Japan's Resilient City: Sendai City's Post-Tsunami Recovery and Other Facts

Sendai City is a rather large city in Miyagi Prefecture, and its neighboring cities pale in comparison to its size. Its history is deeply embedded in Japanese culture when Sendai was founded by feudal lord Masamune back in 1600; for two years (1600-1601), the great Sendai Castle and its town infrastructure was set up through efforts by Masamune. A popular monicker for Sendai was "Mori no Myaki", which translates to "City of Trees". This was an appropriate nickname since Sendai is densely populated with forests.

Despite the large land area of Sendai, the population remains quite small at approximately a little over 1 million residents. This was further supported by data revealed in March of 2017, showing that Sendai city falls behind the density of other major cities. For comparison, Sendai has a land area of 786.3 km2, and yet it's density is only at 1,379. On the other hand, Tokyo Metropolis has three times as much land area - yet its population is thirteen times bigger (pegged at 13 million residents).  Due to the presence of different universities within Sendai, the median age of its residents is at 38 – a much lower value compared to other major cities.

For anyone who is interested in knowing the exact location of Sendai within the map, it is located at a latitude of 38°16'05. On the other hand, it has a longitude 140°52'11", placing the city on the Northeast Hemisphere. The topography of Sendai is interesting due to its very diverse nature. One side of Sendai reaches the coast of the Pacific Ocean, while the other side is surrounded by the Ou Mountains. The city itself comprises of mountains, hills, plains, and the iconic Hirose River. Though most volcanoes in the area are already dormant, there is still an active hydrothermal circulation beneath the city, which is validated by the abundance of hot springs in the area.

The topography of Sendai extremely susceptible to earthquake attacks. For the past century, researchers have been closely monitoring the movement of the plates underneath Miyagi Prefecture. Studies have shown a recurring pattern for a massive earthquake that hits the area every twenty-five to forty years. While the earthquake rupture happening was highly predicted after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Miyagi Prefecture back in 2005, the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake still caused massive devastation, thousands of deaths, and property damage.

2011 Tohoku Earthquake: The Tsunami that Brought Sendai, Japan to Rubbles

Upon reading archived news articles from March 2011, the earthquake that hit Tohoku Region was referred to as the "Great East Japan Earthquake" – a fitting name indeed for the worst recorded earthquake to ever hit Asia. Among the areas in Tohoku region, Sendai City happened to be in the closest proximity to the epicenter of the earthquake. The main earthquake itself was recorded at a strength of 9.1 magnitude, though it is worth noting that the foreshocks and aftershocks were of immense power as well.

The cause of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake is identical in nature to an earthquake that occurred in 896. These tsunamis triggered by earthquakes (scientifically called "tsunamigenic earthquakes") were found to occur every between 800 to 1,100 years.  The quakes from the 9.1 magnitude earthquake that was considered as the main shock were already scary by itself, just imagine having to experience foreshocks a few days prior that ranged from 6 to 7 magnitudes, and over a thousand aftershocks in that range as well. Five years after the earthquake hit Japan, there were still recurring aftershocks within the nation. One of the biggest water surges recorded during this time happened within Iwate Prefecture, where the water rose to a terrifyingly thirteen ft. high.

With Sendai being in the center of destruction, the tsunami triggered by the plate movements caused far worse impact than the actual earthquake itself. Japan Meteorological Agency, who was in charge of releasing nationwide tsunami warnings, has classified it on the highest possible level of seriousness. The water that surfaced during the tsunami was extremely high, making it much more fatal. In less than an hour, the whole Sendai City and its neighboring areas within Miyagi was terrorized with a massive whirlpool. Videos of Sendai airport a few moments before it was swallowed by the massive incoming tsunami has been captured by several media outlets such as Kyodo News and the like.

In the nearby area of Fukushima, the earthquake brought upon one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, falling behind the nightmarish Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine from 1986. Residents who lived outside Fukushima Daiichi were evacuated as the radiation level rose to more than a thousand times than normal. With six malfunctioning reactors from two power plants within an 11 km distance from each other, the area still remains inhabitable ‘til now.

A little less than 16,000 persons were reported as dead during the aftermath of the earthquake. The National Police Agency of Japan also recorded around 6,000 people who sustained injuries, and 2,500 people who were at the time still missing. Heartbreaking results from rescue operations showed that majority of the deaths (pegged at least 60%) involved elderly people aged 60 and above.

After the earthquake, relief operations ensued in Sendai and the neighboring areas ensued. The response from the international community was overwhelming, with 163 countries and 43 organizations offering different forms of aid. The various types of aid offered were in the form of cash, manpower, and equipment for search and rescue, relief goods, medical assistance and even shelter for dispersed refugees. It was truly a time that brought together the whole world.

Sendai, Japan Today:  Post-Earthquake Relief Operation Missions for Sendai, Japan

The damages brought upon by the tsunami and typhoon in the northeast side of Japan have not been completely recovered, even after six years of continuous effort. The impact of the disaster was simply too big to repair within a six-year span. In Miyagi Prefecture alone, where Sendai was located, an estimate of 30,000 infrastructures was destroyed. The economic impact due to this earthquake was recorded at a record breaking high of $ 245 B dollars.

