2011年9月26日月曜日

break time


I have decided to take a break on posting to this blog. 
Please contact me via Facebook if you wish to continue the communication.
Please click on the following to access my Facebook.
I thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog.

Rest in Peace


Sept. 4, 2011


The funeral was held peacefully at Shogenji Temple of Onagawa at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011.
Thank you so much to all as many people from far and near came to attend my parents’ funeral.  I truly appreciate it.  I know my parents are very pleased to see all of you at the service.

It was different from an ordinary funeral as there were no bodies and the passing of about six months since the loss.  It was strange in a way.  Most of the attendees came to my photo exhibition past week, so we did not have to exchange the formal greetings.  For that sake, the funeral had rather peaceful atmosphere instead of sadness.  I felt this at my photo exhibition.  I was so glad that I was able to see the people who took care of me and my sister when we were children.  I realize that the human beings live, being supported and loved by so many people throughout the lives.  Because of these people’s help, my parents were able to conduct business, make a decent living and to raise us.  We are indebted to them and I truly appreciate them for their support.  Thank you so much.  Also I would like to apologize for any inconvenience that we may have caused at the funeral.

The picture that we used for the funeral was the one that my parents used for the 2011 new years card.  I took their photo with the instruction of my father for posing and lighting.  A photo in which both of them sit close to each other used to be displayed in their bedroom and this was taken in the same year when they got married and my mother was pregnant with my sister.  My father requested me to take a picture of them sitting close to each other and he wanted to use it for the 2011 new years card.  He told me that he wanted the picture similar to the one taken when they were newlywed.  He didnt say something like this usually, so first I thought its strange.  When I think of this now, I realize that it might have been his intention of staying close together until the death.  My mother was embarrassed with this, but I took this picture in the way that this would overlap with the picture of 39 years ago.  That was my intention.  As for posing, I made them pose in a way that my mothers face would look smaller and my father who had a small stature would look bigger in the picture.  As I took several pictures, I was able to capture an elegant smile of my mother who aged gracefully to 66 years old.  Although my mother used to say about her that she was smiling too much or she became an old woman since the stroke, the picture depicted a graceful 66-year-old lady, I think.


I talked with my sister about the Buddhist altar for my parents and ancestors, and we have decided to keep the altar in her house.  I have decided to succeed the photography.  Please continue good relations with us privately and professionally into the future.  Lastly, I thank my sister from the bottom of my heart for taking care of this time-consuming preparation for the funeral and other tedious things.  Good job and thank you so much!

Seafood Expo July 27, 2011

    July 27, 2011



Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo will start today and continue for the next three days at Tokyo Big Sight.  This is an expo for those who are looking for some items to purchase in this industry.

I am going to help this event with taking photos because of my ties with event participants.
There is an organization called Onagawa Processed Marine Products Study Association in which Onagawa’s young people who are engaged in the marine products industry participate.  Their activities include the development of Onagawa-exclusive products, promotion of Onagawa processed marine products, participation in the town events and holding of study sessions on distribution and marketing of the products.

The booth was
appealing and sending an aspiring message that Onagawa has been invigorated nowadays even though it was damaged by the tsunami.  It was saying that more products will be brought to the Expo next year.

These young men and women are dedicating themselves to recover the Onagawa’s fisheries without being discouraged by adversity.  The factories and processing machines were all washed away by the tsunami and they had to start from scratch.  They want to start the rebuilding right away, but the construction permits to the lowlands are not granted.  If the reconstruction does not take place quickly, the population will leave.  Then employment cannot be secured.  Furthermore, the scope of radiactive contamination and its seriousness are unknown.  There are many facing issues like these.

Back in June, I met a person who is a member of Onagawa Processed Marine Products Study Association.  I wanted to know more about my hometown.  Eighty percent of Onagawa’s population (including their families) is engaged in fisheries, so without fisheries it is difficult to make a living.  These people all lost their families, relatives and friends to the tsunami and their houses and factories were washed away.  What I like about these members is that they have a vision 
to recover the entire town and Sanriku area’s fisheries, not just their factories under these circumstances.  They consider what they must do based on their vision and act upon it.  They are in the close generation as mine, so I am glad that I can exchange various opinions with them.  I would like to extend my cheers and support to them into the future as much as possible.

