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Sendai residents work to help tsunami survivors

By Lara Yamada
Published On: May 17 2013 07:57:51 PM HST

To call this next couple survivors would be selling them a little short. More than two years after Japan's earthquake and tsunami they are still on a mission to help bring life back to normal or at least get close.

HONOLULU -

More than two years after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, one man is still on a mission to help bring life back to normal.  Or, at least get close.

For Tsuneo Otomo and his wife Mariko, that day, March 11, 2011, still feels like yesterday.

But, long after Japan's disaster, they are telling their story and their ongoing struggle to save lives.

"That's when we saw a big wave coming over the pine trees by the coastline and we started screaming," said Mariko.

That was the day.  How could anyone forget?

"What I did was try to go and rescue three old ladies," said Tsuneo.

They lived on Sendai's devastated coastline.

Scrambling to get so many to safety.  A few houses and some lives spared.

Nearly everyone losing everything else.

"Every machinery or land needs to be fixed up again, but there's no money," said Tsuneo.  "Even now people in Hawaii are still thinking about us."

Their New Hope Church has helped funding a little R&R for their first trip to Hawaii, following them for a documentary about their work after the wave was long gone.

"Because of this love, our love, we find peace in our hearts in this disaster," said Tsuneo.

The Otomos are on a mission visiting the hundreds still in temporary shelters.  Their land scraped dry.  Their few belongings, wrecked.

What they want is a house of their own  to relax, which they don't have now.

But, little by little, they are bringing hope from the ground up, offering back small plots of land to grow maybe the basic greens.

Many, too old to leave, too old to make a living.

"There are still difficulties and unknowns ahead that we face," said Mariko.

There are good times.  A hula lesson here.  A song there.

"They say please do not forget about us," said Tsuneo.

They know the small steps are monumental.

"Maybe we had more things before the tsunami," said Tsuneo.  "But, now we know what's really important."

They say devastated lands have been divided into zones.  Red zones are now condemned, so people cannot rebuild or grow anything.

Elsewhere, some crops are popping up, but government subsidies are lagging way behind, or non-existent.

The Otomos will be here for about a week.  Then they'll return home to continue their work.

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