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One month after Japan earthquake, survivors, businesses struggle to rebuild: ‘we can’t make a living here’

Kenji Kusunoki still does not know how to go about rebuilding his life after his “izakaya” Japanese pub was completely destroyed in the powerful earthquake that hit central Japan one month ago, taking the lives of his wife, Yukari, 48, and eldest daughter, Jura, 19.

His house containing a pub called Wajimanma was crushed when the 7-story building next door toppled over. “I cried until my tears dried up. I feel empty,” Kusunoki, 55, lamented as he searched for belongings in the debris of his home in Ishikawa Prefecture.

“I will always remember my place existed here. I want to do business here again sometime in the future,” he said, hanging up a T-shirt, designed by his wife, at the site of his former home.

Kusunoki’s pub was among many small businesses supporting the local economy that drew tourists with its traditional crafts and sake breweries.

The damage inflicted by the magnitude-7.6 earthquake on small and medium-sized companies in Ishikawa, Fukui, Niigata and Toyama prefectures is estimated at several hundred billion yen, according to local government officials.

The city of Wajima in which Kusunoki ran his pub had a morning market dating back over 1,000 years that was gutted by a blaze following the quake. An area of around 48,000 square metres with about 200 buildings was destroyed.

“Lots of shops around the market were operated by individuals. Now that their workplaces are lost, they cannot make a living,” said Zensuke Shibagaki, whose Wajima lacquerware shop, which had been operated by six generations, burned down with all of his tools inside.

“I survived, so I want to start again, especially for the sake of my customers,” said Shibagaki. But like other ageing local residents, he expressed concern about the time it will