The first wave of the tsunami that followed Japan's devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake on Mar. 11 hit just south of the port city of Kamaishi, in the far northern prefecture of Iwate, breaching the world's deepest and longest sea wall, laying waste to much of the town, and killing nearly 6,000 of Kamaishi's residents. It was the third time a tsunami had destroyed Kamaishi in the past 150 years; the town had also been leveled by an American naval bombardment during World War II.

For the survivors, there was nothing to do but pick up the pieces, mourn the dead, and begin again. Writer Charles Graeber and photographer Giulio Di Sturco traveled to Kamaishi to tell their story.
Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
The first wave of the tsunami that followed Japan's devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake on Mar. 11 hit just south of the port city of Kamaishi, in the far northern prefecture of Iwate, breaching the world's deepest and longest sea wall, laying waste to much of the town, and killing nearly 6,000 of Kamaishi's residents. It was the third time a tsunami had destroyed Kamaishi in the past 150 years; the town had also been leveled by an American naval bombardment during World War II.

For the survivors, there was nothing to do but pick up the pieces, mourn the dead, and begin again. Writer Charles Graeber and photographer Giulio Di Sturco traveled to Kamaishi to tell their story.
Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek

All They Have Is Now

Returning to Life in Kamaishi
Returning to Life in Kamaishi
The first wave of the tsunami that followed Japan's devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake on Mar. 11 hit just south of the port city of Kamaishi, in the far northern prefecture of Iwate, breaching the world's deepest and longest sea wall, laying waste to much of the town, and killing nearly 6,000 of Kamaishi's residents. It was the third time a tsunami had destroyed Kamaishi in the past 150 years; the town had also been leveled by an American naval bombardment during World War II.

For the survivors, there was nothing to do but pick up the pieces, mourn the dead, and begin again. Writer Charles Graeber and photographer Giulio Di Sturco traveled to Kamaishi to tell their story.
Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Assessing the Damage
Assessing the Damage

Kenji Sano, 80, in his duty-free liquor store, which was completely destroyed by the tsunami.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Three Generations
Three Generations

Hiroyuki Sano helps clean up the damage to the family liquor store. He ran away during the earthquake once he realized he would not be able to save the bottles from falling. The tsunami that followed gutted their store and home, filling it with debris from the town, including a crushed car, but it spared three generations of his family.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Lunch Break
Lunch Break

After a long morning of cleaning up outside, volunteers eat lunch together outside an evacuation center in Miyagi prefecture, where Doctors Without Borders has established its headquarters for the tsunami emergency.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Tsunami Drill
Tsunami Drill

Kamaishi, a highly livable city of 40,000, conducts its annual tsunami drill on Mar. 3, the anniversary of a catastrophic tsunami in 1933.

Courtesy Mario Kariya
Buddhist Temple
Buddhist Temple

The hillside cemetery in Kamaishi, where Kenji Sano hid as a child during the tsunami of Mar. 3, 1933. Two bodhisattva statues commemorate the high-water mark where the bodies of the dead were burned before the Buddhist temple there; their backs are inscribed with the names of the dead.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Starting Over
Starting Over
Three days after the tsunami, surviving residents begin to return to their homes in downtown Kamaishi to pick up the pieces, save as much as they can find, and start their lives again.

Despite being home to the world's largest breakwater, the port city of Kamaishi, in Iwate prefecture, was partially destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of Mar. 11. The former capital of Japanese steel production was the first mainland city bombarded by the U.S. Navy during World War II, and has survived several tsunamis in the past.
Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
The Clean Up
The Clean Up

Yuko Kariya, owner of Kariya's Kissaten, a homey coffee bar and jazz café along leafy Aoba Boulevard, cleans the second floor of her home above the shop. After the tsunami, it took three solid days to clear the bottom floor with her nephew Maro, a university student visiting from New York. They found the piano and coffee makers among the wreckage, but her cash register was missing.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Donations
Donations
An evacuation center set up by Doctors Without Borders in Miyagi prefecture. Donations arrive daily from all over Japan, including food, blankets, and the simple things that help evacuees feel they are not forgotten. Piles of new clothes were greeted by some residents with the enthusiasm of a Macy's sale.
Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Where Once a Restaurant Stood
Where Once a Restaurant Stood

Shigeru Sano stands with a salvaged propane tank in the wreckage of a fine restaurant; the tsunami took the owner.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Walking the Wreckage
Walking the Wreckage

Shigeru Sano, 44, and his youngest son, Hiroyuki, 13, walk the wreckage of Kamaishi.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
The Night Life District
The Night Life District

The night life district, located along the sea, was completely destroyed by the tsunami. It used to be a neighborhood full of restaurants, clubs, bars, and coffee shops, the place where "Drunkard's Alley" met "Make Your Mother Weep Street." Now it is all gone; the corrugated metal of the warehouse to the left still shows the shape of the water as it flooded the town.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
An Evacuation Center
An Evacuation Center

The day starts early at the evacuation centers in Iwate prefecture.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
The Missing
The Missing

The missing persons board at a sports arena evacuation center in Miyagi prefecture. People are still looking for family and friends who are missing after the tsunami.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Resting
Resting

Tsunami survivors rest at a Buddhist temple used as an evacuation center in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
The Social Network
The Social Network

After a long day cleaning the street and their shops, the people of Kamaishi gather at the temple evacuation center. The Buddhist temple opened its doors to evacuees after the tsunami. Here people can find food, a place to sleep, and an opportunity to share their experience.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek
Reuniting People with Their Possessions
Reuniting People with Their Possessions

In Yamada, Iwate prefecture, tsunami survivors comb the piles of debris, bringing photos and more personal mementos to the town hall in hopes of reuniting them with anyone who might care.

Giulio Di Sturco for Bloomberg Businessweek