The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, wiped away the ancient Japanese village of Kesen. In the past decade, a small group of survivors has valiantly tried to rebuild the community, but a grim reality has set in: This emptiness will last forever.
KESEN, Japan — For centuries, this village rode the currents of time: war and plague, the sowing and reaping of rice, the planting and felling of trees.
Then the wave hit. Time stopped. And the village became history.
When a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck coastal Japan on March 11, 2011, more than 200 residents of the village, Kesen, in Iwate Prefecture, were killed. All but two of 550 homes were destroyed.
After the waters receded, nearly everyone who survived fled. They left behind their destroyed possessions, the tombs of their ancestors and the land their forefathers had farmed for generations.
But 15 residents refused to abandon Kesen and vowed to rebuild. Twice a year since 2011, Hiroko Masuike, a photographer for The New York Times, has visited the village to document the survivors’ all-but-doomed mission of remaking their hometown.
“Our ancestors lived in this village 1,000 years ago,” said Naoshi Sato, 87, a lumberjack and farmer whose son was killed in the tsunami. “There were disasters then, too. Each time the people stayed. They rebuilt and stayed. Rebuilt and stayed. I feel an obligation to continue what my ancestors started. I don’t want to lose my hometown.”
Many of those who remained, including Mr. Sato, lived for months without power or running water. For a year, Mr. Sato camped in the fetid wreckage of his home. For a decade, he has dreamed of
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