Sad and Bright Faces in Tohoku
• The opening ceremony of Kizuna 4 exhibit took place on March 11, the same day the great earthquake and tsunami happened four years ago. Yoko Noge of the Chicago Sister Cities’ International Committee initiated a yearly Kizuna photo exhibit to connect the people of Tohoku and the people of Chicagoland, Illinois and the Midwest, who lent a hand to help the disaster victims. Noge is also a Chicago correspondent of the Nikkei Shimbun in Japan and well-known jazz singer.
• In the fourth exhibit, Chicago’s two photographers and a Japanese photographer brought changing landscapes of Tohoku. They were photographer and curator Jamason Chen, Sendai’s documentary photographer Kiyotaka Shishido, and Wesley Julian (113Project), who made documentary film “Tohoku Tomo”. Chen said in his statement, “We reprised the exhibition every March on different subjects, but with the same theme of presenting the strength of human society – when one suffered from the disaster, the others give hands of support. The word ‘Kizuna’ means ‘bond.’”
• Yoko Noge said, “Through the photo
exhibit, you are witnessing the resilience of the people who have survived
and are moving forward to a better life.”
• City of Tomioka is 6.2 miles away from
the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Jamason Chen captured a
clock in front of Michi’s Beauty Shop, which stopped at 2:46 p.m., March
11, 2011, the moment the great earthquake struck Tohoku. Noge said that
she heard of a warning announcement from the city’s speaker saying, “Keep
away from bees so as to not be stung by them,” and thought that the city’s
recovery would be a long way off.
• Toshiharu Abe in Ishinomaki, Miyagi lost his home and ship in 2011. He purchased a new ship with government aid, which provided 90 % of the cost, and resumed operation of his fishing business. He said that fishermen have been backed with new ships, but the recovery was still slow - stores and restaurants remained closed and roads were in disrepair.
• Souji Abe, a resident of Sendai, Miyagi, is a world known motorcycle designer and builder. His shop, Wild Road Choppers, became a distribution center for food and aid for disaster victims. With help from fellow bike riders all over Japan, they organized and mobilized themselves as swift moving troops. Nearly four years later, the business has finally started to recover.
• Akihiko Tohei, a Chicago native, was teaching English at a junior college in Fukushima when the earthquake and tsunami hit the city. He volunteered with local residents to help the victims by delivering food and water. He continues to teach at the college and said, “I couldn’t leave the people of Fukushima behind.”
• Noge said, “These photo images and stories we brought to you as a gift from the people in Tohoku.”
• Keiko Yanai, Deputy Consul General
of Japan, said in her remarks, “Our overall economy has recovered, and
many companies in the affected areas were rebounding. Ninety percent of
the projects to transfer housing to a higher elevation, and 80 % of the
projects for constructing public housing for the disaster victims, are
underway. Much progress has been made but more needs to be done. About
80,000 people live in temporary housing built by the government, and others
reside in apartments that existed before the earthquake.” She continued
that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced a new five-year reconstruction
plan beginning in the next fiscal year, and it would bring a new Tohoku
with energy-efficient communities and improved infrastructure.
• Ed Grant, President of Japan America Society of Chicago, applauded Yoko Noge saying, “She is the moving force of Kizuna in the first, second, third, and fourth years.” He also said, “With many organizations, we continue to provide support and continue to be a part of the effort until the day Tohoku is fully recovered.”
• Representatives from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, Illinois Comptroller’s office, and Illinois Governor’s office read commemorative messages for the exhibition.
• The opening ceremony commenced with
a taiko drumming performance by Tsukasa Taiko and led by M.C. Adrienne
Tongate, Deputy Director of Chicago Sister Cities International.
• According to the Metropolitan Police Department in Japan, 15,891 people were killed by the great earthquake on March 11, 2011, and 3,244 people died in the aftermath during evacuation. The total number of earthquake related deaths was more than 20,000. As of March 10, 2015, 2,584 people are still missing.
• Kizuna 4 photo exhibition was
presented by Chicago Sister Cities International, Japan America Society
of Chicago, Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, Japanese Chamber of
Commerce & Industry of Chicago, and Japan External Trade Organization
Kizuna4: Through Our Eyes at Daley Center
Attendees sing Sukiyaki Song together.
Flowers are presented by Japanese as a symbol of thanks from the people of Japan to the people of the U.S.
"Wild Road Choppers"