Photo Exhibit “Life --- Father’s Focal Point and Daughter’s Focus”

July 18, 2011





I am writing the captions for my photo exhibits in August.  It is a quite difficult task.
In mid June, I was taking portraits under a theme of “Current Lives of People Living Oganawa.”  It was exactly three months after the earthquake when I took these photos.  People have started living in new temporary housing or resuming businesses and it was the time when the
modes of people’s lives have started coming back.  There are some areas that people are confused here and there.  However, people have become brightened as they started resuming the ordinary lives.  It is my hometown and they are people of my hometown.  That is why I want to stay close with them and to take pictures of them.

A photo exhibition is a place where you can make a subject matter interesting by making a composition of several photos.
Primarily, a photo should draw interest from the audience without any explanatory remarks.  However, I think that it would be better to add a remark that states a brief life drama of each individual for each portrait in this exhibition.  It is not only to draw more interest, but also to have the audience feel the lives in the disaster areas realistically.

My late father used to say. “I am not taking just a picture.  Rather I am taking a picture of that person’s life.”  I am competing against my father with these portraits that I took.  So I am trying to meet a challenge in facing the lives of these models in my photos although by any means I am not comparable to my father technically.

Some pieces of my father’s work that have been saved from the tsunami will be displayed as well.  Please drop by when you are in the neighborhood.


Photo Exhibition
“Life --- Father’s Focal Point and Daughter’s Focus”
Aug. 5 to Aug. 17, 2011:10:00 to 19:00, Aug. 18, 2011: 10:00 to 16:00
FUJIFILM SQUARE 1F Mini Gallery (At Ropongi Mid Town)

“Life --- Father’s Focal Point and Daughter’s Focus”
Aug. 25 to Aug. 30, 2011: 10:00 to 17:30
Fuji Film Photo Salon, Sendai

Another exhibition of these photos will be held at Fuji Film Salon, Osaka in October.


70-year-old Passion for Starting All Over

     July 12, 2011

Mr. Yuetsu Abe, President of Yume Shoku Ken, is a person who is trying to start over again in Tottori.  When I read a newspaper article about him, I said to myself, “I have to meet him!.”     And today I’m at Houki Cho, Saieki-Gun, Tottori Prefecture. 
Mr. Abe is a quiet person with a strong determination, and he is of my father’s generation.  His energy to start his business all over again at the age of 70 is impressive, and he is a wonderful person.  Having recovered two of the dough mixers, his loving bakery tools, in the tsunami-caused rubbles led him to decide to start his business again.   He had these mixers repaired and carried them to Tottori.  They are in good operating conditions now.






When I was a third grader, I had a chance to visit his bread factory, “Maruyu Bakery,” through a school field trip.  At the end of the factory tour, all of us got sweet bread shaped like Ampan Man, a TV animation character. Mr. Abe’s bakery supplied bread for school lunches.  So all of the children in Onagawa grew up with his bread!  His bakery was a part of our community.

Four months before the great earthquake, Mr. Abe and his business partner, Mr. Matsubara, set up a non-profit organization called “Bright Onagawa” to help disabled people get a job and earn their living to support themselves.  They began distributing Karinto cookie dough to institutions all over Japan.  A new machine to make Karinto cookies was installed in December.   An office was leased in Onagawa by Mr. Matsubara in December.  They finished moving to the newly released building in the morning of March 11.  The future looked good…. then the tragedy of tsunami happened on the very same day. 



If they stop now, there will be a subsequent damage.  Jobs for the disabled will be lost. With these thoughts, they left Onagawa on April 4 and headed for Tottori, Mr. Matsubara’s home town. By June 1, they were able to begin baking Karinto cookies again

“Onagawa folks say I have abandoned the town,” he grumbled. Mr. Abe did not abandon the town, but he wanted to respond as quickly as possible to the institutions all over Japan that were waiting for Karinto cookies.



