NATORI, Miyagi Prefecture--Elementary school pupils in the Yuriage district here have created a musical instrument from tsunami debris to help them overcome the horrors of the disaster that destroyed the area last year.
Norihiko Kuwayama, a 49-year-old psychiatrist, organized the project in April after learning that some of the children were showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Organizing thoughts by combining the scattered memories of the disaster can help prevent PTSD,” he said.
On April 26, Kuwayama led a group of 10 children from Yuriage Elementary School to the shore to search through the remaining debris.
After an hour, they gathered the collected debris in one place.
“Let’s see if it makes a sound,” a child said, showing a piece of debris.
They made noises on the pieces by striking them with a wooden plectrum. An electronic keyboard was used to see if the children had enough pieces to complete a scale.
Two notes were missing, so they continued to “play” the debris until they found the right pieces. They let out a cheer when a metallic piece created the final “mi” sound.
The instrument, resembling a xylophone, was named “garekki,” from the Japanese words “gareki” (debris) and “gakki” (musical instrument).
“It is sad to see debris, but it is fun to create various sounds by playing (the garekki),” a boy in the fourth grade said, smiling.
More than 900 people in Natori died in the tsunami that struck on March 11 last year.
Most of the children in the area lost their homes and still attend classes at an elementary school inland.
Kuwayama plans to hold a garekki concert for parents and local residents. One song the children have played on the garekki is from a poem about the tsunami:
“The earthquake and tsunami that occurred that day
I lost everything important
I won’t forget even if the area is reduced to rubble
My friends, how I felt when reunited with family
Sad experiences I have gone through
I do not want to see the day that swept away everything come again.”
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