By Yuriko Nakao

Seaweed grower Takaaki Watanabe took to the sea in his boat before the massive tsunami roared into the northeastern Japanese town of Minamisanriku, becoming one of a lucky few to save the vessel essential for their livelihood.

But back on shore the raging waters of March 11 swept away his wife, his mother and his house, built on land in his family for 13 generations, though his three teenaged daughters managed to survive.

“At that time, I wasn’t sure whether I could actually resume the cultivation (farming seaweed, scallops and oysters). I had no way of knowing my future,” he said recently.

Now, nearly a year later, the 48-year-old Watanabe has lost 5 kg and four teeth, but is starting to see tentative signs of rebirth as the result of his hard work since the massive wave touched off by the 9.0 magnitude offshore earthquake destroyed a vast swathe of his town, one of the hardest hit.

Much of this is due to the new – and still unusual – measures he and other fishermen have taken to preserve their livelihood: banding together to work in small groups rather than alone or in family units, as was always traditional.