1000 cranes

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.

 

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."

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 5: Around the Kyu-Kita-Kami River by airi katsuta

Before I start this post, I wanted to thank all of you that have been taking a look at this blog. I've been getting views from all over the world, in 25 countries including Japan, USA, Argentina, Ireland, France, Australia, etc. My purpose is to share the stories of Ishinomaki to as many people as I can. Everyone has a different story which wasn't on mainstream news, of how the ground shook so much that they couldn't stay standing up, how they couldn't reach their family members for days so they walked in the water waist deep to search for them, how they spent days without food or water on top of a roof, how they got caught in the water and climbed on to a floating car. We live in a world where internet makes everything accessible, so I am trying to share the stories that I heard face to face from the survivors of the 3-11 earthquake/tsunami. They are so brave and positive, such beautiful souls. I'm just a messenger.

We visited the Taiyaki (Japanese dessert) shop that Riho went to last year. I guess this store was the only thing opened in this area so Riho was happy to see that it's still in business. And it was the best Taiyaki I've ever had!

There's a lot of areas along the river that hasn't been repaired yet.

This bridge is called Nishi-Naikai Bashi. This bridge is used by many people so it is in the middle of reconstruction. One side of the sidewalk is completely closed so it was kind of scary riding our bikes alongside cars on such a narrow bridge.

I think I have a cat radar. Last year, I didn't see any stray cats. But now they're starting to appear again. This made me happy.

There was a little market place down the street where all the shops that were ruined by the tsunami got together. They're in trailers so this is temporary, but it's nice to see that they're open for business already.

Inside their cafeteria, they had pictures of before/after pictures of the town. In attendance were many tourists from all over Japan.

This is a drawing of Anpanman, a very popular kids anime. The theme song translates to "Do not fear, for everyone. Love and courage is your only friend." Even though it is a kids song, it was played a lot last year while volunteering. It sent out a positive message to everyone.

All over town, there are signs or ads of words of encouragement. "We are cheering for your energy/spirits!"

Next to this play set was a Japanese flag waving in the wind. Though it was ripped, it was still standing strong.

Day 2: part 4. by airi katsuta

Day 2 was a very long day with so much to see, but this one is the final post of Day 2.

Kadonowaki-cho is very close to the coastline, and there is a river that flows near by. So when the tsunami came, this area was affected before any of the damage in the inland occured. As a memorial, people still bring flowers as offering to the deceased.

"Ganbarou" is a phrase that is used frequently here. It's hard to do a direct translation because I don't think it even exists in English. It kind of means, "hang in there", "we can do this", "let's stick it out", "don't give up" all mixed together. A man who owned a building around here put this sign up a few months after the tsunami, as words of encouragement. When people saw this sign, it gave them hope to get back on their feet.

The bar sticking out in the middle from this pole marks how high the water line ended up to be in this area. Houses and cars were easily lifted up with this much water and severely damaged.

People used schools as a emergency evacuation area. This school was no exception and many people came here to get away from the water. But when the tsunami came, as it pushed all the houses and factory with it, the building caught on fire and collided into this school. The school started burning but thankfully, everyone worked together and somehow connected chairs and desks on the roof to escape to the hill in the back. That's teamwork right there. No lives were taken from this school, but a school only a few miles away took away many children's lives.

This is a park that is located on the hill right behind the school. Since this hill was tall enough, the tsunami did not reach them. This park gives the whole view of the coastline, so on 3-11, they could see the black waves rushing inland.

From Hiyoriyama park, you can see the Ishinomori Manga-kan, a museum dedicated to Ishinomaki's most famous Manga artist. There was also a church in the same area, but I am guessing thats where the Statue of Liberty is standing.

We did a lot of walking so a we took a little break on this bench. Ted is a little camera shy so I had to force him to sit there. haha.

This temple is right on the top of Hiyoriyama hill. I felt a rush of culture through me as I embraced my Japanese heritage.

At the entrance of the temple, there was a display of many strands of 1000 cranes. In a Japanese folklore, if you make a thousand cranes, your wish will come true. Not a wish for materialistic things, but for health and recovery. Making a thousand cranes isn't easy, speaking from experience. It took me around 2 minutes per crane so 33 hours of crane origami folding… that's dedication.

This child put a message with the cranes saying "I send you strength and hope." This one was sent from Tokyo.

After making a monetary offering at the temple, we received a fortune. Mine told me, "Have a peaceful heart, be kind to my parents and your household will be fine. Even if there is trouble outside, your family will be filled with happiness. Give it your all to help others. "

After going back to the hotel, I saw a sign on a garage door saying "Thank you to everyone all around the world. People of Ishinomaki will persevere." With positive words on every wall and doors and pillars, it made me feel good, and all the volunteering worth it.

