Tag Archives: Tsunami

Munemasa Takahashi on Lost & Found at Aperture

Photographer Munemasa Takahashi from the Memory Salvage Project stopped by Aperture during the installation of an exhibition showcasing several hundred family snapshots recovered from the rubble of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami nearly one year ago. In this clip, he introduces Lost & Found: 3.11 Photographs from Tohoku on view at the Aperture Gallery Project Room through next Friday, April 27, 2012.

 

One Year Later at Minori-kai: James Nachtwey Returns to Japan

Shingo Kobayashi remembers what happened on March 11 of last year all too well. “It was the day our center was destroyed,” he says, resting his long fingers on a table at Minori-kai, a facility for the disabled in Natori, Japan. “It’s not there anymore.” He would be happy to talk about it but—he turns his wrist to show the face of his watch—it’s already a minute past 3:00 pm. And that’s when he leaves. Everyday. No matter what.

At Minori-kai, everyone’s day revolves around routine. And until 2:46 pm, March 11 was no exception. This center on Japan’s northeast coast, dedicated to the care of mentally and physically disabled members of the city, was established in 1984 as a support group for parents, but quickly evolved into the only option to help families care for adults with severe disabilities. Last March, four of Minori-kai’s five facilities, which serve 120 individuals, were destroyed, including a state-of-the-art center that the social welfare group had recently scraped together nearly $4 million to build.

At 2:46 pm, the staff and members of Minori-kai were having afternoon tea in the new center when a violent shaking rocked the building.“Everyone panicked,” recalls Akira Kasai, Minori-kai’s director. A staff member was able to check the news on his mobile phone and saw that there was a tsunami alert. As the center was less than a kilometer away from the sea, the staff made the immediate—and lifesaving—decision to pack everyone into the center’s buses and leave. “We threw away people’s wheelchairs and were carrying people to the buses,” recalls Kasai. As their caravan of buses raced inland toward the city hall, the members were quiet. “Nobody knew what was coming,” he says.

What was coming destroyed the huge swath of Natori that is still barren today. The debris of thousands of homes and businesses is heaped in massive piles on the water’s edge; the building where Minori-kai once stood is an empty dirt lot. Five members, including Kobayashi, lost their entire families. “It took a long time to confirm that their families had died,” says Suzuki. “It took even more time for them to understand. They slowly started to grasp that their family was gone.”

Without a live-in group home in Natori, all of the members whose caretakers died have had to leave town for facilities that could take them. Kobayashi was one of them. His mother, who was his sole guardian and who Suzuki says he rushed home to see at 3:00 pm each day, was killed in the tsunami. Suddenly, he was living with strangers for the first time in his life. Suzuki says it was not an easy transition. During a lunch break at an industrial waste recycling plant in Natori where he works during the day, Kobayashi polishes off his bento lunch and sits for a few minutes before going back on the clock. When asked about living at the group home, his eyes get red and he stares out the window over a steaming cup of miso. “Now, I like it,” he says. Tears let loose and track down his cheeks. “Now, I like it.”

Before the tsunami, Minori-kai had appealed to the city of Natori to put more money into welfare services for the disabled citizens like Kobayashi in the city. His mother knew she was getting older, and she and other parents had been increasingly anxious about what would happen to their children in the future. What was lost that day on March 11 was not only Minori-kai’s building. It was also their effort to reform this conservative town’s attitude toward the disabled. “The tsunami revealed the vulnerability of these people,” says Suzuki. “It revealed the necessity to take care of them.”

Rebuilding the facility will be the first step. For now, the day care for Minori-kai’s most disabled members is running out of an old veterinary hospital. On a Monday morning in late February, members arrive in the morning in a bluster, taking off their shoes in the entry hall and charging into the main activity room. Once inside, they visibly relax. Everyone finds their favorite spot—a chair at the table, a spot on the couch with the keyboard playing a bossanova track—and the day begins. It’s working, says Suzuki, but the space is not big enough. There is not enough room for the members to get outside and exercise and do sports, and no beds for them to rest during the day. “It’s a closed space,” she says. “Tension between the members is growing. They are louder and angrier than they were before.”