Mr. Abe says “It takes 10 years to start a new business.” That means he began planning this business when he was 60 years old.  It must have been difficult to start something new in Onagawa, a small town that resists change. It was especially hard to start not just a business but a project to help the disabled make their own living. He explained:  I thought about quitting many times, but each time I overcame the discouragement and moved ahead. 

The great tsunami took away everything, but Mr. Abes passion.  He is starting new in a strange town..

Traveling to Tottori and meeting Mr. Abe saved my soul. He is so much like my late father, with extraordinary passion and a broad view looking at the world. 
I’m overwhelmed by the energy of Mr. Abe.  Because I can no longer hear my fathers voice, I especially enjoyed talking with Mr. Abe.

He was pleased with our meeting where he could hear and speak with an Onagawa accent after he had moved to Tottori, and shared with me the story of how he escaped the tsunami and how he started working on a comeback life. Thank you, Mr. Abe. 


School Excursion to Yamadera and Tendo

July 1, 2011


Elementary school children from Onagawa took a trip to Tendo City, Yamagata.  The children who participated in this excursion were 5th and 6th graders from Onagawa  Daiichi, Daini and Daiyon Elementary Schools. They arrived at Yamadera at 10:30 am. They began climbing the mountain in beautiful weather.  In Tohoku, the “greens” are luxurious and dark at this time of the year, and when shined on by sunlight, the contrast is a great art itself.  Being exposed to the cool and fresh air in Yamadera is like savoring a forest bath.   I wondered how these children from Onagawa, the city that lost colors, felt seeing these lush green trees. Tour guides explained each site of interest to the children. While taking a good look at a rock shaped like Buddha, they slowly ascended toward a mountain-top temple.  I’ve been taking photos of children for schools for many years, but I was so moved by these children who showed so much interest in Buddhism and were praying with their hands together when passing the Buddha-like rock.  Oh, how difficult the last three and a half months must have been for them.




They enjoyed the gorgeous buffet lunch and hot spring bath at the hotel.  Though the buffet offered a large section of exotic dishes, their favorites were fried chicken and spaghetti, simple dishes that are available anywhere!  Buckwheat noodle and stew with Yonezawa beef, the specialties of Yamagata, were also offered. The hot spring bath was refreshing after the 90-minute climb (Alas…no such luck for the teachers and me, we were too busy with chores to enjoy the hot springs.)



After lunch, we enjoyed picking cherries for dessert “Satonishiki” is in season this time of the year in Yamagata. 
We went to one of the commercial cherry farms, not the one for tourists.  Large cherries were everywhere.  Being allowed to eat as much as they could, they stretched their arms high.  But after 10 minutes, they stopped eating and started spitting pits. I took pictures while picking cherries.  Some children picked cherries for me, saying “These are great.” 
This was the best excursion for the children and they fully enjoyed Yamagata.  For teachers, it was a great time to relax and release the tension they had been under for a long time since the earthquake.  We thank Sanko for sponsoring the trip that healed us both physically and mentally.

Serious Problem with an Outbreak of Flies

     June 29, 2011


Many disaster areas including Onagawa have a serious problem of an outbreak of large flies.  Did they spawn in dead fish?  I don’t know the cause, but it is terrible.
Several minutes after parking a car, it was covered with a swarm of flies all over although it depended on where you parked.
Click to enlarge the photo.  The black spots are all files.


I brought a gift of many mosquito repellents as the summer was arriving in earnest.  However, the flies were the problems, not mosquitoes.  I thought that the repellents hung at the front entrance might repel some flies, but not so many.  We could not catch up with the overwhelming number of flies.
There was an article in the Kahoku Shimpo newspaper about the extermination of flies.  It is a mixture of 100 g of sugar, 70 cc of Sake and 50 cc of vinegar.  The small amount of this mixture can be put into a 2-liter plastic bottle with holes being punched on the side.  The bottles can be placed around the house or be hung from the wash-line pole.  This was a nutshell of the article.  I saw many bottles hung from the poles from that day in Onagawa.  A bottle turned black with a swarm of flies overnight.  However, flies were born every day.

Depending on the location, some area had more files than the other.  The coast, Shimizu area, multipurpose gymnasium were the worst in terms of infestation.  Asahigaoka had a fewer.  During my stay in Onagawa from June 17 to 19, the areas where people are living were disinfected extensively.  I am hoping that the disinfection would work.

