Memories and Photos that Bring People Together

April 24, 2011
Photos found in the rubble are being delivered to the Onagawa City Multi-Purpose Gymnasium. As some of you may know from reading newspaper reports, such restoration activities are being carried out by city government workers and volunteers (disaster victims). 

Washing away mud (an extremely difficult task!), drying and posting each photo on a white paper mat.  All of them want to find memorabilia after having lost their houses and everything else.  So, town folks bring photos found in the rubble to the gymnasium.
I am one of them.
Miraculously I, too, was able to get hold of my father’s works delivered by others.

Memories and photos bring people together.  
I never thought that “photos” would be loved and needed so much in Onagawa.  

This time a humble gift of photo supplies is presented.
 ・ 3 photo bats
 ・ photo sponge
 ・ drywell
 ・ photo bag

The purchase was made with the money collected for the “Genki Dama” project.”
You made it possible.  Thank You! 


News Zero

April 30, 2011
From NEWS ZERO, an evening news program of Nippon News Network (NNN), aired on April 27th.

Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.  The town was hit by the devastating Tsunami.
One photographer from this town is looking for her missing parents while succeeding her father and fulfilling his mission.

Reporter: “Are they all your father’s cameras?”
Mayumi: Yes.  I found and brought them back with me.  They are still all covered with mud and pebbles.   I found many items but I brought back only cameras that my father was attached to.

Mayumi looked at photographs that had been picked and brought to an evacuation center.
Mayumi: This is a kindergarten year book from 1986.  My father took photographs for this year book.  Somebody kept it all these years.

Mayumi met with her friend from her old neighborhood.
Mayumi: It’s a picture taken by my father!  He took it for his customer.  The design of the mount is an old style.  It makes me feel nostalgic.

Mayumi stood where the portrait studio used to be.
Reporter: The darkroom is still standing here, isn’t it?
Mayumi: It holds memories for me and my father.  I feel that I can hear his message.  I think his pride and spirit dwell in this room.

At a Shinto shrine on a hill,
Mayumi: This is a photo of Onagawa on a sunny day.  My father took it for his grandchildren.  As his portrait studio was deeply rooted in the town of Onagawa, I want to return the favors to many people here who had helped me grow up.  I also want to help children in Onagawa who will carry the future of the town.

In the car
Mayumi: There are so many people who lost everything including their houses.  Even if the house withstood, there was nothing left in it.  In this kind of difficult situation, if you can have a new picture for your memory, don’t you think it will make you feel better?  Then, an image came to mind.  It goes like this.  When you see a flower blooming, you feel spring is finally here after a long winter.  I thought it could be my photos that can help the flower bloom in each person.

Viki --- “Anatani Aitai (I miss you)”

April 29, 2011
My friend and singer-songwriter, Viki wrote a beautiful song for me.  She sang her song for our wedding video.  She continues singing songs that touch people’s heart.                                                                                                                                   

Message from
“This is a song for people who
keep on plugging away at the disaster areas, people who are forced to leave their hometowns spending their days of unrest, and my friends who are supporting their hometowns to recover from the disaster while looking for and waiting for their missing loved ones.  I made this song for them hoping it can give them a little comfort.  I hope the song will reach out for many people”.

Please enjoy.

Bequeathed Portraits

April 26, 2011
As it was aired on ‘Asazuba’ (morning news show of Tokyo Broadcasting System), I have my father’s portfolio book.

I tried to restore these photos last week.  
I thought I would not successfully restore them on my own; I asked my mentor, Mr. Satoru Watanabe for help.
Among 30 portraits or so, we could not save photos with
baryta papers at all.  However, we managed to save those with RC papers and were able to restore nine portraits in total.
These portraits were taken in 1992.  My father developed on baryta papers back then.  He toned the photos, which are his original.  Because of the toning, heavy oil and seawater induced chemical reaction causing the portrait surface to melt.

The original prints looked amazing.  On the other hand, as his daughter, I could not help but to think selfishly, ‘Darn it!  Why did he tone these!  If he didn’t, I could have restored them all…’ (laugh)

My mentor, however, has a different opinion.
He wrote about it in his blog.  If you are interested, please check it out.  He said that these portraits had been taken under the perfect lighting and the areas had been highlighted with stunning tones.  Nine portraits at least left in my hand will become my permanent textbook.


