Print. by airi katsuta

FullSizeRender I've been feeling a bit down lately, and I'm only human so it's only natural that I go through all these emotions. Maybe it was because it got cold so fast. Maybe it was because I wasn't on a ship going around the world like the last two years. Maybe it was because it felt like I wasn't doing enough. Or because it felt like I was alone, away from all the people I missed.

But today, I printed this photo. It was from last February when I was on a tiny boat to land on my favorite place, Rapa Nui. This has been my favorite picture from my last trip, and I've looked at it on my computer screen thousands of times. I let everything else get in the way and never did anything with it. It was just tucked away like all the rest of the thousands of pictures I took.

But today, I printed this photo. As I held it in my hand, it felt like a whole new experience. Making it something tangible, finally making it exist. And it made me so happy. Isn't it crazy that something as simple as a print could do that?

I let things get too complicated, I procrastinated, I was stressed out. And they’re all just excuses that I only have myself to blame. So I’m going to refocus, and let myself be the person I’m capable of, and do all the things I’ve let it slip aside. Not saying that I'm going to be a brand new person tomorrow, but that I've found a little bit of light to push me out of this funk. I'm going to be okay. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s keep it moving.

Thanks, photography. You cheered me up.

Kats Sisters Photoshoot by airi katsuta

Airi Katsuta, Riho Katsuta 【日本語の文章は英語の後にあります】

It's been exactly a year since my last blog post... My apologies.

A lot has happened in a year. To keep it short and simple, I've made a list.

  1. I went around the world again with Peace Boat as their official photographer. It was the same route as the last time, and second time was much easier work wise. I was also able to enjoy myself much more and photograph much better. It was amazing to reconnect with the people that I met last year as well.
  2. I got promoted, and became the Audio/Visual Technician at the Phoenix Art Museum. I'm learning the IT side of the museum and also in the planning process of doing some photography/videography. It's keeping me busy so that's good.
  3. I've been doing photoshoots here and there which I will post on my website once it gets published.
  4. Lastly, I did a photoshoot... with me in it!

riho&airi-square-03

That's the photo you see above. We did a "Kats Sisters" photoshoot, that's my older sister Riho on the left, and me on the right. Usually I'm behind the camera, but it was my first time being in the shot, and directing it. My cousin, Hiroto, assisted me with pushing the remote to take the photos. We blew up 50 balloons which didn't take much time with the three of us, like the last time we did the balloon shoot! I'd set up the camera on a tripod and frame everything and then I'd run back and pose. It was hard running back and forth with my heels on. Riho's always been a natural at posing but I definitely am not. Modeling is a serious skill that I admire, which I lack. I should've practiced a little more on facial expressions and postures but I just got so nervous in front of the camera. I feel much more comfortable taking the pictures.

riho&airi-square-07

But I learned so much from this experience.

I need to get better at giving directions, better time management, and STOP HUNCHING!

It was a good experience all in all. I think the pictures turned out pretty nice too. I think by just looking at these pictures, you can probably tell we get along pretty well. We're sisters and we're best friends.

riho&airi-square-10

You can see more pictures on my website.

xo,

Airi

Kats Sisters 写真撮影

最後にブログをアップしてからもう一年も経っちゃいました・・・ごめんなさい。

この一年はいろんなことがありました。

  1. ピースボートで専属のフォトグラファーとしてまた世界を一周しました(その時のクルーズレポートはこちらで読めます)。前回と同じ航路だったので仕事は前よりも効率的にできました。仕事も遊びも写真も、前回よりも上手くできていたとおもいます。去年出会った人たちと再会できたのが素敵でした。
  2. Phoenix Art Museum (フェニックス美術館)でオーディオ・ビジュアル・テクニシャンに昇進しました。美術館のITの面や写真・映像などのプランニングを任されています。これで結構忙しくなりました。
  3. 写真の撮影も継続しています。まだ載せれないものもあるので、載せれるようになったらウェブサイトに随時アップしたいとおもいます。
  4. それから・・・自分がモデルとして入っている写真撮影をしました!

