Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oriase Town Pig Farm Clean-up

When I got over to the Red Cross meeting area at the Mokuteki Community Center this morning I asked if they knew where we were going.  I was told that the local community leaders coordinate with the military about locations that need assistance and that we would fin out where we were going our initial brief.  I knew that some of the previous groups had cleaned up the Misawa Fishing Port, and some restaurants in Hachinohe.  When the Captain announced that we would be going to clean up a pig farm my heart sank a little.  I knew it would be muddy, dirty work but I was definitely not expecting a commercial pig farm!

The pig farm we were sent to is right off of Route 338 in Oriase Town, just south of the Misawa Fishing Port.  The pig farm is about 4-500 meters from the actual coast line, and almost the entire thing was destroyed.  The farmer had about 2,000 pigs before the tsunami, and somehow one of his buildings survived along with around 400 pigs.  Every other building was completely ripped off of its foundation and destroyed.  One of them was even moved about 300 meters across a field.  We were told that all the pig carcasses had been removed, but we soon found out that wasn't completely accurate.

As you can see from the above photos, the site was a total mess.  Our job was to separate the debris into piles of wood, metal, and plastic.  The Japanese burn almost everything they cannot recycle but the base had asked them to not burn anything while we were there for health reasons.  The piles of wreckage were a tangled mess of concrete, rebar, wiring, insulation, wood, metal roofing, plastic siding, metal gates, and all sorts of infrastructure required of a commercial pig farm.  The debris was packed down with dirt and pine needles because when the tsunami came through the tree line it swept the forest floor clean and deposited everything on the farm.  The job required a lot of heavy lifting and team work to get everything done.  Luckily someone had gotten two chain saws from the Civil Engineering Squadron and I was able to use one throughout the day to hack some of the building frames down into manageable pieces.

There were no bathrooms at the site so I took a walk out into the trees and snapped this pic.  You can see how the tsunami pushed all the trees over and cleared out most of the normal debris that would be on the ground.

This photo looks over the wreckage at the lone building left standing.  Somehow the water diverted around this building and it was spared.  Hopefully the farmer will be able to rebuild and use those remaining pigs to repopulate his farm.

After about two hours we found our first casualty of the day.  You could tell something was up because the ground felt a little more spongy than it should.  This sow clocked in at about 200 kilos and had to be drug out with ropes.  That picture is below and maybe not for some people.  Luckily it has been very cold so the pigs had not decomposed very much at all.  We ended up finding about a dozen pigs throughout the day including a few piglets.

Hopefully I didn't scare everyone off with the photo of the poor piggy.  I made the thumbnail smaller so you might not see what it is! At the end of the day I had someone snap a photo of me in my disgustingly dirty pants.  I'm hoping all that dirt comes out because Military Clothing Sales is out of all normal people size uniforms here at Misawa!

We also snapped a group shot before we left for the day.  It snowed on and off throughout the day, but it was really nice right before we left!  You can see in the group that there is both military and civilian helping out with the clean-up.

The family that owned this farm was so grateful for the help.  Since we were able to break everything down for them they can now burn and scrap all the rubble and start getting things cleared out to rebuild.  Even though it was 10 hours of hard muddy work it was totally worth it.  Having to work a 12 hour shift at my unit right after it kind of sucks, but I was off last night and got plenty of sleep.  

I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to get out and volunteer again, but i talked with my boss about tweaking our schedule to give all of the guys who work for me a chance to get out and volunteer.  The base is planning on continuing to support the local community as long as they need assistance and I think it's extremely important to show solidarity with the community and help them in this trying time.  Misawa Air Base is lucky to have excellent relations with the community and host nation, and volunteer efforts such as this will solidify those relations for years to come. 


  1. Everyone seems to be in good spirits considering what happened and going by the smiles in the group photo.

    And as for the photo of the pig, I'm sure you could have showed us much worse.

  2. You guys are amazing. That looks like lots of work, and I'm sure the family is very thankful. I've often used the the phrase " dragging a dead pig..." Example:Using my canister vacuum cleaner is like dragging a dead pig. Personally, I've never dragged a dead pig, but since you have, you can use the phrase and mean it.

  3. I thought you might be interested in this. I found your blog at

    It says it's "Unclaimed"

  4. It's good to see this kind of clean up effort by you guys. Thanks alot!