One-month Delayed Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony

April 21, 2011
This is a program “Tokusen” (“Super News”) broadcast in the evening news on Fuji Television Station on 4/21. The story is “a woman photographer who shoots her hometown, carrying out her father’s wishes.”
I uploaded to Youtube. Please take a look. 

The temperature was 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit) with strong wind and rain on this day. It was so cold that our hands were almost freezing.
Even with umbrellas, we got drenched. Shooting was very difficult.
The weather seemed to remind us of the storm on the day that the tsunami hit. Above all, it was hard that I came to my home in this weather. Up until today, we had come to “look for treasure” only on sunny days.

A kindergarten graduation ceremony for the day was delayed by one month.
On this day, I re-shot individual pictures that the tsunami took away. I had a busy schedule as I also took some snap shots and group pictures. With the help of Mr. Saito Korotype (who appears in the latter half of the video) whom I have known for a long time, I managed to follow the schedule.

This kindergarten was also swept away by the tsunami. Teachers searched and gathered the flag of the kindergarten and a few uniforms in the rubble to have this day of graduation. I was very happy that I was able to help the graduation ceremony where we could feel the teacher’s strong will and that will remain in everyone’s memories. Thank you very much.

(Below is the summary of the YouTube presentation.
Scene from a Kindergarten Graduation in Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture
Kindergarten Principle: “We lost three of our friends. We feel so sad.”

Narration: Her parents are still missing.  Her father would have been the one to take photos at the graduation if there wasn’t the great earthquake.  This is the remains of her father’s photo studio destroyed by the tsunami.”

Mayumi: “My father, Atsushi Sasaki, was a great portrait photographer who became number one at a photo contest of Japan in the past.  I hope to be that good myself and perhaps even surpass him someday. That is my goal.”

A printer who worked with my father: “I am very happy to hear that his daughter will carry the father’s torch.” 

Mayumi: “I‘d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support. I will honor my father by winning the confidence of local people and taking photographs.“


April 24, 2011
The broadcast date Has been changed to 4/27Wed.

I was interviewed by Nippon Television’s “News ZERO.”
The program focuses on those people who are working in the affected areas.
Documentaries of Nippon Television are always well organized with good interviews, so I always paid attention. This time, they interviewed me.

Up until now, in order not to aggravate my sadness, I had been trying to look at Onagawa from an objective point of view. With this interview, I am now able to understand and view Onagawa with one step forward from before in my own mind.
Especially at this time where I had been used to look at mountains of rubble, it was necessary for me to talk with strangers (reporters) and look at “my home” from a viewpoint that was different from before. 

Specifically speaking, I went into the dark room for the first time.
I never tried to go into the building that looked almost crumbling down with rubble and sludge everywhere.  However, during today’s interview, I felt the urge of checking to see what happened to the large tray in the dark room and went in.  Today, for the first time, I noticed that what my father used to use was on the same location without moving. I felt that I could hear my father’s voice if I tried to listen and I remembered those days that I printed pictures with my father. I grew up with the smell of acetic acid since my kindergarten years. It is a nostalgic smell for me.

I went up to Kumano Shrine, the same location as the picture posted in Focus magazine. It is a location where you can see the whole town.
If you look from this height, you can feel the power of the tsunami all again. Onagawa after the earthquake / tsunami, looked from a bird’s eye view is a disaster, but I still love it even with rubble. It is my hometown…

While being interviewed, I looked at the town and renewed my sense of honest feelings.
I am not trying to be strong; I do not feel any pressures from my parents; I will live in the way I want; I could get the power of moving forward today.

I appreciate all the members of the interview team from Nippon Television’s News ZERO who interviewed me. The planned date of broadcast is April 27 (Wed.)

Onagawa Genkidama (Cheer-up) Project

April 6, 2011
I have decided on the title for our fund-raising!
It is Onagawa Genkidama Project.

Actually, my husband decided on this arbitrarily.  I hope that this is all right with you…?!  To me, the title does not matter.  I rather focus on and value the activity itself.  It is a kind of lonesome if we were to call “Private Fund-raising.”  So we have decided to call it “Onagawa Genkidama Project.” (smile)

It was named after Dragon Ball that is popular among the elementary school kids and junior high school students.  (per my husband)  It is Songokyu’s deadly blow technique that means to collect vital powers from various people little by little and to converge all to make a gigantic power.

I appreciate your continued support for our activity and your donation.

I was in “Asazuba!”

