The first PhotoVoice group of Sendai (Sendai Group 1) was established in June of 2011 with members of Hearty Sendai. Having themselves experienced hardship from the disasters, this group is dedicated to finding ways to assist other women affected by of the Great East Japan Disaster (see PhotoVoice No. 2, Chapter 3, Section 3 “Social Action & Assistance” page 41).
Motivated to support those affected, members took to photographing and documenting their lives and the situation around them. Soon these PhotoVoice meetings also became a means for members to express their own emotions, observations, and experiences surrounding the disasters.
Wanting to further expand these PhotoVoice activities to more women, PhotoVoice Sendai members then took to training, planning, and volunteering. In October of 2012 in collaboration with The PhotoVoice Project, new groups were established in Sendai (Sendai Group 2) and Ishinomaki.
Since then, Sendai Group 1 and Sendai Group 2 have merged together.
In January of 2014, PhotoVoice Sendai and The PhotoVoice Project collaborated on a PhotoVoice exhibition and community forum event.
** Listed at the end of each member profile is their corresponding PhotoVoice title as searchable in the National Women’s Education Center (NWEC) Archive for Post Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction & Women Support,which is linked to the National Diet Library Great East Japan Earthquake Archive Hinagiku. If you find a title that interests you, please click the link to learn more.
You can now check the PhotoVoice listings searchable in that archive here.
I am a resident of Sendai City. The disasters left me stunned at the fragility of everyday life. What’s more, I realized that people lose touch with their emotions when things get really tough. While I was cleaning up my house after the quake, my legs started shaking, and that’s when I knew that I was afraid. Going forward, I want to continue supporting women however I can.
My parents’ grave was washed away in the tsunami. Although I am suffering, I feel the disaster must not be forgotten.
I am a resident of Sendai City, in my sixties. I had to move out of my home of twenty-eight years after it was partially-destroyed in the earthquake. A stable address brings peace of mind. I hope those living in temporary housing and kariage (leased temporary) housing can move into the homes they desire very soon.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “How Long Will They Have to Live in Temporary Housing?” (2013)
● Y in Sendai
My condominium was partially-destroyed. Ishinomaki’s my hometown. I lost relatives and friends in the disaster. It will take 20 or 30 years for the affected areas along the coast to recover. I hope to live long enough to see my hometown revived.
I am in my sixties. I went to Ishinomaki City and Yamamoto Town and took photographs so as not to forget the disaster. First, I went to Yamamoto. I got the impression that the entire town had finally finished cleaning up. In Ishinomaki, smoke was rising from a chimney. I felt in my bones that people are slowly getting back on their feet from the disasters.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “The Forgotten Clock” (2013)
I started volunteering in Minamisoma City five months after the disasters. At first, I took care of children at a temporary daycare. A year and a half later, I worked on cleaning photographs washed out in the tsunami. Now, I cut the grass and dispose of waste at houses. I want to stand alongside the people of Fukushima amidst all their sadness and anger.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “Hope?” (2011)
● H. Yamamoto
I am blessed to have friends. I have been quite busy since the disasters. My house was declared partially destroyed…but I can live in it. My aunt who used to live near the coast…she continues to take care of her relatives. Let’s do what each of us can do! That’s what we say to each other.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “Misplaced Priorities” (2011)
● M. SATO
I want as many people as possible to know about the Great East Japan Disasters. I think it’s important to pass down our stories. I am in my sixties.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “Above our Notice” (2012), “New Residential Area” (2013)
I have lived in Tohoku for over twenty years. I am fond of Tohoku’s forests and natural beauty. My family was struck by the disasters at their workplace near the sea, and things got difficult for a while. I ended up changing jobs too. Sometimes I felt powerless, utterly at the mercy of a tremendous force–but once I changed my pace, I found friends I could relax with and a place where I fit in. Courage welled up inside me.
I am a resident of Sendai City, originally from Fukuoka prefecture, age 65. My house was partially destroyed. Right after the disasters I began caring for my aunt (88 at the time), who lived alone nearby. I watched over her passing in July of the following year. I received–and still receive–a lot of help and support from friends around the country and I do what I can to pay them back by keeping them up to date on events in the disaster-affected area. I am going to treasure my network as I support the recovery of industry here. I’m participating in a tea ceremony group in a temporary housing development in Higashimatsushima City.
My family was all at work when the tsunami hit us. We’ve had some hard times, but I do not want anyone to forget the Great East Japan Disasters.
I grew up in Nanagahama Town, and now in my thirties I work for the Miyagi Prefectural Government. Following the disasters, I was temporarily placed in Yamamoto Town, were I was in charge of issuing victims’ certificates and other such administrative functions. I felt the pain of those who lost the people and things they love, and swore to work with all my heart and soul for Miyagi’s recovery.
● Kazue Fukushima
I am 54 years old, born and raised in Wakabayashi, Sendai City. I served on the Sendai City Council for five terms–twenty years–until August 2011. I keep pushing on, always believing that advancing gender equality and self-governance is the key to recovery, and to building the Japan of the future!
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “Carbonized Riceballs at the Disaster Response HQ” (2013)
I am in my fifties and work for the local government. The reconstruction of buildings is ongoing, but the same cannot be said for our spirit. I am working hard to support women on the road to recovery.
* In the PhotoVoice Archive: “Solar Power” (2011), “We are Worried about the Radiation” (2011)
When I was younger I experienced the 1978 Miyagi Earthquake. In the middle of this recent earthquake, the Tohoku quake, I thought “This isn’t as bad as that time!” But the damage afterwards was so much worse that the 1978 quake can’t even compare. It taught me just how unreliable my own perceptions can be.
“Freesia” is the name of a flower that I brought to my father many times in his sickbed. (He passed away about a year before the 1978 quake). It is a flower my father loved. This flower gives me the feeling that I understand, if only a little, the feelings of those who lost family to the tsunami.
Message from Members
“We have lost people, possessions, and places all dear to us.
We felt we had to do something.
We had stopped ourselves from feeling anything.
With our cameras, each of us snapped shots of everywhere and everything we held in our memories.
Then we began to hold meetings. With nerves and anticipation high, soon we found ourselves releasing all of our pent up tears, frustration, and laughter as we flipped through photo after photo.
We realized that it was okay to express our hardship with others.
“Our PhotoVoice” began here.
Respecting our differences. Sharing our experiences. Connecting with each other.
Our photos and “voices” are born from this space.
Can you hear them?
From Sendai to Ishinomaki, to Onagawa, to Fukushima, our voices can be heard throughout Japan and the world.
We will not forget.”
*This voice was written at an exhibition event in Sendai on January of 2014 by our PhotoVoice Sendai members, who titled it “A Message From the Photographers”.