This last weekend we had the opportunity to go up to Joso (about 2 1/2 hours trip from Yokosuka north) with members from our church to help clean the exterior of a house that had been hit by the terrible floods earlier this year. The area we were in wasn't completely destroyed, but the houses had water up to 3 meters deep flooding the entire area. Needless to say, the interiors of most of these houses are a total mess and need a ton of work. Driving around the area, everything looks pretty cleaned up on the outside, and the only thing you notice is the line of dirt that stops about the same spot up all the walls. But if you look inside you see the devastation.
The house we were working on consisted of 2 apartments on the ground floor and one on top. Our job was to take the screen doors off (new Japanese word! amido = screen door) scrape what dirt we could off before getting it wet, then do our best with water and towels to clean the rest of the dirt off. By then the power washer was working (someone had to stretch several extension cables so far off we couldn't see where they went) and we went to town on the exterior walls/windows/doors. After this it was the interior of the doors/windows. At first I was worried about getting water inside, but then I realized it was so bad they would have to tear everything out anyway. That power washer was a blast, I think I want one someday. Then it was wiping down the windows until they gleamed. Lastly we had to get the dirt and mud out of the concrete area surrounding the house, which was a real pain (actually the pair of Japanese ladies with us worked mostly on that part, there wasn't much room to maneuver). Then it was a final sanitize spray with a hand-pumped pressurized bottle and we were done a bit earlier than the 4pm time we had been told originally.
In the afternoon, while we were finishing up still, a huge crew of Japanese workmen arrived and we were told to get out of their way as they started into ripping up the interior floor of the house. We think they were a Japanese reconstruction company or something. When we were done we went next door to where our "leaders" had been doing something else and it turns out they were doing something similar, rebuilding the flooring in a house where the family has basically been living up in the 2nd floor since the flood about a month ago. It's hard work and we realized we'd been given a fairly easy job by comparison, but it would have been much more difficult for them to give us instructions for such work.
It was a great experience and we were glad to be able to help out at least a little bit. I can't imagine how awful it must be to have your home destroyed so unexpectedly.
Afterwards, on the way back to the church where we had started from in the morning, we were driven to the true devastation. This was the area where the river broke its bounds and swept everything in a raging torrent. It was surreal, with vast swaths of sandy soil and the occasional house or car poking up from the ground. Rowan said it looked post-apocalyptic. I tried to get some interesting pictures of it, but of course this represents people's lives completely leveled and cannot do it justice. They were still putting electrical poles back into place very nearby. There is quite a long way to go before things are back to normal up there.