Day 2: Abe-san and his family. by airi katsuta

This is Abe residence. There are lots of families with the last name “Abe” in this area. Ted and Peaceboat volunteers cleaned their house.

They showed us lots of pictures from 3-11. Even though we showed up to their house all of a sudden, they kindly greeted us in and gave us lots of refreshments.

Abe-san lives with his wife and daughter, his parents, and his aunt, total of 6 people. On 3-11, he came home from work after giving rides to 3 of his coworkers, his parents were just about to leave in their car with their neighbors before the tsunami came. When his father realized the water was getting close, he made everyone get out the car and rushed them to the 2nd floor of his house. Abe-san’s mother took shelter in their 2 story storage. While helping others, the water washed Abe-san’s father away.

Abe-san was still in the car when the tsunami reached his house. He thought he would be okay if he stayed in the car but when the water reached the windshield, he broke the side window and got on the top of the car. The water level was already around 6 feet, so he climbed to his neighbor's roof. He saw his mother in the 2nd floor of the storage so he jumped on that roof. While he was trying to get in to the storage, his mother saw his feet dangling by the window so she grabbed his legs and pulled him in. This whole thing happened in 50 minutes after the fist earthquake.

When he stood on the roof, he took a picture with his phone. "Even in a panic state like this, it was interesting how the first thing I did was to take a picture. Human beings are strange. I'm a smoker. And when I was getting out the car, I was rushing to escape since the car was starting to sink, but I remembered to grab my cigarettes and lighter. Why cigarettes in a life/death situation? I don't know. But this saved me and my mother's life. Since it was freezing and I was soaking wet, we decided to burn anything we can find in the storage. If we didn't have that lighter, I don't know what would've happened.We were very lucky."

And then he spoke reservedly "But to say that lucky… that would be impolite to those who lost their lives from the tsunami. But like the lighter, as a coincidence we had food and water in the storage. My mother likes to pick apples and she stored lots of apples to make jam later on. All the stuff that was prepared for disaster was still in the car that already sank. So we were blessed to have food, water, and fire."

"The next day, My father paddled his way back floating on a log, like a surfer. It was great to have him back. But I still wasn't able to reach my wife, daughter, or aunt for 5 days."

'There was no reception so I couldn't call. I knew that worrying about won't take me anywhere so I tried not to think about it. But those 5 days… it was the hardest 5 days of my life." I could see tears coming out of his eyes as he was sharing his story and I tried really hard to hold back my own tears.

Th next day, Abe-san went looking for his wife and daughter. The water level was still high, and it was very cold outside. He was trying to stay dry but once he was wet, it didn't really matter. "When I returned back, I was so cold, so I just wrapped my body with anything I could find, even plastic bags."

 

5 days after the tsunami, he thought "If they're alive, they'd be by the bank by the river near by." So he walked around the bank back and forth all day. Then he finally got to reunite with his wife and daughter. His aunt was in the care of the care center for the seniors on the day of the earthquake, and the center was not affected by the tsunami. "To know that all of my family is still alive was just a blessing."

After reuniting with his family, they all stayed at the emergency evacuation area for 5 days. Since people were starting to get sick, they decided they couldn't stay there anymore. His sister's workplace said they had an open apartment so they stayed there for a while. "We were lucky once again, because though our 3 cars were washed away in the tsunami, we still had one more car that my daughter took to her work. If we didn't have that car, we wouldn't have had any way to get to that apartment"

A slight mark of the water line still exist on the window glass by the front door. "We decided to keep this here, so we won't forget." He said he's very thankful for the volunteers. "After the tsunami, my workplace decided to start up again and thankfully I was able to go back to work. But I watched the volunteers everyday, knowing that they're not getting paid to do all this work. If I go to work, I'll get paid. I felt guilty going to work but my family needs money. I felt veryguilty. My job didn't pay me for the first 2 months but after that, thankfully I was able to get paid.

Abe-san says "Since the house was damaged so much, I was planning on relocating to an apartment on another part of town. So my wife and daughter and I moved to an apartment. But my dad repaired the house." And then he smirks, "This is actually a restricted reconstruction zone. The government doesn't want us to reconstruct the homes because there is a possibility that this could happen again. We have to move eventually but this is a house that my father worked hard for. If he's not causing anyone trouble, I figured he could stay here. We have to think about it later when the time comes, but we'll just live for now. "

;

;

When we asked Abe-san's mother how life has changed after the tsunami, she started to talk very quietly. "Before the tsunami, we all lived together. I've watched my grandmother grow old with me and my husband and kids, so I thought I would be able to do the same, live with my child and his child. That was my dream. After the tsunami, my son, his wife, and my grandchild moved away. It's very lonely compared to when it was a full house. I'm still hoping that some day, we'll be able to be together again."

As we were leaving, Abe-san said "Thank you so much for visiting. Tell everyone in the States that we are grateful of all the support. We will never give up, we will persevere.