この写真がその撮影からのものです。「Kats Sisters」というプロジェクトでお姉ちゃんと二人で姉妹の写真を撮ってみました。左がお姉ちゃんの里穂で、右が自分です。普段は自分は常にカメラの後ろにいますが、今回は初めて撮影の監督をして自分も写される側にまわりました。アシスタントを従兄弟のヒロトにお願いして、カメラのリモコンシャッターを押してもらいました。風船とヘリウムタンクを買って、50個の風船を膨らませました。3人で協力したので、前回のように準備にはそこまで時間がかからなかったです。カメラを三脚に設定して、構成を確認して、走ってフレームに入ってポーズする・・・の繰り返し。ヒールで走り回るのは結構大変でした。里穂はいつも自然にポーズがとれるのに、愛里は全然ダメ。モデルの仕事ってスキルが必要で本当に感心します。愛里ももう少し表情の作り方とか姿勢とか練習しなきゃ。カメラの前にでると緊張しちゃって上手くポーズがとれませんでした。写真を撮る方がもっとリラックスしてできる。

今回の撮影で学ぶことは多かったです。もっと上手く指示を出せるようになる、タイム・マネージメントの能力を上げる、それから猫背をやめる!でも写真も上手く出来上がったので良かったです。写真を見てわかると思いますが、めちゃくちゃ仲が良いです。姉妹であって親友であるって幸せなことです。

この撮影の写真はウェブサイトこちらでごらんください。

Amanda & Nick by airi katsuta

amandanick35.jpg

amanda&nick02 Last week, I had the opportunity to take some maternity pictures of my old friends Amanda and Nick. They've been together forever and they're adorable together. I've known them from my Barro's Pizza days on Baseline & Mill, a job that I worked during my college years.

 

amanda&nick03

Amanda reached out to me for a photo shoot since they're expecting a baby next month! Emilie Isabel, a baby girl. Amanda has always looked gorgeous but she had such a nice glow to her face. And since we're about the same size, I hope I look as good as her when I'm pregnant (but don't expect a baby from me anytime soon) But it's amazing and magical how life is growing inside you. I know we've been doing this for thousands and thousands of years but still! Life is awesome.

amanda&nick01

I could tell they were a little uncomfortable at first getting their pictures taken, but soon enough they were sharing stories, laughing, joking around and smiling. Their puppy, Luca, is a little cutie pie too.

amanda&nick04

I'm very happy for these two, and I know they're going to be amazing parents. I'm looking forward to meeting Baby Emilie in a couple weeks!

amanda&nick05

 

xo, Airi

1 to 10. by airi katsuta

Airi

I often ask people to rate their day, how they're feeling, at that moment, from 1 to 10, 10 being the best. They always ponder for a minute or two, which feels like forever because I'm anxious to know. I think it's a fun game. I'm usually at a 9, since I tend to be a happy person in general. Maybe because I have a family that loves and supports me, friends who have my back even when I'm at my worst, jobs I enjoy, 2 beautiful cats that cuddle with me, a fish that's been living in my room for 3 years now (I love him even when he rebels against me at times), projects I've accomplished in my short life that I'm proud of, and plans that I'm excited about (like an exhibition coming up very soon! ). I try to be thankful for everyone around me for being in my life everyday, and even if I don't say it to you directly, just know that I am. 

So I walk out the door with a "9". I usually leave room for that "1" to make it a perfect "10" for an unexpected surprise like kindness or a compliment from a stranger, or as simple as a good cup of iced coffee when I'm feeling a little sleepy, or a good dream I might have that night. I'm pretty simple. Life's great, and I'm happy living everyday at a 9 hoping I'm lucky enough to get that bonus "1" to make it a "10".

I know sometimes I can be overly happy and it may annoy the crap out of some people, like "why is she bouncing off the walls? Man, she's kooky as hell." Don't worry, I know. But wouldn't you rather be around a positive energy rather than a Debbie Downer or a frown face? Even when I'm having a bad day, I try to leave it at the door. I admit I've had some dark periods of my life when I couldn't even smile or say anything nice, but I've decided I want to carry a positive image and project a good vibe.

I read somewhere that everything around you is showing you love. For example, your pen cap. It doesn't want to write on your shirt pocket and ruin it. Love. The cushion on your chair, it doesn't want your back or your bum to hurt so it's providing support. Love. The seatbelt in your car, don't want you flying out of the window. Love. Though all these things are merely objects, it's showing you love. Even if you think "no one" loves you, things around you will love you anyways. Yeah this sounds silly and I may sound a little loopy saying stuff like this, but wouldn't you rather be happy? Wouldn't you rather be smiling? Just know that something good will happen even if you're feeling down. Optimism isn't that far away from you if you look up (especially if you live in Arizona, the sky is beautiful!)

I know this isn't a post that I usually put on here, but I'm feeling extra positive today.

So I started today as a "9" like most days, and I got that extra "1.5" and finished the day with a "10.5".
Today was a good day, matter of fact, a great day. 

 

 What's your number?

 

xo, 
Airi

Exploring. by airi katsuta

nature201.jpg

Since I've been back, I've been trying to be more active and explore what's around me. Back in my college days, whenever I felt confused, sad, or had the "photographer's block", I went out to photograph the desert to clear my mind. Being in the middle of nowhere and walking around to stumble upon a surprise was always a pleasure. Whether it was a fallen down cactus that looked defeated, graffiti that kid's left behind, the golden sun hitting the side of a rock illuminating it like it was ready to explode... Just the simple things. I realized I stopped doing that, because I got caught up in working. And my friends know this that I hardly ever do anything that relates to me wearing sneakers. But I decided after getting back from Peace Boat, I'll be more active! Whether it's hiking or driving for hours to see something. Okay, enough of my rambling. Traveling and exploring is fun. 