April 2, 2011
I thank those who watched TBS Asazuba (Morning News) on March 29.
I also appreciate those who contacted me after watching this interview.  You had helped my father greatly in the past.  I am sure that my father who loved to be in the limelight would be very pleased because of my debut (smile).  It was my national debut!

Someone uploaded this broadcasted scene to Youtube.  Thank you so much.
It was not televised in Akita, unfortunately.  My mother’s side relatives in Akita, please watch this Youtube.

I am sorry that my comments were mixed with Onagawa dialect and indistinct standard Japanese.
I call my father “Old Man” when I talk with my sister, “Father” in my blog and “Dad” when I call him.  My fathers’ friends call him “Atsu-chan.”  In the subtitle, I had it rewritten as “Father.” (smile)  It became a very moving scene as the pictures posted to my blog were used as well.
The TV interview ended as “Story of Father and Daughter Engaged in Photography.”  However, concurrently there is another story, which is my older sister’s.  I received a bundle of snapshots that were taken at her wedding along with my father’s portfolio.  Holding those pictures in her hands, my sister thought it was a message from my parents that said “Protect and take care of your family with your husband.”  I think my parents were sending their message to each daughter.  I learned with this experience that the pictures hold this kind of power.  Anyway, I never thought that my parent’s belongings would be passed on to us in this manner.

I want to give applause to those volunteers who restored the pictures in Onagawa and I also want to express my appreciation to those who found and brought my families’ pictures to us.  Thank you so much!

Returning to Onagawa

March 26, 2011
Off to Sendai where my sister lives tomorrow (Sunday) on March 27, 2011.
Then on the following day of March 28, I am going to Onagawa with my sister and her husband.

It is not “Going to Onagawa”, but instead “Returning to Onagawa” because it’s my hometown.  Even though my parents’ house is gone, it is still my home town.
People fostered me in the town are still there even though my parents are gone.
I want to cheer them up and express my gratitude by thanking for their survival.”

A telephone call from my old neighbor who married to a man in Sendai goes like this, “The way the town went was much more devastating than what was shown in the newspaper or on TV.  I cried and cried.  Be ready to face it.”

What is to “face?”
I feel like that I understand it and at the same time I don’t know what she meant.

I wonder my hometown would be unfriendly to me.  Would it not be warm like before?
Would I feel like that I am betrayed?  I know how badly Onagawa was destroyed and how the condition of my parent’s house is from many pictures I have seen.  Would it be so different if I were to see with my own eyes?

I have already come to terms with fate of my parents.
Ten days ago, my sister met with various people and heard about my parents at
the time of the earthquake.  At that time, I learned that there was hardly any possibility of them living.

I was unable to make up my mind on how I should tell this to others.  I myself did not want to accept this fact.  Unlike my case, there are many people who cannot contact their families and love ones who are living.  I did not want to deprive them of hope.  So I could not write about my parents’ fate in this blog.

On the first day that I came to realization, I cried and cried, and then had a talk with my husband.
Will my parents be pleased that I quit my job and just keep on crying?
I am healthy.  My parents would be disappointed in me if I don’t do anything.  I remember my parents used to say, “Parents are to pass away before children, get hold on yourself and be self-reliant.”
Is it better that I pray for their definite path to heaven instead of mourning that they disappeared in the cold ocean?

While I was contemplating many things, I was able to make up my mind about my profession.  I have decided that I will make living as a photographer for the rest of my life.  I was relieved a little as I was able to organize my thought.

I learned that courage of accepting a situation and letting it go is necessary in some cases.
After all, I want my parents to see me, as a strong individual for sure, if possible and want them to feel relieved soon.
They were happy with my wonderful wedding and must have been very pleased with the fact that I am married happily ever.

Two weeks have passed since the tsunami.
Now, I have a major task of looking for their bodies.
Honestly, this is even harder.


Radio in Onagawa

April 24, 2011

A new radio station opened. People in Onagawa and the surrounding areas can now listen to Disaster FM Radio at M79.3MHz
Individual powers and talents, including volunteers in the disaster areas, came together to realize this radio station. Onagawa patriots helped to fund equipment, and novice  DJs make it work.
Inside the station (a humble prefabricated structure), a card shows their enthusiasm, which reads in the Miyagi dialect:
“ Makene-do (Never a defeat), Miyagi! Odazunayo (don’t mess around), Tsunami!” 

