Fire-gutted market in central Japan quake takes step toward recovery

A historical marketplace in central Japan gutted by a fire following a powerful earthquake on New Year’s Day marked a significant step toward reconstruction Saturday as it was revived for a day in the prefectural capital.

The event, which began at 8 a.m. and saw the Wajima morning market’s characteristic orange tents being erected at the venue near a fishing port in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, drew around 13,000 visitors despite the rain, according to organizers.

Many people visit a Wajima morning market event held in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, on March 23, 2024. (Kyodo)

Around 30 shops participated in the morning market event, selling products such as seafood and traditional local crafts, with the organizers also providing spaces for visitors to eat.

Mutsumi Michishita, a 57-year-old shop owner, prepared sundried octopus caught off the shores of Wajima just for the event. “I’m happy to have a place to talk with customers again after such a long time,” she said.

A 73-year-old woman from Wajima came to the event after being invited by people involved with the market that she had met at her evacuation site in Kaga, southwestern Ishikawa Prefecture.

“The liveliness is nostalgic, and it makes me really want to return (to Wajima),” she said.

At a ceremony before the event, Nagatake Tomizu, who heads an association supporting the market, vowed to do his best to “ensure that visitors return home with smiles.”

“It may take time for the market to fully recover, but we appreciate your continued support,” he said.

Members of the association had been preparing dried seafood and other items for the event since early March. They plan to hold another run in May during the Golden Week holidays and have also received numerous requests from outside the prefecture.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the blaze in Wajima gutted about 49,000 square meters and destroyed around 240 buildings, including residences. The agency surmised the fire spread rapidly due to the high concentration of old wooden buildings in the area.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Friday made their first visit to the area since the Jan. 1 earthquake to meet with evacuees, during which they also observed a moment of silence in front of the burned rubble where the morning market once stood.

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