It was a lunch time when I visited the school and again the flies got in the way of setting the table at teachers’ room.  Was this somewhere in Asia?!  It was infestation of flies.  It will become even hotter this summer.  We really have to pay attention to sanitation.  The disaster areas face difficulty one after another.  Onagawa Disaster Measures Headquarters have been asking the goods to repel flies through Amazon.  I really hope that the situation will improve, even a little.

Demolition of My Family House June 29, 2011


The buildings along the coast and behind Marine Pal are in the process of demolition.  The Chamber of Commerce’s building that was standing several meters from my parents’ house has been demolished as of Wednesday, June 22.
A large crane truck was lifting and taking down the buildings recklessly.  The grit was flying all over the place and the buildings diminished quite easily.


I asked the building department of Onagawa about my parent’s house and nearby buildings.  A clerk told me that Sasaki Portrait Studio and Sato Kogyo, the steel skeleton next to the studio would be demolished very soon.  A heavy equipment to break the steel skeleton is supposed to arrive in Onagawa this week.  Upon the equipment’s arrival and the approval from owners if possible, the buildings will be demolished one by one.  Instead of requesting to keep the building persistently, it is better to leave this type of thing up to the government at its convenience.  It would be too much for us to handle if we leave it for now and the expense for demolition is billed to us later.



The dark room survived the tsunami and my parent house diminished to 1/8 in size!
Even though the house is in this condition, I felt reassured very much, knowing that a part of the house was saved.
I thought I wanted to take pictures of the demolition of the house, so I asked a clerk about it.  I thought it over.  Perhaps, it would make me feel sadder.  Perhaps it might be better that the house disappears without its being noticed.  I am going to Onagawa this weekend.  I wonder if this visit would be my last (before the demolition) or this photo would be the last (one with the house) I am going to see.



2011年8月12日金曜日

my documentary on TV

Hi there , my documentary is coming up today.You can see it on this website. I hope you know about TSUNAMI town and my action for this 5 month.You can also know how I was standing up even I lost my parents and my home Ongawa .I really recommend .Please watch it!


 JITV on web.

8/12 FRI 09:30-10:00 AM(JST)   01:30-02:00 PM(JST)
05:30-06:00 PM(JST)  09:30-10:00 PM(JST)
8/13 SAT 01:30-02:00 AM(JST)  05:30-06:00 AM(JST)






2011年8月2日火曜日

Thinking about Japan: Sakura CD reviewed in the Sunday Times .

This music is made by my new friend Mike, I met him on web, he watched my documentary in UK,and he tried to contact me on Facebook. When I read his message, I am really grad and I feel connected with people all over the world from my action.


Thinking about Japan: Sakura CD reviewed in the Sunday Times .: "Sunday Times 31/07/2011 Culture Magazine . Review written by Stewart Lee who kindly mentions that all money taken will be donated to help su..."

2011年7月21日木曜日

100th day

100th day
June 18, 2011
On the 100th day, today, I went to Ishinomaki.
I went up to Hiyoriyama . where the whole city of Ishinomaki can be viewed for the first time in many years.
From the mouth of the Kitakami River, the right side (Kadonowaki) was completely destroyed while there were many roofs on the left side. (Minato direction)
Around the Marumitsu Department Store, I could see scenes along Aitopia Street that brought back fond memories.

I went to see the San Juan Bautista, too. The ship that managed to survive the tsunami had its mast broken by the storm on April 28. On the website, you can see how it was at the time of the tsunami. The building around the dock was destroyed, but if you look at only the picture, it is very mystical and appears that it shows the strength of the ship that moves ahead in the storm very well. It has an atmosphere that the restored ship is fighting bravely in the art of nature.

