed.

No matter how many times I dive, the same things are in the same places. It’s hard to clean the bottom of the ocean. The fan is still there, just as it was right after the earthquake. Seven years after I started diving, I forgot about those unchanged things, and turned my shutter toward the adjacent rock face. Then, there were colors as colorful as the tropical sea of red and yellow, and fish were swimming vigorously. Until then, my mind was so occupied with the damage caused by the earthquake that I couldn’t notice such a beautiful sight.”

In summer, seaweed thrives, and in December, lingcod are laying eggs. By changing his perspective, Mr. Kagii was able to see the original beautiful scenery of Sanriku, which had not changed since before the disaster. The problem of dealing with artifacts on the seafloor is being addressed, albeit gradually.

It took seven years for even the leading underwater photographer to reach this point. The damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake to the sea in Sanriku was so immeasurable that it required such a long time.

Traces of the disaster still lie in the sea

Natural kelp growing from the tire of a sunken upside-down car



↓ 2022


More than 10 years later, the car body has decayed and disappeared without a trace.
An LCD TV sunk to the bottom of the sea and a goby swimming on top of it

A vivid oasis found in Sanriku

A hatchling of the Sanriku’s representative fish, the Ryugugugu goby, which appears to be shining.
Sunlight streaming into the sea and blue-green algae swaying on the rocks.
A mollusk nudibranch, also known as a “jewel of the sea” for its vivid body color
The thick-lipped, large-eyed fusariid that peeks out from among the reefs.
A dungfish, even as an adult, is about 2 cm long and has a cute expression with swollen cheeks.
Yasuaki Kagii Born in Hyogo Prefecture. Underwater photographer. He tries to take pictures that do not put stress on the creatures, while keeping close to the rhythm of nature. He was the first in the world to photograph the mating of southern right whales.

From the March 24, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Photo by Yasuaki Kagii

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