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A Country Comes Together: Nagato Kimura

When an earthquake eighty miles from Japan’s shore triggered a thirty foot high tsunami in March of 2011, no one could have predicted how immense the devastation would be. Within a 150 mile zone of devastation, more than 19,000 lives were lost and the estimated economic loses surpassed $200 billion. Nagato Kimura’s family cannery business, Kinoya-Ishinomaki Suisan Company, located in the hard hit area of Ishinomaki, was beloved for its support of local fisherman. When the tsunami hit, the cannery was flooded and covered with sand and its landmark, a thirty-foot tall fish-oil tank painted to look like a can of mackerel, was washed three hundred feet away. A Tokyo community heard about the destruction of the cannery and immediately rushed to help. Amid the rubble, they found thousands of unlabeled cans of mackerel. Though the fish was still fresh, the cans couldn’t be sold through regular channels because they weren’t properly labeled.
Undaunted, the volunteers brought the cans back to Tokyo and decorated them with informal labels, including cartoon characters, the Japanese flag and inspirational phrases. Nagato Kimura marvels at the generosity that these cans represent, “They came right away. While the government plodded along, they came to help.” Working with locals, the volunteers shared their food and water with disaster survivors and urged Kimura to rebuild. He hopes that the blank slate left by the tsunami can allow fisheries to make their business more sustainable and fight global ocean pollution.