Day 2: part 1. by airi katsuta

For Day 2, Ted, Riho, and I went to the places we helped out at and said hello and listened to their stories of the tsunami, and how it affected them. We also passed out the crochet cats and the eco bags that people of Japanese American Citizens League gave us to take back.

Kobayashi-San:

She lives right near where Kaska (the building that I slept in while I volunteered) is, and even though I didn't help out her place, the other volunteers went multiple times to clear the sludge out of her front yard and plant flowers in her garden.

Her husband was hospitalized after the tsunami, and unfortunately he passed away 2 months ago. With the support of her friends and neighbors, she seems to be doing okay.

Ozashi-san:

She didn't think she could live in her own house again, after the damage, there was a car stuck in her front yard, sludge and water everywhere, everything destroyed. She was planning to tear it down, but with the help of the volunteers, she was able to have her home all repaired. She was saying how happy she was to be able to live in her house again. She lost her brother in the tsunami, who lived right next door. And she said "It would be a lie if I said I wasn't lonely, but I am so happy that I am back home."

She lost her brother in the tsunami, who lived right next door to her. At the time, her dog ran out, so she followed her dog, but her brother decided to stay in his house. And later on, she realized that he was taken by the water.

Ozashi-san and her dog, Muk.

When we tried to get a group picture, her dog started humping me. We had a good laugh.

Arakawa-san:

Last year, me and 14 other volunteers cleaned Arakawa-san's house, storage, and yard. This house was very big, especially in Japan. I was helping out in the yard and oh lord, his yard was huge. I think we took the whole day to clean his place.

Last year:

I was looking forward to seeing this place because this was the one that taught me teamwork.

Arakawa-san was so thankful for all the volunteer help that he gave a key of his apartment to Ted when he heard he hasn't showered in 5 weeks since he was so busy.

This year:

Day 1: Arrived in Ishinomaki by airi katsuta

After a 2 hour flight to San Francisco, and then a 10 hour flight to Narita Airport in Japan, and then a 7.5 hour bus ride... I have arrived to Ishinomaki! To show you where exactly it is, it is in Miyagi prefecture and right next to Sendai. Here's a map.

My sister, Riho, is with me and she is taking pictures of me while I photograph the city :)

 

And then we got to our hotel, called Casa de Costa. They used to be housings for students before the tsunami, but they converted it into a business hotel. Everyone has been very kind, and its very clean in here. And free wifi! Yay!

After a little bit of rest, we decided to meet up with Ted, who I know from volunteering last year. He was the leader in the branch that I was in, and he's from Florida but he's been in Ishinomaki since April with the recovery relief.

He's very wise and kind, and he was like a father figure to me last year. So in the afternoon, he showed us around town and visited the places I helped out at.

Last year, I dug sludge out of the drain gutters for Saito-san's neighbors.

So today, the first place we went was Saito-san's residence. She likes to garden a lot so she showed us her beautiful flowers.

She gave us lots of cucumbers that she grew in this garden to take home. She was such a nice lady.

And afterwards, we went to the town homes that we cleaned.

And after a year later,

The big house right behind it was left untouched. Sometimes the house isn't salvageable so they have to tear it down.

 

There were many houses that we, Peaceboat volunteers cleaned, but sometimes they end up tearing it down, or left alone where the owners move. Everyone has their reasons, whether if its the money, family, or work, or they're scared.

 

After taking in the first day, I was reminiscing the memories from last year. Some things seemed like they were frozen in time, where nothing has been touched, but then I saw more and more people moving back into their homes.

Getting Ready for Japan! by airi katsuta

It's been a long time since I uploaded on here, but I'm glad to say that almost everything is good to go for me to go back to Japan. Only 12 more days until I depart for Japan!My WONDERFUL sister, Riho, booked the hotel and the bus in Ishinomaki for a very reasonable price in Ishinomaki. They have internet connection so I will be able to update all of you during my stay there.

I received my film in the mail, which are Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160 and 400, Fuji Astia 100 and Fuji Pro 160s. I got the Ektar and Fujis in 120, and Portra in 220. There's so many!! And being a photo nerd, I am soooo excited to use it all :)

My mom has been working on these crochet cats for a while now, and I plan to bring them back to Ishinomaki for the kids I meet. They're cute and snuggly. She plans to make more of them and put eyes on it so they're not faceless.

I also received handmade scarves and clothes as a donation from the Japanese American Citizens League. They've been wanting to send them to the Tsunami affected areas but got denied because of shipping. So I volunteered to bring them to Japan and hand it out to senior communities. For the cold winters in Ishinomaki, I think this gift would be perfect.

I'm working on the last bit of the cranes for the $30 and under backers, and then I'm off to Japan! Thanks for your support and your patience. I promise I'll bring back a bunch of pictures! :)