The present condition about Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture

~An e-mail on 12th April from the Hata Studio for the repairing and mounting of cultural property

We went around the devastated area in Iwate prefecture with specialists who inspected the patent rolls. We entered into the area on 4th April and continued our inspection activities till the 8th. Around Morioka City, the city’s functions were working as usual, so we felt somewhat anomalous with the scenes we always saw on TV news. We headed to Kesennuma City by car. On the way to the city, the roads’ conditions had no problem and the energy shortage was already getting better. As we went close to the damaged area by the Tsunami, the vehicles of the rescuing groups or the Self-Defense Forces were getting numerous. At last we stepped into the town, and the scene of complete devastation suddenly appeared. There were some spots which were too messy to get to by the car because of the heap of debris, so that traffic jams often occurred. If we consider this situation as vital for reconstruction, there would be hope . Although all of the houses and streets were covered with debris, I could find that some photo albums, Buddhist memorial tablets and letters which were rescued from the debris were gathered on the wayside in places. The activities which tried to protect the memorial goods such as photos were broadcasted by various media, and those activities seemed to be carried out with the best of intentions by the workers removing debris.

We headed south from Kesennuma City to Ishinomaki City along the coastline. On the way to Ishinomaki, although there were some inconvenient points such as the detours and the temporary bridges, the reconstruction operations were advancing in haste. There were also unidentified photo albums piled up on the side of guardrails, however, nobody was around there and then those albums and documents were blowing in the wind and scattered.

In Sendai City, we visited the secretariat office for rescuing digital materials. According to them they had stepped into the devastated area on the second day after the quake occurred. At the beginning of the rescuing activity, they could rescue eight out of ten hard discs which were flooded by seawater and mud, however after 3 weeks the rescuing possibilities were dropping down to 20 percent. They desperately continued to carry out their activity around the clock, whereas those kinds of activities were not so much common Although it depends on the damage situation, there might be more extrication of digital materials. Almost all owners of digital materials might give up repairing them because they considered that the effects of the seawater would be serious, so it should be important to make the possibility of rescue known to everyone.

On the next day, we headed to Yamada Town. In the Yamada Prefectural Hospital, we inspected the damage to the medical records and the books in the hospital library. The vice director of the hospital guided us to the town office, the centre of the town, and Ootsuchi Town which is located next to Yamada Town. His story was as follows;

In the Tsunami disaster, there were few injured. The survivors were people who could run away from the Tsunami, the others who couldn’t run away were all washed away. This was a really sorrowful incident, however I try to consider how I will do the best for the survivors. I would like people to come to our town. Our town is a little active because many people come and go assisting us, whereas the Ootsuchi Town is very empty and lonely.

The situation is changing day by day. We should capture the timing accurately.

The community centre located next to the town office became the gathering space for things that had drifted, and the tags on which were written the place where they had been discovered were attached to those materials by the Self-Defense Forces. This rescuing method looked like a system which was naturally established by the people concerned, and it seemed to work well. Afterwards, what will happen to them? The removal operations for this debris will continue for a duration. A lot of those items will be left in the open.

The materials which had been stored in the solid structures were packed together at the spot where were used to be before, however the materials which were unfortunately washed away became garbage left adrift. The cultural properties and archives might be mixed in with them. The drifted objects which were gathered with good intention are facing the danger of being carried away by heartless people or finally becoming rubbish.

For the people who lost all their loved ones’ things, such material is precious even though little remained . Before losing everything, we should try to do the best we possibly can.

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About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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