Japan Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami.

Feature story by Kasper Nybo Photography.

Ishinomaki Bay, looking south over the sea. The face of the ocean is calm, as if today was no different than yesterday. Behind, the city of Ishinomaki is recovering from the impact with the tsunami waves that rushed passed here, directly towards the city center.

Ishinomaki Bay, looking south over the sea. The face of the ocean is calm, as if today was no different than yesterday. Behind, the city of Ishinomaki is recovering from the impact with the tsunami waves that rushed passed here, directly towards the city center.

As the March 11, magnitude 9.0, earthquake shook the Japanese people to its core, a deep sea diver working in the water as the quake hit, recalls the experience:

“The seafloor was snapping, twisting and turning like a fish pulled out of the water. It was roaring and groaning with such an intense and frightening noise, torturing every fibre of my body.”
 

In the thirty minutes that passed between the ground stopped moving, and the first tsunami waves hit the coast, the diver reached land and fled for higher ground. Beneath him his life as a fisherman was swept away, along with his village. As the waves spread, hitting further and further down the coast, the story of destruction repeated itself in one coastal city after another, making this the worst natural disaster in the history of Japan.

As the water withdrew, and in the following months, the japanese people found themselves left behind with more than 15,000 confirmed deaths and almost 8,000 souls missing.

A Statue Of Liberty copy stretches her torch towards a dark sky, she remains as one of the few standing structures on this island in the river that cuts through Ishinomaki.

A Statue Of Liberty copy stretches her torch towards a dark sky, she remains as one of the few standing structures on this island in the river that cuts through Ishinomaki.

Police forces from all over the country are searching the rubble for bodies, in an increasing smell of decay.

Police forces from all over the country are searching the rubble for bodies, in an increasing smell of decay.

Oshika peninsula, a village is completely wiped out as the tsunami wave was forced into the narrow bay, making the wave higher. This is one out of many villages like it along the coast of the peninsula.

Oshika peninsula, a village is completely wiped out as the tsunami wave was forced into the narrow bay, making the wave higher. This is one out of many villages like it along the coast of the peninsula.

A long stretch of flat land, just on the coastline is left with few houses standing and completely covered in rubble.

A long stretch of flat land, just on the coastline is left with few houses standing and completely covered in rubble.

A man biking through the rubble. Many still return to their neighborhoods searching for belongings, and memories of their loved ones, lost in the water.

A man biking through the rubble. Many still return to their neighborhoods searching for belongings, and memories of their loved ones, lost in the water.

A classroom converted into temporary housing for several families, with no privacy or timeframe for when they will have a home again.

A classroom converted into temporary housing for several families, with no privacy or timeframe for when they will have a home again.

A volunteer has found wedding photos in the mud left behind by the tsunami. He carefully brushes them off and puts them aside. Some of the findings from the streets are taken to evacuation centers, for the chance to reunite survivors with memories of loved ones.

A volunteer has found wedding photos in the mud left behind by the tsunami. He carefully brushes them off and puts them aside. Some of the findings from the streets are taken to evacuation centers, for the chance to reunite survivors with memories of loved ones.

Ishinomaki, Japan, 2011. In the corner of yet another evacuation center, in a pile of orphaned photos and notes found in the mud and debris, a newlywed couple stares into a future turned upside down. Their frame and glass still covered in dry mud from a disaster hitting like a lightning from the sky.

Ishinomaki, Japan, 2011. In the corner of yet another evacuation center, in a pile of orphaned photos and notes found in the mud and debris, a newlywed couple stares into a future turned upside down. Their frame and glass still covered in dry mud from a disaster hitting like a lightning from the sky.

Home without a home

300,000 people were left with no home and evacuation centers opened in all the affected areas. As of mid May more than 115,000 were still living in these centers, as refugees in their own country, awaiting temporary housing. Suicide rates were soaring, as people lost hope in getting their lives back on track.

Japan, a country resting on four tectonic plates, is no foreign land to earthquakes and tsunamis. Shakings of the ground is an almost daily event and everybody is educated from childhood in how to handle these situations. Had it only been for the quake, not much damage would have occurred. However, no risk calculation had taken into account a mass of water on this scale.

 

A wall of water

Ranging in height from a few meters up to 38 meters, the tsunami wave was unstoppable in its deadly path. Seawalls were washed away like plastic toys on a summer beach. Houses were lifted, in a clean cut from their foundation, and carried away by the water. Entire towns were wiped away, leaving nothing behind, as building regulations were based on smaller tsunami heights, leaving many people to believe they were safe.

 

Images and words by Kasper Nybo Photography. We work in the no-man’s land between narrative observation and visual storytelling, capturing authenticity and creating no-nonsense visual communication. We believe in the power of originality and honest stories across our line of work in editorial, commercial, artistic and humanitarian photography. Get in touch and let us know how we can help you deliver stronger stories! For bookings or questions click above. If you want to read more about us, click right here.