Mizoguchi Kazuo, 68, cleaning company employee, Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku
I have not been able to forget how frightened I felt during the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Nine months after the catastrophe, we are still living under the intimidation of the aftershocks now and then. We used to boast about how safe Kobe was against natural disasters. So the earthquake struck hit us like a nightmare, bringing great suffering to all who lived in Hanshin.
One point to reflect upon is that no loudspeaker vans were used to direct the victims to the evacuation points. Measures against floods had been reviewed and appropriate warnings given, but we never thought we would witness a major earthquake.
Another point is that almost all households had too much furniture and too
many things in their houses. Many victims were hurt by falling chests or objects.
Stories of such horrified moments were exchanged when we, shivering with cold, met
our neighbors on the road.
There were touching moments too. An old couple found themselves in a hot soup when the husband was bedridden and the wife was injured in the head by falling furniture. The wife, with broken bones on one of her arms, came out to seek help. On hearing her cry for help, the youngsters from the neighborhood came out of their house and rushed to her aid. They treated her arm injury. Amongst them, a brave lady drove through the rubble-covered street and took her to Kawakita hospital. What a brave deed! I was happy to see such a display of compassion for fellow human beings.
Luckily, the power supply returned the same day. It was really tough living without water and gas supplies for a prolonged period. I ran a small canteen out of a corner of an old hot spring facility of my landlord. My shop was fortunate to have escaped damage, and I was able to resume business relatively early. People came out to the street looking depressed and nervous. But I was delighted to see them feeling refreshed again after a bowl of hot oden and curry rice at my shop.
Unfortunately, my landlord’s bathhouse had been so severely damaged that he gave up all hopes of making a comeback, and asked the municipal office to demolish the damaged building. Naturally, my shop was to be pulled down too, and I had to end my business at the end of last March.
After the quake, I was very eager to reopen my shop because I had become very close to many of my customers through this long-running eatery business. My landlord, having been through a lot during the period, did not opt to build makeshift shops on the vacant land. This being the case, I had to put a stop to the 30-year-old Yoshi’s Canteen end of last March.
Being unemployed, I was stranded. To regain control of my life, I started working as a condominium cleaner. However, I was unsure whether I should carry on with it, as the income was way too low to support my family. Gathering recruitment information from newspapers and leaflets, I went from place to place looking for jobs, but it was certainly not easy for a 68-year-old to find a job.
Then, I happened to go for a job interview with the cleaning department of Kobe Central Wholesale Market. After learning about my failed attempts to restart my business, the head of the company said, ‘We’ve all suffered from this quake. For some of us, it’s even destroyed our plans for our future. We’d like to employ you if you want to work with us.’ I was touched by his kind words. Now, I have become used to the job and am working energetically every day. I am grateful that I am still healthy and able to work in a nice workplace.
I have lost my lifetime workplace to the quake, but am blessed with the warm love and kindness of those around me, including the people at my workplace. I am not the only victim of this catastrophe. Many others have lost their houses, assets and even valuable lives. I pray that the occupants of the temporary housings be returned to their normal lives soon.
make good use of the valuable experience I gained from the Great Hanshin
Earthquake and lead a healthy life with my wife.