Miyagi Network News vol.135

~The Rescue Operation in Arahama, Wataricho~

Yuichiro Koseki, a doctoral fellow of Tohoku University and the special fellow of Japan Society of Promotion of Science

This report is about the rescue operation of historical materials which are owned by M family living in Arahama district, Wataricho. As we have already introduced them in Miyagi Network News vol.101, the extent of damage by the Tsunami was very serious in this district, and the signs which indicate that victim’s bodies were recovered from there still remain at many houses which were destroyed. With regard to the M family’s house, the traces which showed the height of the Tsunami waves were clearly left on the outside walls. When the earthquake occurred, the house master’s madam who attended our operation had climbed onto the fragrant olive which had stood in their garden and had stayed there for over 3 hours in the chilly weather because the Tsunami flooded their house.

Taking out the materials

M family was an old notable family which have lived in the Arahama district since the Edo period and had been successively engaged as wholesale dealers and simultaneously worked as official workers so-called Ura-yakunin who managed the shipping in the Port. Therefore, they possess many old archives concerned with the merchant service of the eastern course lane or the forwarding business in Abukuma River. For this reason, the operation for inspection and listing up those materials had been carried out by Oushu Research Group for Historical Documents since December 2002. In this operation, our main work was to transfer those which had been contained in the envelopes made from neutral paper, and to tidy them up and check the warehouse which had preserved them.

First of all, the operation members assembled at the Wataricho Kyodo Museum(亘理町郷土資料館) ‘Yuurikan(悠里館)’, and met together with the officers of the Wataricho board of education and the M family. Mr.Yoshiyuki Saito who was a member of Oushu Research Group which had been linked with the inspection operation for the M family for a long time also rushed to join us before his lecture in the university.

After reaching the house, we started the operation with Mr.Yuichi Ebina who was a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials taking the lead. The operation was mainly held in the main house and the warehouse. In the main house, we took out the hanging scrolls from the first floor, and framed old documents from the living room on the ground floor where measures had been taken to peel off the floor boards.

In terms of the warehouse, the window panes were broken, or part of the walls were destroyed or had holes in them, and a lot of materials were scattered there. We firstly began to take them out from the warehouse to the space at the side warehouse, and checked their condition and tidied them, and then took them back into the warehouse. As for the operation for checking and tidying, the members of M family and officers of the board of education took the main role, and they classified them into the materials which would be transferred to the museum so as to be treated, those which would be scrapped, and those which would be taken back to the warehouse. With regard to the materials which would be taken back, they included the many utensils which would required several men to transfer. After the checking, we swept the sand and mud from the warehouse, and covered the broken windows with cardboard to preserve them from rain and wind.

The framed old documents

Finally, we transferred them to the Wataricho Kyodo Museum. In terms of the undercoated documents which amounted to one cardboard box and had not been tidied yet, they will be treated by the Miyagi Network.

At the abovementioned operations, we could find various utensils and their cases, and the name of the tools and eras were written on them in the Chinese ink. Among them, we could discover a chest to which some old documents were pasted which seemed to be from the Edo period, so we took photos with the digital camera. We consider that it would show us a part of the history of the Arahama district. The members of the M family who worked together with us and taught us about those historical documents said to us that it was good for the documents to be investigated and be tidied up the researchers who had expertise about them. We hope that this operation will become a sort of progress for the community and the residents of this district.

[The excursus]

As for the master of the house, although we had announced that he had gone in the Miyagi Network News vol.101, we could confirm that he was alive and well. We withdraw the part of the article which mentioned his death, and at the same time, we sincerely apologise to make trouble for the people concerned.

We carried out this rescue operation with the cooperation of the Wataricho board of education and the emergency response headquarters of the rescue committee for cultural properties, based on the request by the master of the M family.


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

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