The Preservation Activity after the Nagano Hokubu Earthquake ~Part4

Satoshi Shirouze, representative of the voluntary group for preserving community’s historical materials

6. The Partnership with the Local People
(1) The relationship with the board of education
At this quake, we faced the situation that the media didn’t broadcast the Sakaemura’s disaster, so we could know nothing about it. The reason why we could grasp the present condition of the whitewashed warehouses which we had investigated before was because Mr.Masayuki Higuchi who worked as a manager for lifelong education in the local Board of education contacted me. I received information from Mr. Higuchi that whitewashed warehouses were seriously damaged, and one of them had a hole the size of a man torn into it, additionally he sent me photos which were taken inside the hole. Apprehensive of robbery, I asked him to carry out the urgent measure for the wall, and he quickly reacted it. He was also a relative of the ‘H’ family, and fortunately he had an acquaintance who managed the warehouse and worked for the construction company. Moreover, as I mentioned before, when we carried out the preservation operation, the Board of education prepared the helmets and name plates to be used as ID cards.
Previous to this operation, on March 20th, they arranged to publish our appeal about preserving old archives and cultural properties in the town paper “Hang in there, Sakaemura!” vol.17, which was distributed in the shelters for the local people. Beforehand, I had an opportunity to talk with Mr.Higuchi by phone and I conveyed that I was worried that people would scrap the cultural properties, so I guess he reflected my opinion.

The town paper “Hang in there, Sakaemura!”

Our operation advanced very smoothly I suppose because we had always constructed good relationships with successive managers for lifelong education. During the last ten years, as I had associated with four successive managers, all of them deeply understood our investigative activities and opened the gates to us. Because of this relationship, I consider that we could smoothly contact with the local people.
(2) The people who voluntary cooperated with us
With regard to the whitewashed warehouses which we newly investigated his time, we had no information about them before the activity. “I heard that old archives are preserved in that warehouse in such and such an area.” The people who gave us such information were, as I mentioned before, those who had a great interest in the cultural properties. Without their support, it was impossible for us to carry out efficient inspections. As he found a whitewashed warehouse, he rapidly talked with the owner’s family without reservation, and guided us to investigate the warehouse. He was really invaluable figure. Simultaneously, he taught us that it was necessary for our activity to be conducted.
(3)The Daily Report about the Retrieval and Reconstruction
From the day of the earthquake to the present, there is a person who has been sending me the reports about the present condition and the situation of the retrieval and reconstruction in Sakaemura almost every day. He is Mr.Makoto Matsuo of Kyoto Seika University. He moved to Sakaemura since 2006, and recently he is living near there and tackling to develop the community. At this quake, his lodging was also damaged and became unsuitable for habitation, so he is staying in temporary housing.
However he is sending reports every day, and its components are published on his blog titled “NPO Sakaemura Network, the Progress for the Reconstruction of Sakaemura”. The reason why I could grasp the present condition and the extent of damage about Sakaemura owes much to these reports. It is very meaningful for upcoming activities about the reconstruction to report their conditions and suggest ideas based on the sufferers’ point of view, and to release them to everyone can access it every time. In addition, he published our appeal about preserving cultural properties on his report and blog.

7. The Problem of the Timing to Enter the Devastated Area
To be honest, the timing to enter the devastated field was a quite difficult problem. The most serious issue for sufferers right after the quake was getting access to clothes, food, and living places. All the sufferers could do was to live, so it would be impossible to consider about the inspection of cultural properties. However, the activity for preserving cultural properties is not merely a game either. To protect the cultural properties is definitely not only a nostalgic pastime, it is absolutely necessary to support the people’s hearts as they reconstruct their lives, and actually those properties have a role to pass down the community’s memory for generations.
If we would go into the devastated area until later, many historical materials would have been already scrapped as disaster waste. As for the traditional utensils, we regret that we should have visited there earlier, for example, as people had thrown them away as waste. Afterwards, I heard that the demolition and removal operations for the razed or partially destroyed houses will be started by the public expense based on the Disaster Certificates. This occasion will be our second operation.

8. About the Upcoming Activity
When the demolition operations begin, we plan to visit there again. We consider it necessary to prevent the scattering, losing and scrapping of cultural properties. Furthermore, it will be important to grasp the historical materials left behind after our inspection. For this reason, we will go around the houses which have whitewashed warehouse mainly in the villages where were damaged by the quake. ( the end)

 NB: The photos are all from the Report of  the Preservation Activity for Nagano Hokubu Earthquake by Mr.Shirouze.

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

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