Miyagi Network News vol.136

~The Rescue Operation for Historical Materials in Rikuzentakada City~

This is Yuichi Ebina, a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

3 months has passed after the disaster. The rainy season has come, and the historical materials
whose condition was seriously damaged due to the Tsunami are gradually standing out. Our rescue activity has also become a race against time.

The coastline area had sunk around 84cm

On June 12th, we headed to Rikuzentakada City, Iwate Prefecture for rescuing historical materials. In the East Japan Earthquake, the great Tsunami which occurred on March 11th hit the centre of the city, and it was said that the wave reached up to 20 metres high. Even though 3 months has elapsed after the Tsunami, the city landscape which could see the way to the city from the mountain road was still catastrophically brutal enough so that we could see
nothing from the mountainside to the seaside. In Rikuzentakada City, the ground had sunk around 84cm due to the quake, and many places where the shore had been before the quake are now under sea level. The roadside station which we had once visited on the way to inspecting the southern area of Iwate Prefecture and the scenic beauty of Takada Matsubara (pinewoods by the coastline of the city) were also changed by this cruel incident.

The warehouse was washed away

The area which we visited this time was located on a perch 1.5km far from the coastline. At first sight, although this district seemed to be in a fold of hills, the great Tsunami had flooded, too. According to the master of the house which we visited, the waves from the east and west side of the coast had flooded this district, and water had swirled around both sides. The whitewashed warehouse in which had been preserved the historical materials was washed 50 metres away
from the place where it had been. Simultaneously, the main house which had been next on the warehouse had completely disappeared. On another day, the letters which had been placed on the main house was gathered by the Self-Defence who worked in the coastline area, and they reached to the master. We were once again amazed by the intensity of the Tsunami.

Some of the historical materials which had been preserved had been transferred from the whitewashed warehouse and the drying operation had been carried out before we visited. Through such immediate operations, their condition was relatively good, and we could confirm a lot of old archives from the early modern times to the Meiji Period(*). At the same time, as we investigated the old printed books preserved in the first floor, the materials which were concerned the UNESCO activity in this community. This activity was for establishing the UNESCO School and the first private sector’s Japanese UNESCO Library by the former master of the house, and that had become the usher in the private UNESCO activity which have been developed later in Iwate Prefecture. Although many materials were waterlogged by the Tsunami, the certificates of graduation, the guidance of entrance, the newspapers originally published by the school, the manuscripts by the head teacher and other materials were rescued. Those are being kept by the secretariat office, and we are now carrying out the urgent
measures for the damage caused by soaking.

The rescue operation in the first floor

As I was observing the abovementioned materials at the operation, I could find a educator who had tackled the educational activity by expanding his private fund because he found hope in the education of the young generations who would shoulder the reclamation of Japan after the second World War although he had witnessed the devastation right after the war. I think such a predecessor’s stance will be able to give the people who are afflicted by this disaster some
hope. As I am a mere historical researcher, I keenly wish that our present activity will become a source of help for the reclamation of the disaster-stricken area by protecting the community’s historical materials and newly discovering hidden ancestor’s activities from those materials.

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

*Meiji Period: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

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

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