To rebuild a new facility, Minori-kai not only needs another $4 million—it needs land. But with everybody moving away from the coastal neighborhoods, inland plots are going for a premium that Minori-kai can’t afford. “Until we find the land, the city won’t approve the funding for the project,” says Suzuki. The organization has received some individual donations since the tsunami, and still gets about $85 per day for each patient from the national government. But all of this funding is only going to keeping up daily activities in the temporary facility, not toward building a new place that suits the needs of the members. “One year later, we’ve just started discussing the plan with the city government,” says Kasai. “In reality, these people don’t have any place to go if we aren’t doing this.”

Minori-kai is located at Miyagi prefecture, Natori City, Masuda. The organization accepts PayPal donations to l[email protected] and can be contacted by mail at Minori-kai / Miyagi-prefecture, Natori City , Masuda 5-3-12 / Japan 981-1224 / Attn: Mrs. H. Suzuki.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer. Follow him on Facebook here.

Lost & Found: 3.11 Photographs from Tohoku

Lost & Found: 3.11 exhibition at Hiroshi Watanabe Studio in Los Angeles (c) Lost & Found Project

This month of March brought the passing of the one-year anniversary of the devastating tsunami which hit the coast of Japan in 2011, laying waste much of the region, in some cases washing away entire villages and causing upwards of 20,000 deaths. Since the disaster, relief efforts came in a variety of forms, but one which humanizes the numerical abstraction of the death toll stuck out in particular.

In the current Aperture magazine issue 206, photography critic and independent curator Mariko Takeuchi writes:

In the cities, towns, and village affected by the disaster, a vast number of personal photographs were salvaged, pulled from underneath rubble and mud by all sorts of people. They were discolored by saltwater and covered with dirt; some were misshapen or even emitted foul odors. With very few exceptions, it was impossible to identify the people who had made the photographs, their subjects, or their owners—if indeed they were still alive.

What began as a small community effort has turned into the Memory Salvage Project, a volunteer organization that has to date recovered and begun restoring 750,000 lost family photographs.

540true
thumbnails
under
389true
true
500http://www.aperture.org/exposures/wp-content/plugins/thethe-image-slider/style/skins/frame-white
  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide1

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide2

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide3

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide4

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide5

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide6

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide7

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide8

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide9

  • 5000
    slideright
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide10

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Restoration is not just a matter of infrastructure,” Professor Kuniomi Shibata, head of the Memory Salvage Project, says in a video for Discovery Channel, “There are other important things.”

Snapshots were cleaned, numbered and digitized one by one with the help of volunteers who came from all over Japan. At least 20,000 photographs, and 13,000 photo albums have been returned to their owners. Several thousand other images abstracted by natural disaster have been assembled into an evocative and visually stunning traveling exhibition which has been on view in Tokyo and Los Angeles, and is now coming to New York.

Photographer Munemasa Takahashi, one of the leaders of the project tells New Yorker’s Photobooth why the images on view are so powerful:

After the disaster occurred, the first thing the people who lost their loved ones and houses came to look for was their photographs… Only humans take moments to look back at their pasts, and I believe photographs play a big part in that. This exhibit makes us think of what we have lost, and what we still have to remember about our past.

Lost & Found: 3.11 Photographs from Tohoku will be on view at Aperture Monday, April 2, 2012 – Friday, April 27, 2012.

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 W. 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 505-5555

Pictures of the Week: March 9 — March 16

From the conflict in Afghanistan and a tragic bus accident in Switzerland to Purim celebrations in Israel and the one-year anniversary of the Japanese tsunami, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: March 2 – March 9

From the Presidential election in Russia to Super Tuesday in the U.S. to fires in Congo and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Seven Days of Strange Landscapes

From thousands of spiders in Australia and a massive ruptured ice wall in Argentina to the aftermath of the U.S. tornadoes and the wake of last year’s Japanese tsunami, TIME’s photo department presents a selection of surprising and surreal vistas from the past week.

