Issue: 2017-02-22, PHOTO: Linda Ohama
Their fishing village totally destroyed, the Sato family searched over months through miles of tsunami debris to find their belongings: a steel pipe, corrugated metal panels, their window and their door are now a mismatched assembly — a hut they call home.
At 2:46 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in 2011, the fourth most powerful earthquake in recorded history hit the Tohoku region of Japan, causing mass devastation, the loss of thousands of lives, and the eventual meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. It was a devastating catastrophe that continues to have an environmental impact on a global scale to this day.
The earthquake triggered tsunami waves as high as 40.5 metres (133 feet) that crashed as far as 10 km inland. The assault was so powerful that it actually moved the main island of Japan 2.4 metres (8 feet) to the east.
While the world watched the Fukushima disaster in horror, worrying about the ramifications of nuclear materials spilling into the Pacific Ocean, the people of Tohoku lost their homes, families and lives to the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit their homeland.
A 2015 report of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake released by the Japanese National Police agency confirmed that 15,894 people had died, 6,152 had been injured, and 2,562 were still missing.
The report also stated that 228,863 people were displaced from their homes in the wake of this disaster. Some members of the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon (JCAY) lost friends and loved ones in the tragedy.
Determined to do more than just watch and worry, JCAY organized a fundraiser – the Japanese Village Festival in April of 2011 – which was attended by more than 800 Yukoners. The event was a huge success, not only raising money for the relief fund, but also generating interest in Japanese culture.
As a result, JCAY was able to send $40,600 to the Japan Red Cross Society for the Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund in 2011. JCAY is very thankful to the Yukon community for their support and generosity during such a difficult time.
This year, JCAY is excited to announce that as part of the 2017 Japanese Film festival, there will be a screening of the documentary film A New Moon Over Tohoku (東北の新月) at the Yukon Art Centre at 2:30 p.m. on March 5. The film’s award-winning director and producer, Linda Ohama, will be in attendance and will be holding a question and answer period after the film.
When asked about the message she hopes to convey in the film, Ohama responded, “It's a moving and inspiring story of how people find real joy, love and meaning in life again… even in the face of extreme loss. In our busy, cluttered world filled with stress… we tend to forget how to see and appreciate the simple things in our lives that can fill us with positive energy, joy and strength.”
In the wake of the 2011 tragedy, Ohama, a third generation Canadian with Japanese ancestry, travelled to Tohoku as a relief volunteer. She quickly found that what the people around her wanted most was someone to help them tell their stories, stories of loss and heartbreak, of fear and devastation, but also of love and endurance.
In the movie’s trailer, viewable at www.LindaOhama.com one survivor tells the camera, “I have a duty as a survivor to do much more now for my children and grandchildren… for the people of my town and the world.”
The documentary has received rave reviews at film festivals in Vancouver, Toronto, Rome and Hawaii.
Environmental Activist David Suzuki has urged that this is, “A must-see film for all concerned about humanity’s unthinking embrace of powerful technology as well as the inspiration of the human spirit.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that it, "Captures the heartache of loss in the subjects' own words, but delivers a life affirming message of hope in the face of adversity."
While this film serves as a warning of the environmental cost of our energy consumption, it is also a film about the endurance of the people and the community of Tohoku. In the wake of a tragedy, it reminds us that love, compassion and hope are the most powerful tools for rebuilding a community.
Tickets to A New Moon Over Tohoku (東北の新月) are $10, and can be purchased through the Yukon Arts Centre. Refreshments will be provided.
The Japanese Film Festival starts on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall with the film A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story. This a free event, and light refreshments will be served.
To learn more, or to get involved with the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon, please contact JCAY president Fumi Torigai at JCAYukon@gmail.com.