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Dec 31, 2017

The Changing Face of Shiogama's Little Green Space

    Living in what is considered the urban part of a smallish city, the number and quality of nearby parks is somewhat lacking. In Shiogama, between HonShiogama Station and Marine Gate (the ferry port) site a small site called 千賀ノ浦緑地 (Chiganoura ryokuchi) on Google Maps, but over the years, the little green space has taken on a very different shape.

    I fell in love with this tiny seaside park years ago, before my daughter was born, when I just thought it would be a lovely little green place forever. At that point, the little gazebo-esque seat, on a hill and under its own little roof, was the only man-made feature I can remember, aside from the fences around the space, ensuring no one would randomly take a dive into Shiogama Bay, and a short sea wall facing the bay.

    Unfortunately, then came the tsunami, and a monument to that catastrophic event stands huge in the right side of the green space with small spot lights that keep it visible at night, reminding everyone how high 2.3 meters really is. That was the watermark for the height of the tsunami in this park. Just seeing the mark so high on the carved rocks can fill survivors of the Miyagi's 2011 disasters with a solemn but necessary reminder. Also, the rocks that surround the monument list the names of the contributors to the fund to create the monument and place names of those areas affected.

    According to Google Maps, the name of this specific monument is 塩釜市東日本大震災モニュメント(Shiogama-shi Higashinihon daishinsai monyumento) or the Shiogama City Great East Japan Earthquake Monument. It is designated as a memorial park, all by itself.

    I like this monument. It makes sense to me. The rest of this space was a lovely little field of clover, and when my daughter was a rambunctious toddler, we would sit on a bench with a friend or run around in the soft grass. It was lovely, really, and a difficult little piece of nature to find in semi-urban Japan.


A friend snuggling my kid in front of the field of clover as it was around 2015.

    In addition to the monument came an extension to the sea wall, cutting off the view of the bay from the little seat on the hill under the roof. They also moved the shrine boats to the other side of the bay, so there was less to see in that little dock area across the street from the Aeon parking lot than before. Admittedly with the seawall, the reasoning is easy to understand. We need to be safe in case of another tsunami and with the sizing sea level due to climate change. It's functional, but not my favorite thing to look upon while having a nice little lunch outside.

The view from the covered seat as it was circa 2015.

    Then they paved paths into the field and divided it up, which I am still telling myself I don't mind. It makes things easier for a lot of people, and a path is rarely overgrown, so I guess that makes sense. It does flood every time it rains and the asphalt takes days to drain off, but the field also turned into a mud pit in the rain, so I suppose the asphalt is an improvement? Fewer bugs and snakes in summer, that's for sure, not that I've ever seen a snake here, but still it is safer, probably. I still miss it being a big green space though.


And what a lovely green space it was.

    Then came the stage. Previous to its existence, I did witness a few small concerts being held out here, usually under portable tents or similar. This whole area would be crowded with food stalls during the summer festivals and it was a great spot for a number of things, but now it is a large, oddly-shaped, paved area with a roof. Rarely is it used for the venue it resembles and most frequently it seems to be utilized for impromptu picnics on sweltering days or strange photo ops when GISHWHES comes around. There is a plaque about these anchors, two of which are mounted to the sides of the stage, explaining their role in keeping a ship afloat and stationary during the 2011 disasters, enabling the crew to film the tsunami. Honestly, I don't really see why they are attached to this stage.

   
This year's GISHWHES shenanigans included a human balloon-sculpture, our best usage of the stage to date.

    With the stage came this weird light that glares brilliantly all night long, reminding everyone that someone decided to stick a light here. As it turns out, the placard on this object explains the story of this light, one of the Shiogama Leading lights that alerted ships of the coastline for almost a century before being retired and re-utilized as one more large metal object to take up space in what was once a small park. On the upside, there is English on the placard. 

  

    We still go there sometimes, and kick and soccer ball back and forth in the patch of grass between the tsunami monument and the stage. It's a bit awkward, but at least we can work on passing. .

    Only time will tell how many more memorials to bits and pieces of Shiogama's history will come to occupy my once-park, now-memorial-park, but until they take away all of the grass and sod, we will still be out there with our soccer ball every once in a while.

JTsuzuki

JTsuzuki

A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


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