I could talk to some staff members of the San Juan Museum. Some ship carpenters have retired due to age. It was in 1992 when my father took pictures of them. It was in 2004 when a photo exhibition was held. I had a chance to meet with some of the ship carpenters at the time, but I wonder how they are doing right now. The world of ship carpenters is artisan business and it seems that it is difficult to find successors. I am sure the number of ship carpenters is less compared to that of 20 years ago. I saw that Murakami Shipyard that used to be in Nakasu of Ishinomaki was gone… I hope that there will be more successors of ship carpenters and that the Sant Juan will be restored somehow so that there will be a day when it can go back to the vast ocean again. 

News letter from Genkidama Project

News letter from Genkidama (Spirit Bomb) Project
June 15, 2011
To all supporter of the Genkidama Project

Please allow me to let you know the following donations from the project.
Year 2011Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School: Delivered group pictures of enrollment ceremony matted and mounted in covers5/26
Year 2011 Onagawa Daiichi Junior High School: Delivered group pictures of enrollment ceremony matted and mounted in covers 5/26


I printed logo of ‘Gambappe! Onagawa’(‘Hanging tough! Onagawa’, shown left) on the mat.  Usually, a name of photo studio is printed as a title on a mat.   However, this time I put ‘Genkidama Project and Sasaki Portrait Studio’ as the title because I wanted to deliver the compassion of the 140 donors to the students.


And also the following donation will be made:
Year 2010 Onagawa Daiichi Junior High School: Additional yearbooks for the seniors of 2010
Year 2011 Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School: Total order of 39 yearbooks for new 6 graders.  Genkidama funds will donate 8,000yen  per book.
Year 2011 Onagawa Daiichi Junior High School: Total order of 69 yearbooks for new senior students.  Genkidama funds will donate 8,000yen per book.

The yearbooks of 2010 were delivered to school on March 10 and the students brought them to their home and washed away on very next day.  I estimated that 60 to 70 % of the seniors of 2010 lost their books.  Based on that number, I calculated the cost to reprint them, which is about 300,000yen and decided to pay in full from the funds.  Even though I don’t have the final number to be ordered, please allow me to report the progress.

As far as the year books of 2011are concerned, many families don’t have income yet because of the disaster, I tried to reduce the financial burdens of the parents to pay yearbooks.  The funds will pay \8,000 per book, which means 8,000yen cheaper than that in the past for families.  To be honest, I considered using the funds to pay full price.  However, there are concerns that some people might talk about free yearbooks in a certain school and expensive ones on the other schools.  Such an argument will cast negative impact on business of peers.  So, the solution was: same price as in the past and cover the part of the cost from the funds.


When I was a child, I always expected to receive a yearbook as given.
I found out later that it was our parents who paid money every month to the school for a yearbook like they did for school trip. 

Many parents in Onagawa were grateful when the schools explained the Genkidama project funds to help them.  The wishes of individuals to make memories to the children will reach out through the yearbooks for sure.  I am planning to print names of the all contributors on the last page of the yearbook.  Isn’t it delightful to think about these children to grow up and open their yearbooks 10 years or 20 years from now?

I extend my thanks to 140 donors for this project.  I would like to carry over the leftover money to the next year. 


Learning the History of Tsunamis


Learning the History of Tsunamis
June 8, 2011
I recently read a book titled “The Great Sanriku
Coastal Tsunamis” by Akira Yoshimura.  It was originally published in 1945 and has been reprinted several times since then.  The book describes in great detail the 1896 tsunami, the 1933 tsunami, and the 1960 tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile. It contains eye-witness accounts by two survivors of the 1896 tsunami who must have been very old at the time of the interview for the book. The section of the book dealing with the 1933 tsunami includes essays by elementary school children describing the details of the tsunami, and how residents escaped (or failed to escape). 

If I had known about the book and had read it, I could have saved my parents…

Since I was a child I have heard a lot about the tsunami. As both of my paternal grandparents were dead, I didn’t have a chance to hear directly from them, but my father and his friends used to talk about “the great tsunami” often.  The tsunami they were talking about was the 1960 Chile tsunami.   
“The water receded to a far distance so that the bottom of the bay became visible. Fishes were jumping and some who went after them washed away and others got back alive. ” “I was up on the electric pole watching.”  “The first floor of the photo studio was under the water, but the second floor was alright. Oh, how I hated to throw away the tatami floor mats.” “It was a kind of fun to cook communal meals outdoor with neighbors.”  “People on the hills came down and helped us.” His stories sounded “not so serious” in comparison with the recent great earthquake and tsunami. There were even elements of humor in their stories that as a child I enjoyed hearing about the tsunami from adult men in my neighborhood.   

