[Speech Video&Script]”Small, Ordinary but Unforgettable Days” (CJR symposium on 10th March 2013 in New York)


Video and script of my speech about projects and stories in Oshika Peninsula, northern east disaster area of Japan

As I announced , I attended a symposium “The Great East Japan Earthquake, Creative Responses and Social Imagination” held by Consortium for Japan Relief at Columbia University in City of New York on 10th March 2013, and talked about projects of my organization “tumugiya” and local women in Oshika Peninsula. Here is the Youtube video and script of my speech, with Japanese translation.

Thank you all for coming and staying for long hours. We are on the final stage of our speeches, before moving on to the reception. Aren’t you hungry now, waiting for Japanese food? (Interaction with audience) Let me start my speech with a photo that may stimulate your appetite. This is a Japanese bento, lunch box. Let’s have a quiz with you. Who made this bento? Guess! (Interaction with audience) This is made by local mothers in a village named Ayukawahama in Oshika Peninsula, northern east of Japan. This is a food store, named as “Boppora Shokudo” They are local mothers who work here and make bento box as their jobs. Their husbands are fishermen. She’s a staff of my organization “tumugiya”, and they are student internships. This store opened July 2012, that means, it is a new store built after the disaster. One more quiz. They are also local mothers in a village named Makinohama, in Oshika Peninsula. What are they making, do you think? (Interaction with audience) They are brushing tiny white pieces by sand papers. What’s this? Plastic? Ok, let’s go on. Then, she’s making slit on the white pieces by an electric saw. Why? To loop a string around the piece. This piece is on average 2.5 centimeters, or one inch, in diameter. Finally you can see the completed accessory, named as “OCICA.” This is a necklace in a motif of dream catcher, an amulet of native American. The tiny white piece is deer horn that is a common local material and has been a symbol of life and energy in Japan. The thin string is a fishnet, which is used to restore broken large fishnet for fishing. Using such motives and local resources, local women make this accessory praying for rebuilding of their community and disaster areas, and realization of happiness and dream of those who buy and wear it.

So, as you’ve seen, both of the service “Boppora Shokudo” and product “OCICA” are run by local women’s groups in a fishermen village in Oshika Peninsula, Ishinomaki City. This is a map. Here is Ayukawahama, for food store “Boppora Shokudo” and here Makinohama for “OCICA” necklace. Oshika peninsula is a rural area damaged by the tsunami and earthquake severely. Why did we start these projects with them? Why women? One of the reasons is the problem of job loss. Most of the facilities had been destroyed by the tsunami at ports. Generally, wives of fishermen in Oshila Peninsula used to work at port facilities by doing seafood processing jobs such as packing seaweed, shelling oysters etc. Relatively earlier than women, men could restart working through temporary employment by the government such as cleaning up debris, or restarting fishing again by buying or restoring their ships. But for women, it took longer time to have a place to work. One more thing, their living condition significantly changed. Those who lost their houses had to move to temporary housings. Staying at small temporary housing without going out to work or chat with friends must be lonely. On the other hands, there are those whose housings were in safe from tsunami. It may sounds fortunate, but it was the same in the point that they had been apart from friends who moved to temporary housings. In addition to job loss, there were the problems of disparities and dis-connection between residents in local communities. Losing one’s own role and relationship with others in society will lead to losing sense of living or self-esteem. That cannot be solved only by donation of money or food.To deal with these problems, we worked with local women, including both of those who living in temporary housings or original housings in safe from 30 years old to 70 years various, generation. He is Yuichi Tomohiro, a representative of my organization “tumugiya,” and they are participant women. They told us, “we want to work by ourselves, not just receiving donation and being helped by others.” Then we had dialogue with them, and various professionals such as product designers, photographers, and architects, and gradually developed our projects.

Well… it might sound like wonderful, or creative action. Or it can be categorized as social entrepreneurships projects that created jobs and recovered community, if you just go through the summary of our projects. Also, sometimes we receive applause such as, “Oh great, you are helping victims in disaster areas!” But we’ve never thought we were “helping victims.” We didn’t regard us as social and creative entrepreneurs. Rather, we just met, talked and listened to with each other, and just looked for and did what each one could do for each situation. It was nothing special, but a sequence of tiny connections between each ordinary person.

