A meeting between an artist and a resident whose pet died in last year's Great East Japan Earthquake led to a traveling exhibition now under way showing drawings of animals lost in the disaster.
Fifty-eight painters and authors of picture books in Japan, Italy, Taiwan and the Netherlands volunteered their time and effort to draw images for the exhibition titled, "Precious Little Lives Lost in the Earthquake."
The idea originated when picture book author Usa, who lives in Chiba Prefecture, visited stricken Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, last October as a volunteer and met a disaster victim who had lost a pet.
The victim told Usa: "I cannot forget the last time I saw my pet. Now that I have lost all photos of my pet, I do not feel as though I can move forward."
Usa explained how she came up with the idea of the traveling exhibition.
"By drawing an image of the animal in happier times, I wanted to bring together the owners with the animals in heaven," she said.
Usa distributed fliers at temporary housing facilities and asked local government offices to inform residents. By December, requests had been received from 45 individuals in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures for pictures of their lost pets.
Descriptions of the animals were gathered through letters and photos sent in by the owners. Some of the works went beyond just the pet, including images of insects and flora as a way of praying for the repose of all things that perished in the earthquake and tsunami.
Work continues in the Tohoku region to reunite owners with their pets.
To spread awareness among individuals who may not own pets, a decision was made to hold the traveling exhibition from March not only in disaster areas such as Miyagi Prefecture but also in Nagoya.
One woman who lost her pet dog that was left behind at her home in Sendai's Miyagino Ward regrets not fleeing with her pet.
After the drawing of her pet dog was completed, she became very happy because she could see her pet every day. She visited the exhibition in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, near where she now lives in temporary housing, to lift her spirits. She has even accompanied Usa on the route she often used to walk her dog.
Admission to the traveling exhibition is free. A schedule of upcoming exhibitions as well as further information is available in English at (http://www.chiisanainochi.com/english/top-e.html).
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