Two stands covered to protect the villain. Inevitable advertising placards. And already, on the roof, the flags of France and Tonga: that's for the stadium Kumamoto, a few hours to host his first game of the World Cup, Sunday, October 6 (9:45 in Paris).
Three years ago, the building had a somewhat different purpose: there were many staples from all over Japan. The vast space now serves as a press room.
Difficult today to imagine the previous chaos. These two violent earthquakes, one after the other, on April 14 and 16, 2016. Terrible tremors that resulted in the death of more than 200 people. In seismological language: magnitude 6.5 for the first and 7.3 for the second.
The stadium also suffered damage. "Cracks in the walls and ceiling", summarizes the municipal public relations department. Estimated cost of repairs: 110 million yen (936,000 euros).
Castle under construction
Since then, the prospect – already acquired – to host the World Cup has taken a new, more symbolic: "Now we want to show the world the reconstruction of our city", said Fumihito Sakamoto, instructed for the prefecture to promote sports events.
How to place the city on the map, in the south-west of the archipelago: Kumamoto and its 700,000 inhabitants, professional football and basketball clubs, large galleries, slot machines, reconstructed samurai shows . But also its relaxing parks, in the tumult around. Not to mention, this month, his big oval balloon in full market arena.
A few steps from the city center, the Mondial also coincides and especially with another event: the partial reopening of the castle, on the heights, from 5 to 14 October. A monument much more damaged than the stadium. "A national treasure", according to Ideta Koji. The septuagenarian, formerly a deminer in the army, has the red T-shirt of volunteer guides and a binder with explanations in English to facilitate the visit.
"Its total reconstruction will take some time", warns our cicerone. Many stones are still piling up behind a fence.
"This is what makes the reconstruction more complex, we will try to put these stones back to their original place. As this castle belongs to the heritage, we must do things properly. "
Suddenly, a portico to pass. The Japanese takes off his hat in homage to the one he considers as "A kind of divinity" : Commander Kato Kiyomasa, resident of the place four centuries earlier. In the surrounding alleys, tourists stroll, Hong Kong, Thai.
Below, the scaffolding downtown welcome other passersby. The fan-zone broadcasts the World Cup on a giant screen. Finally, when the weather is good. At the beginning of the week, a risk of typhoon prompted the organizers to dismantle temporarily. More fear than harm: the gust finally hit South Korea, not Japan.
Small earthquakes, this volcanic region had already lived. But "Never would have imagined like those of 2016", says Fumihito Sakamoto. "Few people had insurance against earthquakes"adds Raphaël Taxis, crusader at Kumamoto City International Center. The Frenchman works with the city council with Aix-en-Provence, twinned with the Japanese metropolis. Just like Heidelberg, which has an old tramway still taking the German flag on the streets.
" A washing machine "
During the first earthquake, he was coming out of this center: "I was riding my bike and thought it was just work and a dismantled building. Then, a little further, I saw broken windows, people crying … " The second time, when the earth trembled even stronger, he was already sleeping: "I really felt like I was in a washing machine. At that moment, you feel that you have no more control over your life. "
That evening, the father ended up going home to sleep. But women and children preferred to spend the night in a neighbor's car. "My wife remembered the Kobe earthquakes and collapsed buildings (1995)… " Natural tragedies that can also hit the other side of the country, as in 2011: that year, the earthquake of the "Great East" preceded the nuclear accident in Fukushima.
In Kumamoto, the earthquakes of 2016 deprived 110,000 people of water and electricity. Nearly one inhabitant in seven forced to abandon, at least temporarily, his home. Almost all today has found "Decent housing", according to the services of the town hall. Where is " about " to find one … three years later.
In the station, a large poster also announces the other major event of the current year: the women's world handball championship will take over at the end of November. Another event that the city council had obtained the organization before the earthquakes.