Kamaiishi is one of the areas not yet reached by rescue teams and it’s all too obvious why. Massive tsunami protection walls failed to save its people while roads and buildings were destroyed.
Now severe winter conditions are hampering both rescue efforts and those struggling to keep going.
“To be frank, I need a bath,” said one survivor, “but I know it’s too much to ask. It’s so cold here. We need kerosene and we need petrol.”
Further south in Yamagata there is petrol and heating fuel but it’s being rationed and hour-long queues have to be endured.
While attention is focussed on the nuclear crisis, the plight of towns and cities in the north with no power supplies in near freezing weather and 1.5 million households with no running water are being overlooked.
Yamagata is about 100 kilometres from the exclusion zone around Japan’s stricken nuclear plant so it is receiving a continuous stream of evacuees.
But with all the shortages, meals in the shelters are barely enough to sustain them – half a rice ball and a small bowl of soup is a luxury; a slice of bread might have to feed a family of three.