Local re
ports, daily life information, and requested programs are broadcast twice daily starting at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM with the repeats at 4:00 PM and 10:00 AM the next morning, respectively.  Daily meal information starts at 10:00 AM.  The radio show is being broadcasted from a temporary studio set up at the disaster task force at Onagawa Daini Elementary School.

My Identity 〜 Kumano Shrine in Onagawa

April 26, 2011
These photos were printed on the special issue of FOCUS released on April 13.  Climbing the stairs rising from behind the Onagawa-Cho Community Hospital, you arrive at Kumano Shrine where a panoramic view of the Onagawa bay can be seen.  The shrine, as if guarding the town, is a massive structure that fishermen on boats in the sea can spot far away. Its a symbol of the town.  As a child, this is where I used to take a walk with my grandparents and where my entire family would visit every year on the New Year day to pray for happiness and good health through the year.

This is one of the photos taken by my father who brought his grandchildren living in Sendai to view the Onagawa bay together. As every family does in this town, my father, too, wanted to show” the beauty of Onagawa.”

I learned that just before taking this photo, my father had phoned my mother asking her to stand in front of the house and wave and that mother had came out with a white towel and wave it vigorously so the kids could see.  

Looking at this photo now,
this tiny coast town with a population of 10,000 seems to me like a beautiful jewelry box.   Honestly, I had  recognized very little attachment to this town where I had spent my first 18 years, but deep down inside, I always liked Onagawa; the smell of ocean, the, to strangers, undecipherable zu-zu-dialect, the laughter of middle age female workers at sea food processing factories, whitebaits being dried on the way to school (I would sneak the fish to eat when passing through.  Sorry! )
For the first time I have realized my love for the childhood town and my own identify that was based on Onagawa.  Without the 3/11 tsunami, I would never have come to realize my love for the town.   The disaster probably gave those who left Onagawa the chance to discover the towns beauty.   

For that I want to thank the natural phenomenon called tsunami.
Though it was such a cruel trade-off


Tsunami in Onagawa ~ Video from Marine Pal

April 22, 2011
Video of 311 Tsunami in Onagawa  is available on Yomiuri Online.
It seems that someone who evacuated to the top of the building of Marine Pal shot.
You lose voice to see the tsunami that came so close and the power of receding water.
It is too scary that only those people who are ready should watch this.

Friends from the Ocean

April 18, 2011
Today, I want to write about a little realistic story.
I do not think the media would report such topic as this and I want to let people know that it is hard to find dead bodies. I am going to write because I want everyone who is on the same boat as me to take courage. Please skip this portion if you are not interested in.

Today, I went to Rifu with my sister to look for “friends from the ocean.” (We call dead bodies found in the ocean as this so that children would not know.) In conclusion, we could not find our parents among them again today.

Let me explain the procedures to find a dead body (in case of Rifu Grande):
1. When you go for the first time, you register a person who is missing and write any physical features.
2. Take a note of the number of a dead body with the features you are looking for from the list posted on the board.
3. Go to the room of photographs where the police are and look for the body roughly (The pictures in this room are only of those bodies that are at the level where faces are recognizable.)
4. If you cannot find one in this photograph room, you need to ask the police to see the information of bodies that are ranked as severely damaged.)
5. Only when you can confirm with pictures, you are allowed to see the actual body and confirm.

My impression is that this week would probably be the last week in terms of timing for those bodies that you can differentiate from faces. I felt that I would be able to identify my parents at a glance of pictures posted. Unfortunately, today, all of them were someone we did not know…

At the level where you cannot identify bodies (Bodies are swollen like white rubber balloons and on top of it, they look like they are put in formalin.), nobody can identify no matter how one looks at them. You can only see the height and sex, and you confirm with the teeth mark or DNA (which takes time.) If you bring a chart of the teeth mark, you can get it checked in half a day, but with DNA, it seems to take about a month.

For the future search, we registered our DNA. You just need to put a stick with sponge on top in your mouth. As it is time when dead bodies cannot be preserved any more as they are, the direction is to confirm any belongings left, DNA, and teeth mark, and bodies will be cremated or buried. In order to make data of all the bodies and correspond them with search requests, it seems that it will take more than a year.

Thinking about it, I want to write about something I appreciated today. At Rifu where bodies were laid out in repose, there were two volunteer middle-aged ladies in the room with pictures of the bodies that were severely damaged. They talked to us in a very kind manner and searched the numbers with us, which saved our souls. Rather than looking around, being surrounded by the police, we felt relieved to be with middle-aged women who are about the same age as our mother. I know it is a hard job, but we appreciated them very much.

