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 year’s 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 year’s card. He told me that he wanted the picture similar to the one taken when they were newlywed. He didn’t say something like this usually, so first I thought it’s 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 mother’s 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!
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.
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.
“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
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. Abe’s 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 father’s 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.
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 OnagawaDaiichi, 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.
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.
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.
Born in Onagawa of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, in 1977. I assisted a photographer, Satoru Watanabe, during my college days and became a freelance photographer upon graduation. In my earlier career, I took photos of rock bands and photos for fashion magazines that are targeted for younger generations. I later set off on a journey across the United States, under a missoin that I named, “In Search of Myself.” I further travelled to Canada and Mexico, expanding my horizon. After returning to Japan, I specialized in taking wedding photos. I currently live in Zushi City of Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan. My parents have been missing since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 that caused devastating damage to Onagawa. To support the reconstruction of my hometown, I have been taking photos of the people and activities of Onagawa. I have taken the succession without my father’s permission to the third-generation owner of Sasaki Portrait Studio which was established in Onagawa by my grandfather and succeeded by my father, a portrait photographer, Atsushi Sasaki.