Japan One Year Later: Photographs by James Nachtwey

A year ago, it was hard to know what to expect. The three disasters that blindsided Japan on March 11, 2011—a 9.0 earthquake, a massive tsunami and a triple nuclear meltdown—created an unprecedented crisis for which there was no rulebook. After the water receded that Friday afternoon, leaving as many as 20,000 dead and tens of thousands of homes and businesses in ruins, a terrible stillness settled over Japan’s northeast coast. A dusting of snow fell onto empty highways, void of aid vehicles carrying food, fuel, water and blankets. Tsunami warnings were still in effect, keeping search-and-rescue teams away from obliterated seaside neighborhoods. As workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant scrambled to get the damaged reactors under control, loudspeakers echoed onto empty streets, instructing people to stay indoors to avoid radiation exposure.

James Nachtwey for TIME

The cover of TIME in Japan

Soon enough, of course, Japan emerged from its state of shock: Self Defense Forces, aid workers and hundreds of thousands of volunteers poured into the region to help. But a year later, the region’s physical recovery is not as far along as one might hope. Only 5% of the nearly 23 million tons of debris have disposed of, the looming piles at the edge of the sea a daily reminder of the huge task ahead. Town councils still argue over how and where to rebuild, and inside the closed-off evacuation zone around the crippled plant, policeman still search for victims whose remains were never recovered.

Rebuilding all that was lost will take time, but other things will take longer. In two towns in Miyagi prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas, 20% of residents report having chronic insomnia, and 5% report having a member of their household who is suicidal or having serious psychiatric problems. In Tokyo, people talk about the collective funk that the city can’t seem to shake. The crushing loss of life, community and faith in the nation’s public institutions all fuel this dark mood, and the dwindling spirit of volunteerism is reinforcing the feeling that Japan is fated to slip ever further from the perch of power and vitality it enjoyed in the late 20th century into a rudderless murk in which things are getting worse and may not get better.

Others are more optimistic. “In some ways, the earthquake was a great commodity,” says Kazuma Watanabe, the founder of Five Bridge, a Sendai-based group that has helped organize volunteers in Tohoku in the past year. “The sadness was consumed. The desire to volunteer was consumed. But like all consumption, it reached its limits. This is how a disaster works.” People may not be beating down the door to help like they were a year ago, but Watanabe says the chance to create something lasting from that wave of enthusiasm has not passed. What Japan needs now, he says, “is to turn that reaction into action.”

Krista Mahr is a correspondent at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kristamahr.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer. Keep us with his work on his Facebook page.

Lost and Found

It will soon be the first anniversary of the huge earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Tohoku region. Hundreds of thousands of images have been taken since the disaster and most of these naturally focus on documenting the scale of the devastation. In my view, little interesting work that goes beyond straightforward visual description has emerged as yet. One of the strongest projects started up immediately in the aftermath of the disaster when the photographer Aichi Hirano decided to distribute disposable cameras to the people in the shelters in the devastated region. He retrieved the cameras, developed the film and published the results at www.rolls7.com. I have written about the Rolls Tohoku project before on the blog and Hirano has continued to add new images to the Rolls website since then.

This week, I discovered another project which is a fascinating companion to Rolls Tohoku. The Memory Salvage Project was started two months after the earthquake by a team of young researchers from The Japan Society for Socio-Information Studies who felt the need to return the photographs which were swept by the tsunami to their owners. A group was set up to gather photographs that were retrieved after the tsunami, to clean them, digitize them, and to attempt to return them to their owners. This could seem like a herculean and perhaps misplaced undertaking given the scale of the problems that people face in the affected areas, but I think it is a wonderful reminder of what photographs can mean to people and how closely they are linked to our memories.

An exhibition of some of the retrieved images took place at Akaaka’s gallery in Tokyo earlier this year and, for any readers in Los Angeles, a second exhibition at Hiroshi Watanabe’s studio is taking place from 8-25 March. Details are on the Lost & Found website.

Share

No related posts.