Over the last couple months I went to South Mountain, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Colorado. So here are photographs of mother nature and whatever that sparked my interest. PS. this post is very picture heavy. Enjoy. 

xo,

Airi

South Mountain:

nature01

nature02

nature03

nature04

nature05

nature06

Sedona

nature07 nature08 nature09 nature10

nature11 nature12 nature13 nature14

Grand Canyon:

nature15 nature16 nature17 nature18 nature19 nature20

Hoover Dam:

nature21 nature22

Colorado:

nature23 nature24 nature25 nature26 nature27 nature28 nature29 nature30 nature31 nature32 nature33 nature34

nature35 nature36 nature37

 

See my photos from the Global Voyage series at my website: http://www.airikatsuta.com/global-voyage. 

Around the World, and I'm Back Again! by airi katsuta

So I'm back to Arizona, my home sweet home, after being away for 5 months on a global voyage with Peace Boat. I was working as a Japanese Web Reporter / Photographer to document the daily events that go on board and special reports for on location, write multiple reports everyday for general audiences who are interested in what life on board is like, for family members who are on land to know where their loved ones are at, and for passengers to reflect back on their voyage after their trip is over. I wrote close to 200 reports, and I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it was! Writing in Japanese was definitely a big challenge for me. I've acted the messenger role with Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami project where I wrote the survivor stories of the people in Ishinomaki, but it was always in English. It was my first time being away from home, and working in a Japanese setting, so language and culture was a lot to take in. The electronic dictionary (電子辞書) was my best friend.

I went in with the mindset that "I'm young, it's 0kay to make mistakes, it's a MUST to ask questions because I don't know everything, "  And let me tell ya, I made many mistakes, I asked so many questions, and realized there are kind people that have a lot to share and are willing to lend a hand. With my 105 days on board, I learned to appreciate people on a deeper level because they were there when I was in a time of need. There are more to each country than what tourism has to offer, especially with the cultural exchange tours that Peace Boat provides, it was great to interact with locals in their environment and have that experience. Here are some of the photos of the countries I went to that are on view on my website. See full albums on http://www.airikatsuta.com/global-voyage

Here is a little bit of a preview, but you can go to my website to see more!   And I was blessed with an opportunity to go on another voyage with Peace Boat as a web reporter again. So in November (which is in a couple more months!) I'll be in Japan and then off to explore the world again. In the meantime, I am making art in different mediums (photography, origami, india ink, watercolor, ceramics, and even henna!) I am working at the Phoenix Art Museum being a Gallery Attendant, Control Room Operator, Projectionist, and back at Method Art Gallery being an assistant to Davin Lavikka  and doing multiple duties. Hopefully I'll have an exhibition coming up there so I will keep you guys posted!

Peace Boat 81st Global Voyage by airi katsuta

Hello! Long time no talk. Oh how I hate starting my blog like this but I do apologize for not updating frequently. Soooo, BIG NEWS! I will be working as a Japanese Web Reporter on Peace Boat’s 81st Global Peace Voyage . Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. It is a cruise that goes around the world for 105 days, and I will be photographing and reporting about the activities on board and in 14 different countries. It'll be in Japanese but you can still check it out and look at the photos :)

This organization has a very dear place in my heart because I volunteered with their Disaster Relief to help Ishinomaki. I'm really excited to see the world and another cool thing is that I'll be with my sister Riho and my cousin Hiroto!

Let the adventure begin!!!.....on November 22nd, Bon Voyage!

 

Airi

 

Resilience at The Academy Theatre by airi katsuta

Resilience showing at the Academy Theatre I have another showing of Resilience coming up in September 19-22 at The Academy Theatre . You can catch it again for those of you who missed the first showing at Method Art Gallery. This time it is more focused on the stories of the residents, with narratives that go along with the photographs. I will also be giving a talk at the reception on Friday, September 20th, 6-9 pm. The 1000 Cranes for Ishinomaki will also be on display.

As a bonus feature to the show, I will be showcasing the fashion photography I have been doing lately in the lounge area. It will be the first time being shown in a gallery space so I'm very excited.

 

Update! by airi katsuta

Oh gosh, it's already JULY! Am I getting old or is time just flying soooo fast!? Anyways, I feel very bad that I haven't updated this blog in over 2 months, and a lot has happened so I wanted to give you an update.

