Shioyazaki Lighthouse, Fukushima β†’ Naraha, Fukushima

Map of Fukushima with author’s route from Shioyazaki Lighthouse to Naraha highlighted. πŸ—Ί Open map in GaiaGPS β†’

Waves coming in from the Pacific.

A gloomy morning on a Pacific beach.

A grey, deserted beach.

A line of footprints on the beach.

Concrete tetrapods on the beach.

Driftwood on the beach.

Swirling grey clouds above the beach.

A yellow Komatsu excavator on a beach.

A dead pufferfish on a beach with the yellow excavator in the background.

Yellow flowers and an abandoned DVD titled β€œAlien X” on the beach. πŸ“ New Maiko Beach, Fukushima

β€œFor months afterwards, into the summer, I worked as a volunteer in the coastal villages,” Gabi said. β€œWe cleaned the houses that remained, and the personal belongings that weren’t broken, so that people could return.”

For hours I walked north on the beach, in the cold water, rain blowing in off the grey ocean, past an endless sea wall still under construction, six years later.

β€œThe mud was everywhere,” she said.

I ate a breakfast of grilled fish, miso soup, rice, coffee.

β€œI found the guitar on the beach,” she said. β€œThe ocean had taken it, and the ocean returned it. It was impossible to identify the owner, and nobody came to claim it,” she said. I strummed its strings. β€œSo I brought it home. It was in perfect condition.” A gift from the greatest wave the world has ever seen.

On a bench, I half-slept in the warm mist.

Electricity poles in a newly rebuilt section of Hisanohama.

Pictures on a wall show the utter devastation of Hisanohama after the tsunami.

A line of fish drying on a rack across a door.

Before-and-after photos showing the destruction of Hisanohama in the 2011 tsunami. πŸ“ Hisanohama, Fukushima

The fish drying on the back door of the small strip mall in Hisanohama were on the losing side of a battle between a lone fan and the warm mist enveloping the village like wet down. Sensational sushi was sold inside, and I ate it on a bench, the world beyond the parking lot a moonscape of freshly laid concrete and newly planted trees, on land razed completely by the wave. The houses were gone, and half the population of Hisanohama had gone with them, but civilization was still here, and a barrier was now being constructed against the next wave, which will come in a thousand years, a million-ton fuck you to the Pacific, which gives and which takes with no more care than the ocean of Solaris. I drank my coffee in silence, Slow Days CafΓ© painted in cheery primary colors, then walked on, across tunnels whose walls bore cracks from the earthquake, into a land with more radiation monitors than people.

Cracks on the wall of a tunnel.

Large repaired on the wall of the same tunnel.

A yellow radiation monitor by the side of the road. πŸ“ Hirono, Fukushima

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.