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Kesennuma, My Place of Retreat

By: Eve Paliza

Let me tell you about a place which I still consider my second home.

It’s Kesennuma, a small fishing village in Miyagi Prefecture located in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. Now, you might ask “why does she consider a place in my country her second home?”

My mother is married to a Japanese national, and he hails from Ofunato. He is a fisherman by profession so he moved to Kesennuma. How he and my mother met is another story though and I would like to focus instead on my memories of the place.

Kesennuma is the place where I had many wonderful experiences! It is where I experienced my first snowfall. Looking back, as the snowflakes fell on the palm of my hand I gasped! And with my eyes wide-open, I stared at it like an excited child after opening a present. I enjoyed catching the drops one after another; it felt like I was in a totally serene place with surroundings enveloped in white. What an awesome sight!

I recalled waking up to freezing temperatures, wrapped in a thick blanket like a haramaki and enjoyed the perfect scenery from our apato’s window. Huge pine trees and the mountains were covered in snow while steam emanated from chimneys. Oh, I also love hearing the bells signaling noon and dusk from the City hall.

Most of the people work in the fishing industry and it seemed like everyone knows one another. I was surprised to see almost everyone I meet on the streets bowing and saying to each other “Ohayou gozaimasu!” Some even tried to start a conversation! “Kyo wa samui desu ne?”

In awe, I saw housewives pedaling their bikes on their way to supermarkets while their babies were carried on their back, and young children going to school on their own. Even old people surprisingly carried wooden baskets with fruits, product of their labor.

I could go on and on about why I immediately fell in love with this place. But if you are going to ask me to describe Kessenuma in one word, I will say “natsukashii”.

As this year marks the sixth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake, I pray for the friends and family that I left in Kesennuma. Just like the Filipinos, the Japanese are also known for their resilience. I am glad to know that rebuilding efforts are in progress. I am sure that in the near future my beloved town will be back to its old shape; perhaps, better.

Truly, having been born and raised in an urban jungle called Manila, Kesennuma, a sleepy town is like a place of retreat for me.


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