She is one of OCICA project participant, Kiwako Abe. She had previously lived in Takehama, a village next to Makinohama. Her house was destroyed by the tsunami but as Takehama is really small village, temporary housings were not constructed there, instead she moved to a temporary housing in Makinohama. Several month after the project started, she confessed to us that she had hesitated to participate in the project together with Makinohama residents at the beginning, because she didin’t know about them well, and also she wondered many times whether she quit the project or not, because making accessory was very hard task for her age. But she also told us “now I’m so glad to have continued working with you without quitting. Tsunami was fearful for me, but on the other hand, tsunami led us to meet. I feel really happy.” From 2012, her attitude dramatically changed. At first she was frightened to use electric machines and said “I can’t do that, I only brush up and loop fish net. I want to leave other tasks to younger ones.” But one day she said to me, “Could you tell me how to use a drill and electric saw?” So I told her how to use them. Her steps were gradual, but her skill improved steadily. Finally, one day, soon before I would leave there and move to NY, she completed the whole process of OCICA making by herself without any help. She says, “how delightful I feel to complete my work by myself.”

Another one, Yuriko Toyoshima. She is the eldest member of the project. She had lost her husband 15 years ago, long before the tsunami and had been living alone. Thus she said she really enjoyed participating our work every week, and she almost every time attended. She’s good at cooking and many times she made lunch for us after working, saying “you are my grandchildren. I’ am happy to see you are eating my food.” However, on the other hand, making accessories without mistake and in good quality was very very difficult for her. Unfortunately, as a manager of the project, sometimes I had to reject one she made, telling that it didn’t meet our standards of quality to sell in market. In such times, she looked sad and upset, having tears in her eyes. I remember, one time, after such denial, she didn’t look my eyes and communicate with me. For her, participating the work was a cycle of ambivalent feelings of joy and sadness. Nevertheless, or that is why, the OCICA project may be precious for her. She says “this is a reason to live for.” As you see now, our days were not filled with only single aspect, neither of dramatic success nor tragic or pitiful hardships. But each of us struggled with daily challenges and enjoyed having such time together.

Finally, let me tell you about one more person who has been empowered most from the projects. It was me, who was furthest from fancy words or titles such as creative actions, or community organizer. As Kenny introduced me, I got an offer from here Columbia for graduate study in March 2011, but I deferred my enrollment to Columbia in order to live and work in Ishinomaki and Oshika in June 2011. But, it was never a respectable decision. The reason of my delay was just I didn’t manage my life. Just I didn’t have courage, passion, motivation, or reason to dedicate myself neither to volunteers at northern east nor study at Columbia. For a first few month from April 2011, I shuttled between Tokyo and northern east areas several times, but both of volunteer works or preparation for graduate study were half-hearted. I feel really shame and disrespect myself on that time. One day Yuichi invited me to work with him in Oshika, and I said yes. But it was not purely for rebuilding of disaster area, but rather for myself, to escape from these halfway days, and change myself anyway. Sorry for telling you my really small, silly personal story, but I don’t know a way to deliver you my message apart from my own feeling and experience.

As you see, all of us project members, including Kiwako, Yuriko and me was an imperfect, small individual, but that’s why, we could sincerely and persistently communicate with each other and work together, beyond the difference of each one’s strength and weakness, personality and background. In that sense, any dichotomy that divide us into two categories such as victims or supporters, locals or outsiders, youth or elders, disaster or safe areas, Japan or U.S. becomes meaningless. Even though I moved to Ishinomaki because of my silly, disrespectable reasons, they warmly accepted me. And through living and working with them, I felt I was being helped and empowered by them, and at the same time I felt I was also doing something for them, although I was a youngest member of the projects and an outsider from Ishinomaki and Oshika,.

Then, now I stand here, in front of you. As I told you, I am just an ordinary young person, not a representative of Japan, or northern east disaster area. I am an individual person and I do only talk with my own words. But curiously, while speaking here as an individual, I do feel, at the same time, this is not my word, this is not my life. Who makes me speak here is each person in Japan who empowered and sent me to New York, and each of you here in New York, looking at and listening to me. Now I feel I’m connected with you and with them in Japan. Thus, here is the point, to go beyond borders. We don’t need any fantastic, special tool or magic to make connection, we just need to start from sharing each one’s feelings. Now I’ve told you my story, then I want to listen to your story. Let us have further dialogue, to weave the next chapter of our story that will connect NY and Northern East of Japan. Thank you.


