The world around us changes constantly. Some changes are positive - like being able to find unique lodging for a very affordable price in many countries across the world (thanks to Airbnb!) Some changes are negative - like being forced to leave your hometown and move somewhere else because of natural and manmade disasters. But anyway, people get used to changes. Eventually, we adapt. And there are times when the positive changes help us to get used to negative changes that happened in our lives.
Akiko Yoshino’s world changed completely after 3.11. Her family escaped the tsunami, but her home town, Yamamoto, was heavily affected. And so was her log cabin that the family had built in the most incredible place to live - a quiet neighborhood surrounded by green trees, not far from the station and just a brief walk away from the beach. On 11th March 2011 many houses were swept away. The log cabin that belonged to Yoshino family survived, but the first floor needed restoration.
“Everyone was helping us”, says Akiko, “My friends, volunteers. We wouldn’t manage to recreate this house by ourselves. My friend made the curtains. IKEA helped us to restore the kitchen. See this stove? We received it with a very big discount. Just to make this place the way it was before.”
The house was rebuilt and ready for living. But the infrastructure of the neighborhood was far from being restored. People were leaving Yamamoto. Akiko has two children of school age, and soon she realised that it is too hard to live in Yamamoto all year long. “We rebuilt the house but now we didn’t know what to do. Use it as a summer house? It seems such a waste for a house that looks like this, that so many people tried to save!” The decision came to her when she went abroad to have some rest. Then, for the first time, she learnt about Airbnb. That seemed suitable for the log cabin in Yamamoto. “The idea was to invite people to Yamamoto, to show that this place still has much life in it. I want to try to recreate my hometown like we recreated our house!” says Akiko. She gently touches the handmade curtains, carefully sewn for a place that was almost taken away and revived by those who cared. In this moment, six years after the devastating tsunami, I realise that I am standing in a symbol of Tohoku, rebuilt by those who love it, who treasure their memories about it, and who are ready to adapt and move on. Akiko is ready.
We go outside and take a walk. The sea looks marvellous. Sea shells are scattered around the beach, washed ashore by beautiful waves, so great for surfing. The beach is clean and, although it is not very popular place for swimming (because of the waves), it is great for picnics and walking. Near the sea and the house there is a temple famous for events. Once in a month, usually on 29th, a cafe and a handmade market are taking place right in a temple. The abbot says that he has a lot of other events on his mind, and he is always happy to see guests.
And then we return back, to a house full of light, a kind of a dream house at the sea, with a wide loft that children would adore and a Christmas tree, a permanent resident of the house. “I wanted to take it away after winter holidays, but my guests persuaded me to leave it. Good to have a piece of holiday in here!” says Akiko with a warm smile.
Akiko likes it when foreigners come to stay. “It is an experience that you will remember, I guess. We had tough times, everybody saw it. But now we live on. Come and see.” In a sunny room, eating fresh strawberries and looking outside the window at little birds, engaged in a jolly play, I get her point very well.
You can also spread a word to your friends who are planning to visit Japan and want to see something different from the mainstream tourist attractions. This stay will definitely become one of your best experiences in Japan!