NAGATSURA Home without Land
A Documentary Film
ドキュメンタリー映画 「長面」きえた故郷 情報サイト
Produced and directed by Makiko Ishihara
Film poster showing Kazuko Moghul and Yuko Fukuda. モガール和子さんと福田裕子さん姉妹の写真入り映画ポスター
Ohkawa Primary School student hall washed off by the tsunami 津波に洗いざらしにされた大川小学校講堂
The remains of Ohkawa Primary School
I had one been back in Canada for a week, following a month-long stay in the country of my birth when monster tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake at magnitude 9. It started at 2:45pm on March 11, 2011. About 20 minutes later, the coastal areas in Northeastern Japan were completely destroyed. Not only did the disaster claimed 20,000 including those who went missing. This enormous damage also affected many people like me, living outside Japan. I felt the urge to go back.
In May, two months later, I was back in Japan preparing for a volunteering expedition. Once I arrived in the Took region. I filmed the early recovery efforts of communities in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. I managed to interview a few survivors and volunteers. I then assembled the footage into a short film, Road to Recovery. It was screened in Toronto for a fundraising event organized with friends. But I felt like I'd only scraped the surface. I wanted to hear more from people who were living through the aftermath. This time, instead of just standing on the sidelines, I wanted to learn about people's experiences from the inside, by being in the room with local residents and evacuees talking one another.
Back in Toronto, my friend Kazuko Moghul has become a well-known figure in Toronto with all her disaster-relief charity activities. A native of Nagatsura, Ishinomaki City in Miyagi, she decided to go back to see what was left of her hometown. I emailed her from Tokyo, asking if I could accompany her and record the trip. I was hesitant about asking at first, because I didn't expect she would want an outsider with a camera following her around to the place where so many family members were killed. It would be an invasion of privacy. But my documentarian instincts kicked in, and I knew I'd regret it if I didn't ask. Kazuko kindly agreed, as did her younger sister, Yuko Fukuda. They instantly welcomed me into their inner circle, and I spent 10 days with them, in and around Yuko's home. Her house, 8km away from Nagatsura was spared when the water stopped right at the entrance. The film is a direct result of this extremely privileged access.
When I set out to make this documentary, I decided I wouldn't interfere with their daily lives, ask them to do things specifically for the camera, or generally make a nuisance of myself. I also wanted to make sure they wouldn't be intimidated by the camera, so I used a very compact HD camcorder with an external microphone. Kazuko also kindly agreed to wear a lapel mic every day. Kazuko is a very social person, and she made plans to see as many friends and acquaintances as possible during her stay. Many of their exchanges were in the regional dialect, and everyone spoke freely and honestly and my camera was almost inexistent. We were also able to visit Ohkawa Primary School where the classes had been running for surviving students at a temporary location. It was an exciting moment to visit.
Once I finished filming, I realized Kazuko's and Yuko's kindness and generosity are the very essence of the "Tohoku spirit". Everyone I encountered on this journey shared those qualities. The people of Tohoku have a very welcoming and accepting nature that's hard to find in the big city. Sharing and communal life is a part of the culture. Although Yuko has been receiving medical treatment for her emotional trauma, she still had enough room in her heart to entertain friends and relatives with songs and dances. I asked her to record the song she sang at her brother's house three days before the tsunami, celebrating the growth of his 2-year-old great-granddaughter. Both were killed, as were his wife and daughter, mother of the little girl. The folk song, sung in Yuko's own words, features prominently in the film, as she walks towards what remains of the house.
Before premiering the film, I knew there were many survivors who weren't interested in seeing images of the destruction. But I went ahead and showed it in Ishinomaki, not knowing what to expect. An overwhelming number of survivors and their friends and family members came to the screening, and the feedback was extremely encouraging. I have a feeling Yuko's cheerful song was the clincher. One viewer said she began to cry while watching the film, but as soon as she heard Yuko's singing voice, tears have disappeared.
All Kazuko has left of her hometown are memories of the land and her loved ones. But her realization of what one's “homeland” means is especially strong.
I believe her bittersweet yet ultimately positive reflections will inspire those who find themselves in similar situations, and teach us to appreciate where we come from.
Makiko Ishihara, Director
Tour bus washed up on top of the Ogatsu Tourism Office building. 津波にのまれてビルの屋上に乗り上げた雄勝のバス
Ohkawa Primary School destroyed by the tsunami 津波に破壊された大川小学校
Kazuko finds municipal records written by her brother among salvaged items. 遺留品の中から亡くなった兄の記した自治体の’記録を見つけるモガール和子さん。