IMG_6595

I finally had my first SOLO show! WOOHOOOO! In April. Sorry it took so long to tell you all. The show was at Method Art Gallery, located in Old Town Scottsdale on Marshall Way. It was the premier of my project "Resilience". It was a great opening night with my friends and family there, and a bunch of people who strolled in during ArtWalk. I had a great time talking to everyone and conversing about my work. Thank you to everyone who stopped by!

And then right after that, I had my First Friday debut at the Grace Chapel Gallery in Downtown Phoenix. It was an event called "The Night of the Thousand Cranes" by Release The Fear. Release The Fear is a non-profit organization that helps kids in juvenile detention to focus their behavior into fine arts and music. They contacted me to be a part of the event to show my Thousand Cranes display and I said, why not? Everyone was so nice, Robert, Blair, and Bill are such wonderful people and they worked with me to find a perfect spot in the gallery. The building is actually connected to an abandoned church that burnt down in the 80's (I think), and it looked post-apocalyptic. Super awesome! The Night of the Thousand Cranes went well, with the talented Ken Koshio playing his Taiko Drums, Encolor teaching people how to write Kanji Calligraphy, people folding origami, and cosplay people performing. It was a great night filled with music, art, and laughter. I had an amazing experience with talking in front of a crowd and giving a little speech about my installation and the meaning of the Thousand Cranes. And Channel 5 stopped by and interview Robert in front of my cranes! Awesome exposure, right? :)

The cranes will be up in the Release the Fear headquarters, Grace Chapel, 302 W. Monroe, in the downtown Phoenix Arts District, until September.

I've had a few inquiries on my photographs recently so I'm very excited about what's coming next for me. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and patiently working away until then. Don't stop, get it get it.

 

Next post is going to be about Clutch Jewelry, and the trip we took to Payson!

Thousand Cranes at Arizona Matsuri Festival by airi katsuta

Photo by Cory Baumer I'm disappointed I haven't been able to blog as much as I've wanted to recently, but glad there's so much to blog about!

I got to be a part of Arizona Matsuri Festival on February 23rd and 24th again this year and had a fantastic time. It was a rush meeting thousands of people and getting the opportunity to share with them the story behind 1,000 Cranes as well as the process of creating the one a kind exhibit from scratch. To read more about the process, check out my other blog post

Unlike last year, I got the transportation of 1,000 cranes down to a science! Because the cranes are strung on fishing line individually with as many as ten cranes per strand, putting each strand in a separate bag saved hours of set-up time.

Photo by Cory Baumer

Even though every strand of blue and white cranes was weighted down with a marble to prevent tangles, the Sunday weather had other plans. Gusts of fierce wind kept me on a ladder all day untangling (in a dress no less!). For some reason many were delighted to receive my business card from a few feet higher in altitude. The display was even visited by a local news crew! It was a unique experience giving a video interview with so much sunscreen in my eyes that I didn't know which way was up:)

The best part of the festival this year was all the positive reactions I got to the installation. It became clear to me that 1,000 Cranes has an aesthetic that appeals to so many different people. All I can think of now is: how am I going to top this?

Local artist Airi Katsuta and her thousand cranes

A very kind and talented local photographer and blogger wrote a wonderful blog post about me and the festival. Check it out! Poolephotographyblog.com

Day 8: Hidemaruya by airi katsuta

After seeing the beautiful display from the artists from Taiwan, I went to a souvenir store right down the street. It was called Hidemaruya, and they had Ishinomaki t-shirts that they sold for around $20. The shirts said things like "Never give up Ishinomaki" or "Ganbappe, Ishinomaki".  I had seen these shirts last year but didn't have money to spend when I was volunteering, so I was happy to purchase them :)

After looking around the store for a while, the owner asked me where I came from. When I said the United States and that I was here last year volunteering, she was surprised and let me sit down and look at her photo album that contained lots of tsunami related pictures/newspaper clippings. She was hesitant at first but she started sharing her stories with me.

"It was like a dream", she said. "It all happened in an instant...just one moment... like what happened?" On 3-11, she was here at the store, and her house is on the second floor. She felt it shook, and ran out side, but she heard her neighbors shouting that the tsunami was coming. She ran up to her home, and ended up staying up there for 2 days. At night it was cold with snow falling down, only a gas stove to keep her and her husband warm, and only one candle for light. Thankfully, she had a fridge full of food so they didn't starve like many of her neighbors.

"There were many people that I knew that lost their lives looking for their family members. They went out when the tsunami came," she said almost in a whisper. "You have to take care of your own life first. Because what do you have when you lose yourself? Just make a place to meet up when things like this happen."