Now that I have read this book, I have come to realize why my parents could not escape from the tsunami.  The tsunami in my father’s memory was an “easygoing monkey tsunami” of 1960. He didn’t know the “Godzilla tsunamis” of 1896 and 1933!

The tsunami he experienced at the age of 22 was only the Chile tsunami. He could have possibly heard about the earlier great tsunamis; but such information is totally useless if it does not lead to risk management.  For my mother, she was a native of Akita where there is no tsunami.
The only tsunami she experienced was the one caused by the Chile earthquake in March, 2010 (only 0.5 meter high in Onagawa).  This one was another “easygoing” type; it came slowly taking 24 hours to reach Onagawa from the other side of the earth. At that time the relatives came and helped my parents move everything from the first floor to the second floor and to the studio which took a half day, thus avoiding any flood damage.  

But not this time!  They never thought they would be swept up in only 20 minutes after the big earthquake.  As the book describes, it must have been like a massive Godzilla suddenly appeared and began attacking.

I cannot help but feeling remorse.   If they had known the Godzilla size tsunamis, they could have taken proper actions for escape.  I now know how important it is to learn various types of tsunamis.  Such knowledge will lead to good disaster control. 

I never was worried about the tsunami during the 18 years I lived in Onagawa. Of course every Onagawan knew that the Sanriku coast was exposed to the danger of tsunami. But very few, if any, knew “how and when it would come.”  Even I wouldn’t know “how quickly it may come and how to escape from it.”  Reading this book makes me think that we could have foreseen and prepare for the recent gigantic one if we had known about those great tsunamis of the past.

I think this book should be read by everyone who lives along the Sanriku. It is easy enough for any middle school student to read. This book is packed with more valuable information than any other books on tsunami. “History repeats itself.” “Natural disaster repeats itself, too.”  (Though I don’t want to think about it now…)

My Honest Feelings Now--- Almost 3 months


My Honest Feelings Now--- Almost three months
June 5, 2011

In the TV and magazine interviews, I was asked if I have experienced any changes in my feelings from the onset of the earthquake/tsunami to the present.  I was puzzled by such a question as my feelings change from day to day.  I am fed up with the same old questions from various sources.  The responses and reactions to the earthquake and tsunami vary among the survivors and families of the deceased.  It would be better to face ordinarily with those who are trying to lead a normal life.

In my case, I first placed the painful, harsh fact outside my thought range.  I was not ignoring the fact, but rather I was intentionally controlling it in order to alleviate my pain and sorrow.  It worked for me around the time shortly after the earthquake.  However, as the time passes, sorrow has started to surface gradually.

My husband told me that people felt grief most when they remembered the decreased.
It is surely so.  The more I remember them, the sadder I feel.


Recently I remembered the alley from 25 years ago that I used to pass when I was a child.  This was even before Onagawa Bypass was built.  Where did this lead to?  I tried to remember, but my memory broke off.  Then I remembered my old house.  There were a lineup of many coffee cups and a siphon coffee-maker that my mother cherished.  I tried to visualize where they went.  Then I wondered how the stairs and pillars were destroyed.  And then my mind became exhausted to the point where my thought process stopped.

It is not a sin to feel grief.  However, it takes so much energy.  So I want to feel grief at my own pace.  There is a way to share grief with others, but I would like to feel it on my own.  It is my ritual.  So I am still not good at dealing with sad phone calls from people I know.  (I don’t know what to say if they cry.)  I can handle somewhat If I am telling sad news about me.


However, I feel very uneasy when I am asked a question.  When I talk to my elder sister, I always talk about a funny story.

On the other hand, I would rather not be alone when I try to keep my chin up.  I would like to be surrounded by many people who support each other.  I truly appreciate the support from my friends at the time like this.  I met many people through this tragic earthquake.

There is no way that we can change this reality.  The house is gone; my parents are gone; the reality does not change.