It came to no surprise that economic growth for all the areas that were affected greatly by the airport slowed down for the year. For Sendai alone, the economic growth for 2011 was at a measly 0.4% versus last year, due to the economic turmoil that ensued after the disaster. However, thanks to government and non-government efforts to restore damaged from the tsunamigenic earthquake, Sendai was rebuilt slowly until 2012. By the end of 2012, the growth of Sendai's economy peaked at 10.4%. This was unusually high, attributed to the down-trending economy from previous year. It was only in 2013 when the economic situation in Sendai went back to normal, at last.

At present, Sendai is a fully functional town with very little remaining traces of the 2011 disaster. Unlike Fukushima which remains inhabitable, Sendai population is of 1 million people, as of the latest recorded census. The transportation like in Sendai through the shinkansen is fully operational, while Sendai Airport, which suffered a huge hit during the tsunami, has recovered is also operational at the moment. One of the most impressive post-earthquake operations in Japan was the efficient rebuilding of damaged roads and highways, with the same being true for Sendai as well.

Despite having undergone a chaotic experience, Sendai proves that things can go back to being beautiful again by showing its interesting sites that are mostly anchored in Japanese history. Most of these sites show obvious damage, though it was not from the earthquake but rather from air raids that also caused serious damage to Sendai back in 1945.

Aside from having cultural sites to attract tourists, Sendai also takes pride as an "Academic City" as it houses seven major universities in the area.

Traveling to Sendai: Understanding Sendai, Japan's Weather, and Climate

Aside from having risen back on its feet in terms of local economy, Sendai also thrives from income generated by tourist visitors. As of 2016 alone, an estimate showed that around two million people could have visited Sendai for the year.

With that said, tourists who are interested in visiting Sendai City must do proper research prior to embarking on the trip. The Internet offers a lot of ready to read resources for future travelers that may contain vital knowledge for their trip. One of the essential information that one must know while on a foreign trip is the climate and weather of the destination. Japan, in particular, can have varying climates among its different areas.

For Sendai City, in particular, the classification of its climate is "warm oceanic climate". A "warm oceanic climate" is similar in nature to a "humid subtropical climate" as they are able to experience both hot and cold weather.  However, a humid subtropical climate would experience summers that are way hotter, and winters that are way colder. Meanwhile, the change in temperature for a warm oceanic climate would be of less significance. Take Kumamoto for example; the recorded heat index during July and August can rise up to 28 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the winter months from December to February show a much cooler daily mean temperature at around 6 degrees Celsius. In contrast, the summer season of Sendai is not as hot and is particularly rainy, while the winter season is cold and dry.By knowing that information, one can simply have no excuse not to bring weather appropriate clothes.

Tips for Picking a Hotel in Sendai, Japan

Picking a hotel can be a cumbersome experience for travelers. For one, there is always a fear of not getting his or her money's worth from the hotel. Budget travelers also opt to limit their hotel allowance up to a certain extent only. Luckily, a lot of internet based travel resource websites can help tourists weed out potentially problematic reservations. Web sites like TripAdvisor allow future travelers to read comments and experiences left by prior tourists. As easy as one click, anyone can already see the top rated hotels within Sendai area.

With that said, Sendai is actually sprawling with good hotel choices. One of the more popular options is The Westin Sendai, which is a branch of the international Westin Hotel chain. The rooms are large and beautiful, the in-house restaurant offers a delicious gastronomic experience, and the hotel is easily accessible from the Sendai subway station. However, as it is a luxury hotel, tourists must be willing to shell out money in order to book a room.

Aside from The Westin, there are still plenty of other options available within the Sendai area. Hotel Monte Hermana has plenty of good reviews, similar to The Westin. There are also more affordable options for those who don't mind sacrificing some luxuries, there is surely a hotel that would easily fit into one's preference, itinerary, and budget.

Sendai, Japan in Recent World News: No Tsunami's, Just Chimpanzees

After the massive earthquake that hit Sendai City back in 2011, there have been very few news headlines that featured Sendai. After all, the city has successfully rebuilt itself from the catastrophic tsunami – this was until a couple months ago where Sendai got featured again in world news. Fortunately, the news bit does not contain any disaster-related news. Instead, it was an interesting piece on a zoo chimpanzee that risked his life just to gain freedom.

Exactly a year ago (April 2016), a video of a viral chimpanzee dangerously swinging through live electrical wires. The video was shared all over the world; through the powerful social media network Facebook. International news websites such as BBC, Reuters, and others even covered the story.

The chimp, named Cha-cha, was a resident of the Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai city. His escape took everyone by surprise. The zoo workers were extremely clueless on how this twenty-four-year-old chimp managed to escape. What ensued after was a movie-worthy chase involving the Japanese police. For the next two hours, Cha-cha and the police played a dangerous game of hiding and seek while atop the electrical wiring of Yagiyama Zoo. It was extremely dangerous, especially for Cha-cha, who was evading arrest by using the power lines as swings.

Luckily, the story ends with Cha-cha surviving a potentially fatal fall after being shot with sedatives. He may not have successfully lunged into freedom, but Cha-cha was able to recover with only a few cuts from his fall into a safety net set up by police and zoo staff below. The zoo staff ensured that the next days would be spent on monitoring Cha-cha's condition. Hopefully, the next time Sendai City gets featured in world headlines would be for good reasons.