Unlike all the people that I met, she didn't aestheticize the recovery effort. She wasn't negative about it, but rather realistic. "The recovery/reconstruction isn't in the near future." She said with lines between her eyebrows, "We've become so dependent on other people, especially volunteers. We can't be like this forever." She said she felt like she was going crazy after losing her store. Her store sold yarn and knitting products. "I can't just not do anything. I told myself I must become independent." And that's why she started a whole new venue making souvenir t-shirts. She felt that with volunteers and tourists coming into Ishinomaki, she could let them take a memory of Ishinomaki with them by selling these shirts.

After learning her love for knitting/crocheting, I gave her one of the crochet cats. She loved it! "Thank you so much. I want to start my yarn store again, but it's so hard when there's hardly any customers anymore. I hope Ishinomaki will become a better place than before. I know it's going to take a while, but my wish is that Ishinomaki will be more independent."

Almost home by airi katsuta

Hi everybody.Sorry I haven't been posting for a while. I was running around all over Japan, literally. After leaving Ishinomaki on the 20th, i got back to Kanagawa, my sister left on a 89 day cruise, I rode the bullet train (Shinkansen) because I missed my overnight bus, I visited my grandparents and cousins in Nara, and met up with my friends and family. It's been a hectic trip. I am currently trying to stuff everything in my suitcase, and it's been about 6 hours since I started. This is never fun. Haha It has been an amazing month full of discoveries and surprises. But I think I'm ready to go home and sleep in my own bed. Seems like all the pillows I sleep on here is like a bean bag and it's making my neck hurt!

I will be posting all the pictures along with the stories when I get back to Arizona. Don't think I forgot!

Day 8: Taiwan Friends by airi katsuta

As I was riding my bike along the Manga Road, I saw pretty colors peeking from the corner of the street. I stopped to see what was going on, and saw adorable chalk drawings on the pavement. I've never seen chalk drawing so beautiful in my life. Seeing this brought a smile to my face as well as the locals. This brightened up the street!

After staring and lurking and taking a bunch of pictures, these nice people explained to me that they're a group of artists from Taiwan supporting Ishinomaki. Different styles of artists were here and they told me they painted murals on houses and made public art to bring joy into the town.  They also gave me a good luck charm :)

They told me I can contribute to the drawings so I put my drawing skills to the test....

And I drew a cat. But someone said it looks like Pink Panther. I guess they're kinda right lol

My cat looks like it was done by a 4 year old compared to this great looking mountain next to it! Mad props!

Lots of locals told me they are really thankful for the organization from Taiwan. Some elderly people kept their cash at home so they lost most of their savings in the tsunami. The locals said the people from Taiwan handed out money to anyone who got in line. These people were painting a very large mural on the side of the building. They each had their own distinctive style. I didn't stay long enough to see it completed, so I can't wait to go back and check it out :)

 Since they were so nice to me, and anyone who helps Ishinomaki is automatically my friend, I gave them one of the crochet cats! I hope they liked it :)

Its crazy how you meet so many different kinds of people through the same cause. I wish them the best of luck :)

Day 7: part 3, Kawamura Magobe gravesite, oceanside, fish market by airi katsuta

After visiting Tsuda-san, Ted and I visited Kawamura Magobe gravesite. Kawamura Magobe is an important person in Ishinomaki history. He was a technical expert in Omi Province, and he constructed the Port of Ishinomaki at the mouth of Kitakami-gawa River. Peace boat volunteers worked hard to clean up this gravesite, but the clean up isn't complete yet.

Mabo Tofu.

Then we went to the Chinese restaurant near Kaska. It was so cheap! And lots of food! I was stuffed.

Ooper Looper

I found a funy looking fish/lizard? It's called a Ooper Looper. I've never seen anything like this, it looked like a Pokemon.

We drove around town again. And we drove by the mountains of trash piled up everywhere.

Japan Paper Company.

This is a paper company located right by the coast. Paper and water doesn't go well together, so after the tsunami most of their materials were ruined. The huge rolls of paper was very heavy when it soaked up all the water.

San Juan Bautista.

This is a museum that displays the San Juan Bautista, a Spanish style galleon built in the 17th century. Though this is a replica, the actual ship was built in 1613 by Date Masamune, the lord of the Sendai Clan. The ship transported an envoy to the Pope in Rome, stopping at Acapulco, Mexico on the way. The boat had very minimal damage from the tsunami but the museum was closed.

Beach.

Most of the beaches are closed for swimming since not everything is cleaned up from all the scraps. This beach is mostly for fishing tho.

"The bottom of the sea is all messed up because of the tsunami. I can't catch any fish!"

I asked this fisherman how it's like fishing here. He said he could catch all different kinds of fish before but he said "the bottom of the sea is all messed up because of the tsunami. I can't catch any fish!" Even if he can't catch anything, he still comes here to fish. I'm guessing he comes here to relax.