If you ask me whether it is painful, it is not painful.
If you ask me whether I feel sad, I don’t’ feel sad.
Getting myself totally absorbed in my work and taking on new thing may be a good way to deal with grief.  A challenge to a new thing may bring a balance to my life.

These are my honest feelings.

I wonder how all of you are doing now.

2011年7月15日金曜日

NY that I Visited after 10 Years of Absence

NY that I Visited after 10 Years of Absence
May 29, 2011
As I wrote in the title of my blog, I like to travel.
It was in May of 2001 when I first visited the U. S. I travelled across the United States for full 3 months until my tourist visa expired. Starting from Seattle on the west coast, I went to Los Angeles, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Chicago, New York and Miami.

I could not speak English very well, but with Leica in my hand, I went to different places in the three months and met various people. The experience I gained at that time became the foundation of what I am now.

One month after I returned from the trip to go across the United States, on Sept. 11, 2011, it happened.
The country, the United States, occupied an important part of my life. I became friends with many people and met with a lot of people. I felt that those important things were breaking down. I could not describe in words. 

I went to “September 11 Memorial & Museum” on May 22.
There were portraits of those people killed, high heels found at the site, burned windows from the airplanes. Firefighters who tried to rescue people. My heart was broken as if I traveled10 years back to the past. Still, 24 people are missing. I found that there were 1,100 bodies that could not be identified.

There are similarities with situations that we are now facing. Like my parents, many bodies have not been found. Even if their bodies are found from the ocean, I do not have confidence that I can identify them. How were the 10 years where people in N.Y. had to face with such agonies? It is very meaningful that we could exhibit photographs and have an opportunity to show drawings of children in such location.

I embarked on a ferry to Staten Island from Manhattan for the first time in 10 years. I shot the same scenery. Currently, a new building and a park are under construction on Ground Zero. What do people learn from there… I am going back to Onagawa today. 

What is a first class photographer …

What is a first class photographer …
May 28, 2011
A first-class photographer stopped by at the exhibition.
It was Peter Cunningham.  He shoots rock bands, documentary, the world of zen, etc.  What you see throughout his works is ‘human connection’.  His photographs depict spiritual world of human being.

I saw pictures of Bruce Sprinsteen in 1970s and Madonna in her early career on Mr. Cunningham’s  web site.  I have seen them all before!  Everything about his works is cool.  In spite of the fact that he just arrived in NY from Boston, he strolled into AIGA and
intensely looked at my photographs.  Without knowing his busy schedule, we talked a lot.  At first glance, he looks like ‘a strange old guy’(laugh), wearing a cap and with his CANON hanging around his neck.  But when you talk with him, you can easily connect to him.

‘There are no people in the landscape portraits of Onagawa city.  Did you intentionally exclude people or there are simply no people in the town?’, Mr. Cunningham asked.  He also gave me some advice to take pictures from the same spot on the hill every time I visit the town.
 On that day, there were TV crews in the gallery to interview me.  By the way, one of the crews invited Mr. Cunningham to the exhibition.  We suddenly decided to have a photo session.


The light in the gallery was a mix of natural light and tungsten light, which is not easy for shooting.  While I was wondering how I shoot and checking in my camera bag to pick up a right lens, Mr. Cummingham already started shooting (laugh).  He took the first move!

He was walking around me and taking pictures randomly.  I mean, it was really random. (laugh)  I had no idea how the photographs would turn out.  It was as if you were watching a student playing one of games on a school field day.  Even if somebody tells you he is the world-class photographer, he is just a funny old guy.

But, I was shocked when I saw his blog 


His pictures are…fantastic!!
They are the works of the first-class photographer.  His photographs capture the atmosphere and me in the gallery.
The game is over and I lost… Well, right from the beginning, the result was so obvious… LOL

On the other hand, this is what I took.
It is an ordinary portrait and nothing special.
It turned out OK just because Mr. Cunningham is photogenic. 


It does not mean anything to take a straight-forward portrait of this magnificent and ‘funny photographer’ (Sorry to call you funny, Mr. Cunningham!.  I am so disappointed that I could not depict real him.  There is a long way for me to go.

