Now & Zen's Toshi Sato watches, waits for news
One of the more widely broadcast videos of the tsunami damage in Japan is of Kesennuma, a small city in northern coastal Japan that was close to the epicenter of the massive earthquake that devastated the country. One daytime video shows cars and trucks floating down the streets like bathtub toys, while another shows the majority of the city in complete ruins. And a nighttime video shows nearly the entire city on fire, the result of a ruptured oil tank.
"I was so scared to see the videos," says Toshi Sato, the former Tokyo Rose chef who just opened the sushi place Now & Zen in front of the McGuffey Art Center. "My mother is 75 years old and doesn't walk well."
Sato grew up in Kesennuma, where his mother, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends still live.
He pauses for a moment– not wanting to be too sentimental, he says. Fortunately, his sister lives in a city farther south and was able to reach him on March 16. Both have been unable to find out if their mother, other relatives, and friends in Kesennuma survived the disaster. Sato says he has been unable even to call Japan, never mind his hometown, and that his sister said that where she lives, there is no Internet, no TV, no electricity, no gas available for cars, and no roads safe enough to travel on.
As Sato points out, Kesennuma was already a poor fishing town, populated mostly by older people. "I don't know how it will recover from this," he says.
According to a recent story in the New York Times, 800 rescue workers are now searching for bodies in Kesennuma, where 81 have already been retrieved. The Shishiori River runs from the hills north of the city and empties into the bay there, but not before being funneled into a culvert, where rushing water from the tsunami poured into the town and washed away cars, houses, and bodies.
Meanwhile, Sato says all he can do is focus on his new restaurant (which has been getting some rave reviews), keep watching the news, and hope that he hears from his family members soon.Read more on: now & zen sushi