Buoys.
Sea Bugs?
Shells used to raise oysters.

Oyster harvesting is very big in Ishinomaki, and it's considered the main area that imports oyster seeds to all over the world. I LOVE OYSTERS, and it was cool to see how they raise baby oysters. This made me salivate a little bit.

Fiiiiish market.

We then went to the fish market. Originally, this market was placed right near the coast, but they relocated for now. This fish was huge! I wear a size 6 shoe so like 3 of my shoes was the size of this fish!

Sea Urchin!

I've never seen a sea urchin with the spikes on. All I could think was sushi. I bet the fresh ones tastes really good :)

Cleaning the sea urchin.

She was cleaning the insides out to get the meat out of it. She was using a tweezer very carefully to get the black parts out and leaving the orangey/yellowish insides.

FINALLY! OYSTER!
YUMMAH!

I finally got to eat some oysters! This particular one wasn't grown in Ishinomaki, but it was fresh nonetheless. Oyster season is around November, and they even have a festival dedicated to them! Hopefully next year, I can go to one of them and eat lots and lots of oysters! :)

Day 7: Tsuda Family by airi katsuta

After riding around my bike around the coastline, and getting lost and going in circles for a while, I finally got back to my hotel. Ted was already waiting for me at the lobby to take me to see Tsuda-san and her daughters.

Ted was very fond of them while he was with Peace boat. They worked on Tsuda-san's house for 3 months from May to August, and a little bit of September. They told me they had at least 100 volunteers come by to help with the clean up.

As you can see from the picture above, Tsuda-san's house was severely damaged. Though her husband is a construction worker for temporary homes, he was very busy working in Sendai. Peace boat came around May, but her husband and her husband's father dug out most of the trash from their house.

Ted and Tsuda-san was reminiscing the cleaning days.

The odd yoga ball was there for some reason. Tsuda-san started sharing what happened on 3-11. "The earthquake was very scary. Anna, my youngest daughter hid under the table. I was watching TV at the time, and when everything started shaking I was trying to hold up the TV! It was expensive so I didn't want it to fall and break!", she joked around. "Too bad I had to throw it away since it got wet. It was a nice TV. Haha."

"After hearing the tsunami warning, my daughter and I left the house in my car. We weren't sure where we were going, but headed to the evacuation center. But on the way, we realized we didn't grab anything. So we drove back to the house using the small streets, and Anna saw the water slowly spreading from the ocean. It was eerie how slow it spread, but cars and houses were moving too." "If we took the main street where it was crowded, we could've been caught in the tsunami." They safely got to the evacuation center on time.

Tsuda-san's eldest daughter, didn't say too much at first. She was looking in to her house in a bittersweet way.  It's so clean compared to before, they kept saying. She also helped out the cleaning alongside the volunteers shoveling mud/sludge. When I asked her where she was on 3-11, she said she was at school. "After the earthquake, everyone evacuated outside. But when we heard the tsunami warning, we went back inside. And then everyone from around town came to our school to evacuate. We were all on the third floor, but the students had to be on the 2nd floor. Like my mother said, the water came in slow. And all the cars were slowly sinking." "We didn't have anything to eat, so our teachers brought candy from the teacher's lounge. We got one piece of candy each. My father came and picked me up after the water had gone down, so I didn't have to stay at school for too long."

The water rose up to where her hand is. The first floor of their house was completely submerged. The glass doors broke so they had so much sludge and trash come into the house. When I asked if they plan on living in this house again, and they said they weren't sure. "We started living in my husband's father's house who lives 5 minutes away. He's happy that we live with him now, but my kid's and my husband goes to Sendai everyday for work and school. We still haven't paid off the house yet, so I don't know if we should move or not." Her kids takes an hour to go to school everyday.

"We started cleaning the house and we found a body in this room. I don't know who it was or how it got in here, but we say a prayer whenever we come here now." A lot of bodies that were found all over town were unclaimed or unidentifiable.

The sisters were very kind and very smart! The older one is going to school to become a nurse or a government health inspector. They both like sports and the younger one is going to a prefecture-wide conference. They also gave me a lot of pictures they took after the tsunami so I plan on scanning them and sharing that when I get back to the states.

Thank you, Tsuda Family!

Day 7: Boats & Docks by airi katsuta

Day 7 started off on a good note. I got up bright and early! I always rent a bicycle to get around town and when I asked for the key at the front desk, I saw the frog that Riho and I gave them a couple days ago. This made me smile :) I went for a bike ride by the Kyu-Kita-Kami river towards the ocean.

 

There was lots of fishing boats, ferry boats, and transport boats on dock of the day of the tsunami. Some boats are still on land since that day. Large boats are extremely heavy. So I have no idea how they're going to move it when it's that heavy PLUS holding up that building that collapsed on it.

