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Touring Tohoku in a Nissan LEAF (part 3)

To coincide with CEO Carlos Ghosn’s visit to Nissan’s engine plant in Iwaki earlier this week, the Global Media Center hired a LEAF electric car to get an on-the-road view of the Tohoku region’s ongoing recovery. Here’s the third and final installment from our road trip.

Day 4

Nissan Prince Ishinomaki

March 28, 8am
Just a light breakfast today after yet more gyutan in Sendai’s lively Kokubuncho district.

Today, it’s my turn to drive the LEAF as we head first to the Nissan Prince dealer in Sendai to interview Masaki Kobayashi, president of Nissan Prince Miyagi and general manager Hiroyuki Sato. Both featured in our coverage following the earthquake and tsunami a year ago (see the links to their names).

10am
We arrive at Nissan Prince Miyagi, after passing the Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball stadium en route, and give the LEAF a quick top up charge. So far, no gripes about my somewhat agricultural driving style from the team.

At the dealership, Kobayashi-san and Sato-san discuss progress made in the last year since the quake and tsunami devastated large parts of Miyagi. We’ll post the interviews online shortly.

Nissan LEAF and GT-R

While the LEAF is being charged, the dealer takes delivery of two of Nissan’s other halo car: the GT-R. It might not be zero emission, but the  2012 model year GTRs look great.

Kobayashi-san explains to us that it will take longer than in the past to get our next stop in Ishinomaki, which is a 60km drive away. Before 3/11, it typically took about an hour from Sendai, but traffic is far heavier now, partly because of damage to the train network caused by the tsunami and ongoing road works to fix the roads.

One crumb of comfort for Miyagi natives is that, for the time being at least, toll roads have been waived on the highway.

Lunch stop

12:30pm
We set off Ishinomaki and, as Kobayashi-san warned us, traffic is indeed quite heavy. To break up the journey we stop off for lunch at small restaurant in the Sendai port area. The sashimi is exquisite.

Having left Sendai city in the direction of the coast, the huge damage caused by the quake becomes more apparent. Roads are regularly cracked, while roadside barriers are often warped or broken.

3pm
We arrive at Nissan Prince Miyagi’s Ishinomaki branch for an interview with dealership manager Keiji Endo. Here, we get a real insight into the extent of the devastation of a year ago.

During an interview, he explains how huge waves of water washed through the dealership. While not as obvious now,  signs of the damage remain. For example, the metal wheels on the chairs show signs of corrosion due to the salt in the seawater.

The view from our LEAF in Ishinomaki

Following the interview, Endo-san kindly takes us to what used to be a Nissan Prince dealer in another LEAF.

Only a few hundred meters into the journey, we begin to see the huge damage caused by the tsunami.

We see piles of destroyed cars, a huge oil drum in the middle of a busy road, an abandoned school and a message of Gambarou Ishinomaki (Do your best Ishinomaki!), which was erected on March 11 this year to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

Where the Nissan Prince Minato dealer used to be

When we get to the site of Nissan’s old dealership, nothing remains but its signboard and several Komatsu diggers cleaning up the site. The branch will not be rebuilt.

6pm
As the sun starts to set, we drive back to Sendai station to drop off the LEAF at the rental car outlet. We get there by about 7:30 in time to take the final bullet train back to Tokyo.  It’s been a fascinating few days.

Ian Rowley
Deputy Editor, Nissan Global Media Center

Cars, Dealership, Management, People, Zero Emission

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