今、皆さんに見ていただいたように、「ぼっぽら食堂」もOCICAも、石巻市牡鹿半島の漁村のお母さんたちのグループによって運営されています。これが地域の地図です。ここが、「ぼっぽら食堂」のある鮎川浜、こちらがOCICAを作っている牧浜です。牡鹿半島は津波と地震で甚大な被害を受けた沿岸地方です。なぜ僕達は彼女たちとこうしたプロジェクトを始めたのでしょうか。なぜ女性たちと一緒に活動したのでしょうか。その理由の一つは、失業問題です。港にある建物は津波でほとんど破壊されてしまいました。主に、牡鹿半島の漁師の奥さんたちは港の施設で、ワカメの仕分け・パッキングや牡蠣の殻剥きなどといった水産加工業に従事していました。 男性は、がれき撤去などの政府による緊急雇用や、船や漁具の修理・買い戻しによる漁業の再開など、女性に比べて比較的早く仕事を再開することができました。しかし、女性にとっては、再び働ける場所ができるまではかなりの時間がかかります。もうひとつの問題として、生活環境が大きく変化してしまったことがあります。お家を失ってしまった人は仮設住宅に移りました。小さな仮設住宅の中で、仕事や友人との会話をしに出かけることもなく独り留まっていることはとても寂しいものです。一方で、お家が無事だった人々もいます。幸運だったと言えるかもしれませんが、仮設住宅に移った、もともとの友人たちと引き離され、交流が途絶えてしまったという点では同じ問題を抱えています。失業問題に加え、生活環境の格差や交流の断絶が、地域コミュニティに影を落としていました。社会における、自分自身の役割や他者との繋がりを失うことは、生きがいや自尊心の喪失につながります。これらは単にお金や食料を寄付するだけでは解決されません。こうした問題に対処するために、僕達は地元の女性たちと―仮設に住む人も無事だったお家に住む人も、30代の若い方から70代の方もみんな一緒に活動を始めました。彼は友廣裕一という、「つむぎや」の代表です。彼女たちはプロジェクトに参加しているお母さんたちです。彼女たちが「ただ寄付をもらったり誰かに助けてもらうだけじゃなくて、自分たちで働きたい!」という思いを語ってくれ、それで僕達は彼女たちや、デザイナーやフォトグラファー、建築士など様々な専門家の方と対話を重ね、プロジェクトを形にしていきました。


彼女はOCICAプロジェクトの参加者、阿部貴和子さんです。彼女はもともと、牧浜の隣にある竹浜という村に住んでいました。彼女のお家も津波で壊されてしまいましたが、竹浜は小さな村だったため仮設住宅が設置されず、彼女は牧浜に建てられた仮設住宅に引っ越すことになりました。プロジェクトが開始して数ヶ月経った後、貴和子さんが僕達に告白してくれたのは、みんなのことをよく知らないため、 牧浜の人たちと一緒に参加することを最初はためらっていたということです。また、何度も辞めようかと迷ったそうです。ご高齢の貴和子さんにとってアクセサリーづくりは大変難しい挑戦でしたから。だけど同時にこうも語ってくださいました。「辞めずに続けてきて本当に良かった。津波は怖かったけど、津波のおかげでみんなと逢えた。本当に幸せだねぇ」と。2012年になって、貴和子さんの様子は目に見えて変わってきました。最初は機械を使った作業を怖がっていて、「私には無理だわぁ。ヤスリがけと糸巻きだけやるから、あとは若い人たちにお願いしたいです」と言っていたのが、ある日僕に、「ドリルと糸鋸の使い方教えてくれますか」と尋ねてきたのです。それで、僕は貴和子さんに工具の使い方を教えました。上達するのには時間がかかりましたが、それでも一歩ずつ確実に、貴和子さんは上達していきました。僕がNew Yorkに旅立つすぐ前、ある夏の日のこと、ついに貴和子さんがOCICA制作の全ての行程を他の人の助けを借りることなくやり遂げたのです。「自分の力で全部出来るようになって、ほんとに嬉しい」と、貴和子さんは語ります。




そして今、僕はここでみなさんの前に立っています。お話した通り、僕はただの平凡な若者に過ぎません。日本や東北被災地の代表ではありません。自分自身の言葉でのみ語ることができる、一個人です。だけど不思議なことに、ここに立って個人として喋っていながら同時に、これは自分の言葉ではない、これは自分の人生ではない、とも感じているのです。僕をここで語らせているのは、僕を力づけ、そしてNew Yorkまで送ってくれた、日本にいる人々です。また、今ここで僕のことを観て、僕の言葉に耳を傾けてくださっている、ここ、New Yorkのあなたたちです。僕はいま、あなたたちと、そして日本のみんなと、繋がっているのだと感じます。だから、ここがボーダーを越える場所なのです。繋がるために、素晴らしく特別な道具や魔法など必要ありません。ただ一人ひとりの感覚を共有することから始めれば良いのです。僕はいま、僕自身の物語をお伝えしました。今度はあなたの物語をきかせてください。ダイアログを、始めましょう。New Yorkと東北を繋ぐ、僕たちの物語の、次の章を紡ぎだすために。どうもありがとうございました。


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