Fishing companies lost/ruined most of their tools. These nets are used to catch lots and lots of fish and they cost tens of thousands of dollars. Though their docks and boats were ruined, some fishermen relocated and repaired their boats and started back again.

All over town, especially by the coastline, there are areas like this with trash piled up 2,3 stories high. Probably like 15, 20 football fields piled with trash.

Trucks carrying scraps to dump to the piles were driving around very busily. I felt bad riding around being in their way when they were working hard.

 

 

Day 6: Strolling around Kaska, Ishinomaki Pet Center by airi katsuta

Riho went back to Tokyo after giving the knitted clothing to Kasumi-So, so Day 6 begins my lone trip. I've always had my family around me whenever I traveled and depended on them so much, so I was kind of scared. Would I be able to connect with the locals? Would I be able to speak Japanese? Would I get lost? All these questions kept worrying me, but I tried to be brave, and started riding my bicycle to familiar places I visited last year. It was only a 20-30 minute bike ride from the hotel.

Last year, this karaoke place was the only bar that was open in this area. It was very old fashioned, 100 yen per song, and it was like being in someone's living room. They didn't think I was Japanese so they told me to sing something, and I sang a Christina Aguilera song... Though I think I'm a diva when I'm singing in my car, no one should be forced to hear me sing. haha. But they were kind and clapped for me. Teehee. It was nice to see them still in business.

Last year, the roads were still rough and covered in dirt, and hardly any stores were open on this street. Now it's all repaired and clean! Clean-ups around areas that are being used were very fast. It's crazy to see the gap between this and homes around the water. But all that matters is that it's being done.

Last year, this area was pretty rough. There were piles of trash being gathered everywhere you looked. Sludge still covered the ground as it gave off a foul smell. The building with the colorful sign was a camera store.

This year this place was all cleaned up. The camera store relocated to another area.

This was my favorite place. It's a greenbelt around the river, and the trees are big enough to make shade in the hot sun. At night time, I remember hearing crickets chirp. This was the place to be to unwind from a long, hardworking day. This man was taking a nap on my favorite bench.

Last year, this buddha lost his arm and it was being held up by ropes. The garden itself was done very beautifully and I'm glad the Buddha was fixed.

 

 

I saw this pet center everyday last year while staying at Kaska. I was curious what the inside looked but it wasn't open when I went. So I decided to pay a visit.

I was greeted by these very energetic geese as I walked up to the store. They wouldn't stop quacking!! I wasn't sure if it was a farm animal store or a pet store. I saw turkeys, chickens, baby chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, cats, and dogs.

I LOVE CATS. These adorable kitties made me miss my own, Whiskers and Bailey. I wanted to play with them more but the chihuahuas behind me wouldn't stop barking so I had to leave the room. Chihuahuas are so loud! They just kept growling at me!

After being in the store for 15 minutes, the owner came out and I got to ask her how its been since 3-11. She said "On 3-11, I didn't think a tsunami was going to come. We live upstairs of the store so me and my family rushed up. Unfortunately we didn't have time to save the animals." Since this area is very close to the coastline, the water level was very high and the animals in their cages drowned. "We had to start all over. It was sad, and I feel very sorry for the animals."

They did all the cleaning by themselves. "I saw the volunteers walking around a lot last year. But we did all the cleaning by ourselves, just me and my father. We had a lot of free time, so it wasn't a problem." There weren't enough volunteers to go around to every place in town.

"We used to have a lot more animals. Parrots, large aquarium fish, different breeds of cats and dogs, ferrets, etc. We had to start from scratch. We used to have lots of customers who owned large aquariums so they came to the store a lot. But now, even if they still have their tanks, they live in temporary homes so they don't have the space. Or they don't want to own any pets because they're scared that the tsunami might come again. They come visit me from time to time. They don't buy anything but they just come to see the animals. If you love animals, you never stop loving them no matter what."

"Having pets is a luxury. It's not a need for survival so we don't have customers anymore. Businesses like insurance, construction, cars, homes, and grocery stores are doing just fine. But stores like us, pet stores or fishing supplies, they're hobbies. So to get by, we started a traveling zoo. A lot of events and schools have us come and bring our animals. They want the children to smile and be happy, and animals have the power to do that."

"I hope things will be back to where it was again, but I know it will take a long time. But I hope people will start having pets again, because I know how much joy they bring to our lives."

I gave her one of the crochet cats and she really liked it. "I have a daughter and she loves stuffed animals. She's going to love this. We'll treasure it."

Day 5: Kasumi-So Senior Home by airi katsuta

We headed to Kasumi-So senior home later that day. We took a train and since we didn't have breakfast or lunch, we ate the Taiyaki that we got earlier.