This week is the last week for “friends from the land (dead bodies found in land)” in Onagawa. I heard from a friend in Onagawa that bodies that are severely damaged will be cremated starting next week. (It is not known whether burial will take place as well.) We need to search as much as possible until the end of the week whether land or ocean….

The Morning at an Evacuation Center

April 17, 2011
Today’s visit is at the Onagawa Daiichi Daycare Center.
As I know many of the teachers there and also a lot of people whom my parents were helped by are staying there, I donated some hygiene supplies. I even had the nerve to ask them to let me stay overnight and took pictures of everyone’s life.

Since I was thinking that a viewpoint by actually staying at an evacuation center should be clearly different from that by watching the situation on T.V., my overnight stay this time was very helpful. Since there are variances among evacuation centers, I would be happy if you could see this as an example of one evacuation center.

Here, a rough schedule of a day is determined. The teachers at the daycare center start working at their full capacity at 6 in the morning. They fold futons and wipe clean the floor with water. The floors were so clean that I thought it would be OK to even lick.

At 630, they do radio exercises. (Radio exercises refer to warm-up calisthenics performed according to the music broadcast on the radio.) Then, they start preparing breakfast quickly in an organized manner. I remembered camping schools in elementary and junior high schools for some reason. J Some people wash their faces with water warmed up by an open fire while others wash their clothes or rest with a cigarette. There is a small community there.

Breakfast is 2 rice balls and a packaged lunch distributed, and miso soup made in the kitchen of the daycare center. Children eat first (so that they can go to school in time.)

When the time comes for children to go to school, teachers from Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School come to pick them up. They go to school as a group. Teachers come to school early and do their best for the safety of the children. On top of it, they say “Good morning!” with smiles. I was happy to see them, too. Greetings bind everyone’s heart.

Students of the junior high school and Onagawa Daini Elementary School wait for their school buses to come. The operation of the school buses was so-so on this day and the students had to let three buses go (because they were full*) until they could get on a bus after waiting for 20 minutes. Simple conversations with junior high students bring back our sense of normal days and make us relieved. * Translator’s addition

I Put a Flag of Gambappe

April 17, 2011
I put up a flag of “Gambappe Onagawa” on the show window of the building that used to be the photo studio and my parents’ house. Even on those days with strong wind, as long as someone does not intentionally removes it, it should be safe on the wall as it is protected by the building. I am hoping that people of Onagawa who pass by and SDF people who are working hard every day for us notice it.

If people think, “Oh, the photo studio people are doing their best, too,” or “OK, I will do my best, too, (I am going to “gambappe”), that is what I want!  Out of my hope to add a little bit of colors in the brown land with full of rubble and dust, I requested a rather flashy logo. Vibrant orange color and the blue color of Onagawa’s ocean are used. On the left upper hand side is the logo of the Sasaki Portrait Studio. Please come and take a look when you come to Onagawa.

A Photograph from a Grandfather to Grandchildren

April 16, 2011
On page 44 of a special issue of Focus magazine released on April 13 are a photograph of Onagawa’s scenery that my father took and an interview on me. The children on the right side are his grandchildren. The picture was taken about three years ago. It is difficult to see in the magazine, but it seems that my mother was waving her hand with a towel in front of the studio. I heard a secret story from my sister that when he took the picture, he called my mother to tell her that he was taking a picture. What cool people they were!

Entrance Ceremony filled with Dreams

April 15, 2011

The entrance ceremony of Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School was held on April 12.
Carrying new backpacks on their backs, children came to school happily.
A joy with a start of school seems to be greater than the hardships that they experienced because of the calamity.  With twinkles in their eyes, the pupils happily listened to a principal’s speech.  I thought to myself that children are indeed children no matter where they are and which times they live in.  I wished they would overcome the adversity caused by the tsunami and grow strongly.  While I was wishing them so, I heard a familiar melody.  It was the school song of Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School.
(The translation of the school song of Onagawa Daiichi Elementary School is omitted.)

The verse is difficult to understand for an elementary school song and the melody is unique.  When I was in school, I was just singing without thinking.  This time, I realized the essence of the school song.  I started crying as I was writing this verse on the blog.  I felt the spirit of Onagawa.  It is the spirit that only Onagawa has as it has a history of many rises after many tsunamis.

