“You've come a long way. We’ve been waiting for you!” says Ms. Yokoyama, a storyteller, in her lively dialect. She welcomes students on school trips onto a cruise ship that circles Matsushima Bay. In addition to telling them about the charms of Matsushima Bay’s islands, which were loved by Date Masamune, Ms. Yokoyama also narrates her experience of the disaster.
At the time of the disaster, Matsushima Bay was struck by a tsunami nearly 10 meters high, but the islands were able to divert the force of the tsunami, and by the time it reached the town, it was only 2 meters high. "The islands of Matsushima Bay protected us,” Ms. Yokoyama says.
"We can’t take for granted that tomorrow will just be an ordinary day. We should cherish each day. I want to leave my guests with a sense of reverence for nature. Nowadays, there are more and more disasters, right? I hope that telling my story helps save lives someday," says Ms. Yokoyama about the message she hopes to pass on with the storytelling cruise.
Mr. Yabe, the director, says, "Through this storytelling cruise, I want people to feel the importance of trying to understand the feelings and pain of others. I also want them to acquire the ability to make decisions on their own when the time comes.”
Ms. Yokoyama introduces Katsurashima, one of the Urato Islands, as "an island of miracles" in her narration. Mr. Haruo Utsumi, who has been running a lodge on Katsurashima since the time of the earthquake, says, "First of all, you have to protect yourself. If you can't save yourself, you can't help others." He teaches students the importance of self-help and mutual aid.
At the time, Katsurashima was home to 240 people, but 38 houses were swept away by the 8-meter tsunami. However, before the tsunami reached the island, the local volunteer firefighters went door to door with each of their neighbor’s faces in mind. They called for evacuation, which saved the lives of all the islanders. Mr. Utsumi’s eldest son, Tomu, who was a first-year student in high school at the time, chose to become a firefighter to help protect his hometown. He fulfilled his dream of getting into a career where he could help people.