We arrived to Watanoha Station 10 minutes later. The palm trees reminded me of Arizona. Though Ishinomaki city is the 2nd most populated areas in Miyagi prefecture, the train only comes by every 2 hours. This is unbelievable compared to Tokyo where the train comes every 5 minutes. The train only has 2 cars since the tsunami disaster, but they plan on adding more next year.

We finally arrived to Kasumi-So Senior Home. We brought the handmade knitted scarves and clothing made by the wonderful folks of Japanese American Citizens League. I hope they like it!

Manjome-San is the head manager of this senior home. When asked about what happened on 3-11 she said, "Right after the earthquake, one of the seniors said the tsunami will follow soon. So all of us evacuated to the mountains before the tsunami warning even went off. So thankful for the wise knowledge of the elderly, they were all safe."

"After we evacuated, I realized I forgot to grab the medicine for my patients. We were in such a rush, I knew I shouldn't go back but I went anyways. When I was driving back, I saw a little girl crying on the side of the street. I picked her up and while I was driving, the tsunami came. I didn't know what was happening, but thankfully someone reached a hand from the 2nd floor of a building and saved us." Though she was talking very calmly, what was coming out of her mouth was unimaginably horrifying.

"There were many people at the temple. Since the damage of this area was unbelievable, the bridge was gone so the military couldn't even come to this side of the town for 2 days. I was very worried. Some elderly people didn't have their medicine so they were turning blue, or going crazy."

"People started to find out that I work at the senior home. They thought we would have medicine to share, but we didn't have any either. It pained me to turn them away."

With tears forming in her eyes, she spoke softly, "We went down the mountain when the water level decreased... And I stepped into hell."

"The people who evacuated to the mountains didn't directly see the tsunami, so it was shocking to see the aftermath. There were dead bodies everywhere, a lot of them in their cars. It felt like a war zone. I was actually seeing hell."

"We had our one year anniversary of this institution the day after the tsunami. We were saying how it's been a year and then it happened." The seniors were transferred to a hospital out of prefecture, so they were safe and taken care of. They were more worried about us (the caretakers) if we had enough food."

After a year and a half, she said there are times where she feels depressed. "Year and a half flew by so fast. The reconstruction takes a long time, I know that. I get depressed quite often, and put a stop to myself. Most of us suppressed our emotions. My tears dried up after a while, I was tired of crying. Thankfully, all of my family members survived, but many of the workers' didn't. My daughter's friend's body was found 3 months later. And all that was said was "They found another one." It was hard to feel anymore. It was all too much."

We gave them the letter, pictures, and the handmade items from Japanese American Citizens League. They were very ecstatic to receive them since they lost most of their winter clothes in the tsunami. "Thank you so much. The winters are so cold here! It gets cold by September. Now to think of it, it was snowing the day after the tsunami. "

Everyone's faces were covered in smiles. We dispersed the clothing to everyone and they loved it. This lady wore hers already even though it was hot!

We also gave them the crochet animals too. They were saying how cute it was. She was a funny one, "I'm a kangaroo."

She's 95 years old and loved the shawl. "Give them a peace sign", the manager said.

We woke him up from his nap, but this 99 year old man picked the white vest. He can't hear very much so they had to shout in his left ear. When they told him that we brought them clothes, he smiled and said "Thank you."

She liked this blue shawl very much. "I like it, it's fancy!" Such complicated and beautiful design, all handmade by JACL.

"Blue is a man's color." "Looking good!" the women shouted. He blushed a little bit as I took his picture.

Everyone got several items to keep. Rather than taking it to a large senior home and not have enough, we picked the one with 6 people. They shared their stories with us and welcome us into their home. Thank you to Kasumi-So senior home and JACL for providing the clothing!

Day 5: part 2 by airi katsuta

This is Ishinomori Mangattan Museum dedicated to the most famous Manga artist in Ishinomaki. It's being repaired right now but will be open to the public in October.

Lots of cars cross this bridge to get to the other side of the river. Can you believe the tsunami covered this whole area underwater? Crazy.

Past the bridge, there was  a sign of where the waterline was.

Being near the river, some houses around here are too far gone to be repaired. The town is focusing on houses that are still repairable, and leaving the destroyed ones for later. It seemed like at any moment, this house could collapse.

Cleaning takes a long time and a lot of strength. Though it still seems dirty, I bet that this place took a lot of people to get it this far to remove large scraps and shoveling sludge.

Riho wanted to visit the house where she found a friendly cat last year. We asked this nice gentleman where it was. He pointed in a direction and lead us there. But he told us that they demolished the house.

The tsunami ripped open this whole wall of this house. A lot of houses in this area looked similar.

I found a chair of what seems like came from a hair salon. I didn't see any buildings that looked like one so I think the water traveled this chair here.