The entrance ceremony was reported on the following newspapers.
Click here for Kahoku Shimpo (in Japanese)
here for Asahi Shimbun (in English)
Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on the 4-12 evening paper. (The web-version paper is available for members only.)

My heart is so filled with everyone’s kindness

Apr. 4, 2011
Thank you, everyone, for helping me with my fundraising. At first, I started with friends from my college. When I asked for help in my blog and through twitter, a lot of people including my elders from Onagawa and people around Japan whom I do not even know donated to me. It is unbelievable that I could see this much reaction in only one day, on Monday after a weekend!  
Today around 11 a. m., I went to Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and had my account book updated. (I am not using Internet banking in this era! Laugh)
When I inserted my account book, the ATM kept printing with noise.
The time it was printing seemed as if I had not updated my account book for about a year.
While listening to the printing sound, I pictured each and every friends face.
I also tried to imagine the faces of those people who encouraged me in my blog and twitter. Everyone has his/her own family and daily life. These are the money that everyone earned with his/her effort. I was so moved that I almost cried in front of the ATM.
Among those people who donated are a friend who was almost carried away by the tsunami, a friend who had just quit his/her job. They have a difficult time leading their own lives I was very moved by their feelings that they want to help elementary and middle school students in Onagawa.
Of course, I am sad that my parents are dead. Even so, I only cried one night.
I now cry because I am so happy about the fact that everyone helps me and I am not alone. I truly appreciate your support.
Lastly, I want to say that this fundraising has no deadline.
I have received some inquiries from overseas, too, but please do not push yourself too hard as you need to pay some fee when you send money overseas.  (It would be better if you can make transactions overseas on your account in Japan through Internet banking.)
My motto is: to donate as much as I can when I can. And to provide support that big corporations cannot extend to elementary and middle schools.
I will decide what is needed, how much is needed for printing albums, etc., while consulting with teachers.

Stationeries and Musical Instrument Donations

Apr. 3, 2011
I would like to write about the activities of a friend of mine, Natsuko Takeda, the owner of Harmony Forest, who has been involved in music in Furukawa.

She is collecting mainly stationery items (pencils, pens, notebooks, etc.), pianicas, recorders, calligraphy supplies, and paint supplies that are not in use right now. You need to cover the shipping cost, but if you would throw away, why don’t you let the elementary school children in affected areas use!

The collection status as of April 3 is shown in
her blog on the same website of Ms. Takeda.

On April 8 (Fri.), I will go to Onagawa with Ms. Takeda and we are planning to ask the schools what they need and distribute the items in need.
The ideal situation is “to distribute whatever necessary as much as needed.” I will purchase items that are missing with the money you donated to me. And I will report in my blog. Isn’t it more clear-cut than national financial management? (laugh) Since this is not a government job, I will be flexible. I will do my best!

My Feeling about Onagawa’s Devastation --- 3/28 Report #4

April 3, 2011
Only the darkroom of Sasaki Portrait Studio remained miraculously.  Perhaps the tile-like material is strong enough to withstand the pressure of the tsunami.  A half of the tiled walls of the bathroom remained as well.  The steel structure was securely standing.

My parent house with the portrait studio attached was built in 1972 when my sister was one year old.  At that time, the building materials were scarce because of oil shock.  My father was proud that the house with the studio was built with the ceramic-based material that was particularly purchased from Hokkaido.
Large glass doors were situated in the west side of the studio entrance and the studio was located in the mezzanine.  The floor space for living covered the north side to the east side of the first floor of the building.  When this was built, a red roof and pure white walls were striking.  A song by Masatoshi Nakamura (who is a famous Japanese male actor & singer from Onagawa) entitled White Photo Studio was modeled after my fathers portrait studio, I heard.

About 13 years ago when I was in college, the exterior walls were painted in ocher.  The reason was simple and it was a part of upkeep of the building.  I vaguely remember what my father said at that time.  He said that the white walls had become old and dirty, so they were pained in the color that would not show much dirt.

This is inside the darkroom.  It was saved as it was faced with ceramic walls  Saved were three enlargers.  A right light bulb is not broken.  Was the tsunami movement not so intensified inside the darkroom even though the waves were rolling up and down alternately?

A camera that we found at the very first.  This is the one my father was using during the Showa Era.  It appears to be Nikon FM2, but it could be a model before that.

