Pictures from an eye-opening day in tsunami-torn region of Japan

A difficult day Tuesday in Tokyo, not because of the long hours, but because of the sobering scene from a tour through the tsunami-ravaged city of Ishinomaki.

The coastal city, located about 210 miles from Tokyo, was 45 miles east of the epicenter of the 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

As part of its Opening Series efforts in Japan this week, the Mariners and A’s each sent representatives to the city for a quick baseball clinic for 100 kids and to offer a check for $500,000 from MLB and the MLB Players Association to help rebuild  the city’s baseball stadium.

I filed this story on Mariners.com, which describes the day in full. But I also snapped a bunch of pictures along the way and those can help tell the story as well. It’s a story Wedge hopes inspires more people to help, more people to remember and more people to continue offering whatever they can for a region that remains devastated a year later.

Here’s some of what we saw as we drove through the region:

These are cars, just piled on top of each other. Abandoned, rusted, battered by the water and now just stacked in a huge lot. 

This might have been the toughest thing to see, an elementary school that was hit hard by the waves as the children huddled in the upper floors. And then as cars and other debris bounced off the building, a fire broke out and many died. In Ishinomaki, nearly 5,000 people died and more than 50,000 were left homeless.

Hundreds of houses, like this one, remain abandoned and battered. Many of the residents who survived now live in temporary housing as the town tries to slowly rebuild.

After driving through that devastation, the Mariners players and Wedge arrived and did their best to lift spirits. That wasn’t hard as their mere arrival was cheered by a throng of more than a thousand, most of whom merely wanted to wave hello. Others lined up in a greeting row and gave high fives as Hisashi Iwakuma, Alex Liddi and Wedge came through.

Wedge and the three players then split up to offer coaching clinics. Wedge (below) and Liddi provided batting instruction, while Iwakuma and Hector Noesi worked with the young pitchers.

In the end, the day was about smiles like these. Happy faces, happy kids. You’d never have known their lives were turned upside down a year earlier. They’re just kids who love baseball and clowning for cameras. They were the reason for hope on this day. And a reason to remember there are still a lot of people who need help in Japan a year after the fourth-largest recorded earthquake in world history.

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