By Jim Seida, msnbc.com multimedia producer
Every morning, we pile into our van and leave our hotel in Ichinoseki in north-central Japan and head due east to the coast to report on how the country is recovering from the twin disaster of March 11. A two-lane highway takes us over the Kitakami River and winds through small towns like Senmaya, Konashi, Yagoshi and Orikabe. Between these towns, rural homes sit amongst rice paddies below hillsides thick with forest. Although the drive is only 30 miles (48 kilometers) it usually takes us about an hour and forty-five minutes to cover the distance.
Hop in the car with msnbc.com's team in Japan as they drive from their hotel in Ichinoseki to Kesennuma where the tsunami destroyed more than 10,000 houses.
If you were a first time visitor to the region and you didn't know that the country had recently suffered a massive natural catastrophe, for most of the drive there would be little indication that one had taken place. Even as we enter Kesennuma, the town we've been reporting from for the past couple of days, there's no real indication. But when the road turns downhill and we lose just a little bit of elevation near the coast, you can suddenly see the devastation. The massive wave that swept over the land here destroyed almost everything in its path. Boats and houses and cars and highways were all reduced to rubble. Everything's wrecked, everything's brown.