Then we found Mamiya 67.  My father favored this one for about 5 years.  He used to photograph his classmates for portraits with a roll of monochrome film.  The magazine is bent and could not be straightened.  If I wash off mud from the magazine, I can perhaps straighten it.  But how can I wash it?  Also, the mud from the tsunami is mixed with salt and heavy oil, so the wiping is just not going to take off the smell.  Well, the camera will not be usable anyway, so I wonder if I should wash it off with water.  I brought back this camera with me as a memento.

We displayed the camera that we picked up, by the window of the wrecked studio.  Originally this camera was displayed on the empty space of the first floor in the studio along with others in a manner that antiques were displayed.  I wanted to leave some sort of sign so that people who pass by will know that someone from the studio was here.  I was being mischievous. (smile)  My father was not actually using these cameras; we have decided to leave these at the original place as decorations.

All these treasures were found on the site where Yakiniku Korai (Korean BBQ Restaurant) across the street was situated.  It is not even 10 meters away from the studio.  I was surprised to find out that we found these so close to the studio.
This is a bronze statue that my father cherished and was given to him by his master, Mr. Fujiwara of Fujiwara Photo Studio in Jiyugaoka.  Since its face and sturdy body resembled my mother, he seemed to like this bronze statue.
This white dish was my mother’s treasure.  Bon-odori (dance) of her home town, Nishimonai, Ugomachi of Akita prefecture, was depicted on this dish.  It is a wonder that this dish remained with no chipped rim.
Among these, Horseman foldable 4x5 camera was found.  This was stored in a duralumin case, but it was bare and had fallen from the case.

The blue sky was refreshing on March 28, unlike March 16, the day when my sister visited here.  This is also due to the cleared road.  My sister said that she had a totally different impression of Onagawa.
Since we had been resolved to accept our parents’ death, we enjoyed each other with ‘treasure hunting” on this day.

Found a bar of chocolate!
An aluminum wrap was not broken at all.  I peeled off the wrapping paper and found out that the chocolate was intact.  However, I could not eat it, thinking about the mud like sludge.  She closed her eyes; this was my mistake (in taking the picture this way), but her face looks more lightened than before.

My Older Sister’s Feeling about Devastated Onagawa

3/16 Report
April 2, 2011
It was snowing on March 16.  Only 5 days have passed since the Tsunami.
Onagawa Hospital was photographed by my sister from her car.
The hospital was located on the hill, but the waves hit the first floor of the hospital.
My sister went to Onagawa to bring back our parents, strongly believing that our parents are still alive.  She was carrying toothbrushes, a shaving kit and rice balls for them.  Mom would be having a hard time at a shelter as she is particular about cleanliness and a perfectionist and Dad who is talkative by nature would be going around from one shelter to another and smiling at everyone.  Thinking these, my sister looked for our parents in the snowstorm.  It was close to the sunset that we got some information on our parents at the shelter we visited last.
It was our neighbor’s account that they might have been left behind, not being able to escape.

My Feeling about Onagawa’s Devastation --- 3/28 Report #3

April 2, 2011
1.      This is the road from Onagawa Bypass to Marine Pal.  The SDF cleared the road up to this point.

2. I photographed the area from Onagawa Hospital to Town Hall.  (Top Photo on 3/16. Bottom Photo on 3/28.)
Water has receded significantly and the roads have been cleared.  Perhaps it’s the weather, too; how different the area became better in only 13 days!  (Click on the picture for enlarged one.)

3. Around Marusho Hotel (Top Photo on 3/16. Bottom Photo on3/28.)
Although the angles from which the photos were taken were different, certainly the impression that I felt was quite different.  I felt that the town has become better in two weeks.
4. The road from former Onagawa Kindergarten to Bypass.  A house is tilted and falling. The former kindergarten was saved.

5. Pictures taken from Onagawa Hospital.  In the front, Super Onmaeya and Marusho Hotel and in the back Sasaki Portrait Studio are seen.
The top photo is from the one posted to the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) around March 14.  The middle photo is taken on March 16.  Unlike the winter scenery of the Tsugaru Channel, this is the scene of Onagawa devastated by the tsunami.  It is somewhat unclear whether it was a high tide or the water did not recede.  In the front, there you can see the Marui warehouse tilted 90 degrees and fallen sideways.  I could not believe that the building had been turned upside down from the bottom!  The bottom photo is taken in the late afternoon of March 28.  The afternoon sun was embracing Onagawa warmly.