June 21st. It’s been a whirlwind of a 20 days since I started working at Kesennuma Tourism. I lived here for two years working as an ALT, but already this time feels a lot different. I live in Hashikami now, in a share house managed by a guy named Atsutoshi “Atsu” Tanaka.
Atsu is a 24 year old entrepreneur whose primary business involves renting out akiya (vacant houses), repairing and renovating them, and then turning them into share houses or guesthouses. In the Japanese sense, a “share house” is a fully-furnished house equipped to accommodate young people who’ll be residing in an area for a relatively long term. A guesthouse is essentially the same as a hostel; affordably priced dormitory-style accommodation where travelers can hang out and mingle with neighborhood locals. In Kesennuma, Tanaka’s main enterprise is Guesthouse Kakehashi, a travelers’ hostel which opened just this year. Kakehashi offers travelers not only a comfortable place to stay, but also a place for young long-term residents to come hang out. On Friday and Saturday nights, you can generally find a few of the neighborhood grandpas drinking with their buddies and sharing the fresh catch of the day.
Starting in June, Tanaka started work on a new share house, Chokotto Numa House (name change pending) a place for long-term residents to call home in Kesennuma. I had planned to start living in this new share house from the 1st of June, but because the house had been vacant for around 60 years, there were some pretty substantial repairs to be made for it to be livable. So for the first few days, I crashed at Guesthouse Kakehashi while helping Tanaka and his team work on the house. Having basically zero technical skills, watching Tanaka’s mind at work is a wonder to me. It looks like he’s taking his measurements at a glance, but when the wood is cut and laid out, everything fits perfectly. Maybe some people were just born to be engineers.
After I started work at my new job, I wasn’t able to spend much time helping with home repairs, but thanks to the hard work of Atsu’s team, the house was made livable enough for us to move in on June 10th. There are a lot of improvements that will need to be made over the next few months, but we’re all having fun designing our living space piece by piece.
It hasn’t even been a month of living together, but I’m grateful for my share house mates every day. I lived in Kesennuma for two years, but this time it feels like I have a family. Over the past few weeks, we’ve started an Ultimate Frisbee team, planted rice with local elementary school kids and had card game night.
I’m looking forward to the adventures the next few months will bring.