AP PHOTOS: Japan hotel gives bus tours of tsunami disaster

MINAMISANRIKU, Japan (AP) — For nearly a decade, a Japanese hotel has been giving bus tours to show visitors the history of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan’s northern Pacific coast in 2011.

The 9.1 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it generated on March 11, 2011, killed about 18,000 people and devastated the coastline. Buildings in Minamisanriku were flattened, and more than 800 people in the city were killed or went missing.

“I want everyone to know that unexpected disasters can happen. I think it is our job as people who experienced the (tsunami) to share that,” said Fumio Ito, head of public relations at Minami Sanriku Hotel Kanyo and one of nine staff members who lead the daily hour-long bus tours.

The bus stops at a former school that was damaged by the tsunami, a disaster prevention center where 43 workers died and a former wedding ceremony hall.

Since the tours began, they have had about 400,000 participants, some repeat visitors, according to the hotel.

“He taught me a different perspective,” said Chieko Yoshida, who took a tour given by Ito. “To hear the voice of someone who experienced this in reality is very important.”

Ito was at a customer’s home when the quake hit. He immediately began making his way to the hotel but soon found it impossible as the water began to rise.

“I could see that my house had probably washed away. There was nothing in front of me,” said Ito, who lost three friends in the tsunami. “I had nowhere to be safe, so I went up into the mountains.”

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