I don’t regret.  But I have been thinking what made the difference between Mr. Cunningham and me in the gallery on that day.  What does it mean to be ‘the first-class…’? It is a good homework for me to think about in the future.

NY School

NY School 
May 27, 2011
On May 19 I visited a Japanese school located in a NY suburb.   Despite short notice, the teachers were kind enough to allocate a “lecture” time for me by shortening their regular class hours.  I was very grateful for their thoughtfulness.


It appeared that the impact of the earthquake was felt in a big way by these children living abroad.  Japan is their home country wherever they are.  All of the children took initiative to hold a “charity concert“ on March 18.  They asked themselves what they could do to help.  As a result, they performed and raised money along with local people.  Some children baked and sold melon bread to raise money. They volunteered their labor to raise money…What a wonderful idea!   Such idea is rare in Japan.

Upon reviewing the question cards collected from the children, I found that their common question, regardless of their grades, was, “What happened to children in Japan?” They all wanted to know what was happening in Japan, their home land.



During the 1-hour session, first I briefly explained what type of tsunami devastated the town while presenting data.  Frightening photos may not be appropriate for young children. Showing a photo of a building tilted 90 degree angle, I asked, “Which side is a ceiling?” and explained why the building had ended up that way.    “How do you think a car got up on the third floor of the building?”  I though of ways to keep 1st graders to 6th graders interested.
“What do you think elementary school teachers in Onagawa want to have most? “  (ーAnswer: a play ground. A temporary housing compound doesn’t have one.
“What is the most popular job among Onagawa elementary school children?
  (ー Answer: a member of Japan self-defense force

I think that the quiz session made it easy for lower grade children to understand.  Also I think that I was able to convey that kids in the disaster areas were cheerful and doing their best.

At the end of the lecture, the students presented me with a chorus.  It was a lovely song,“You Can, Ai-no-Kuni (the country of love).” It was one of the songs sung at the March 18th charity concert. A kind of song that gives the audience energy…a song about everyone is connected… I wish they could some day sing together with Onagawa school children.  These students drew pictures and wrote messages on Japanese paper.    As one of “Hug Japan” activities, we want to continue spreading the “Message Relay.” 

Hug Japan in NY

Hug Japan in NY
May 25, 2011
It was great to work with a group of people organized in NY.
Thank you so much!
I am not alone!  I can keep going with this group, I thought.
Here we are....

Potentiality of Art

Potentiality of Art
May 19, 2011
There were many galleries in the Chelsea district of NY, which scattered conveniently here and there.  It is free of charge and you can just stop by whenever you feel like it.  It is a good change when you are close to a conclusion with things you are working on (smile).  Displayed were a lot of modern arts that I am unfamiliar with.  Although it’s a matter of taste, I felt that after all this was NY and I wished that Japan would become a place like this.

Among the galleries, there was a gallery that had several displays of dynamic objets d’art made of steel frames and car bumpers.  I would have been gazing into these several months ago, saying “How cool!”  However, here I thought frankly that the cars in Onagawa looked great (smile).  The cars twisted and bent by the forces of the tsunami could become an art, I was firmly convinced.


After the 311 disaster, my view on things had totally changed.  No art can surpass a formation by the nature, no matter what they are and no matter who made the arts.


Meat Market district was located in the southwestern part of Manhattan.  I strolled in the promenade called High Line which was the modification of the old, discontinued railroad.  The wooden deck that extended straight from North to South commanded a view of the railroad along the way here and there.  The meticulously cared garden and properly-calculated, yet pleasing placement of benches added to this promenade an alluring taste that blends into old buildings in Manhattan.  It made me feel like that I want to take a walk every day.
What a good sense they have for remodeling the railroad!  While strolling, I was thinking about a restoration model for Onagawa.  The coastline of Onagawa has sunk and people are afraid of building houses again because of another possible tsunami.  However, if the land can be utilized effectively, it might be better to build a park like High Line Park of NY on the coastal road.
Thinking about planting a lot of plants in the places where many lives were lost, I was strolling in an obscure corner of Manhattan in the twilight.  As the evening draws in, I also enjoyed the transformation of NY in 10 years.