HIROSHIMA--A project based in Hiroshima is using "kamishibai," a traditional art form that uses large picture boards to illustrate a storyteller’s narrative, to depict the experiences of victims of last year's Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident.
At a performance in Hiroshima on May 5, the life of Yasuko Sasaki, 83, who was forced to evacuate to temporary housing in Koori, Fukushima Prefecture, from her home in Namie because of the nuclear disaster, formed the basis of the story.
A 71-year-old woman in the audience said: "This is not just a story about someone else. Tears came to my eyes when I thought of how terrible it must have been to go through such a sudden earthquake."
A 68-year-old man said: "I was really drawn into the kamishibai. I hope they can rebuild as soon as possible."
Michie Shinta, 72, who lives in Hiroshima's Nishi Ward and lost her parents to the Hiroshima atomic bomb, was involved in the production and underlined the parallels between Fukushima’s experience of the destructive power of nuclear energy and Hiroshima’s.
"Hiroshima suffered from negative rumors. People said that grass and trees would never grow here again," Shinta said. "I want to share in the feelings of the people of Fukushima and continue to cheer them on."
Two Hiroshima-based groups are involved in the project--Volunteer Hiroshima, which is providing support to rebuilding efforts in Fukushima, and Machi Monogatari Seisaku Iinkai (Community story production committee), which is striving to revitalize communities through kamishibai.
The groups have completed 22 works and are seeking to have a repertoire of 100 in three years.
Hidenobu Fukumoto, the 55-year-old secretary-general of both groups, came up with the idea of using kamishibai after a visit to temporary housing facilities in Fukushima Prefecture last December.
During the visit, Fukumoto met with residents with little prospect of returning to the homes in which they had spent much of their lives and people who were willing to risk their lives to return to their homes.
"With little progress being made in rebuilding, the suffering of the disaster victims appears to have increased," Fukumoto said. "I hope they can once again get contact with their hometowns through the kamishibai."
Other members of the two groups have visited the disaster areas to record local folk tales, which helps interaction with local communities and gets disaster victims to talk among themselves about the folk memories of their communities.
Sasaki, who had recorded folk tales for many years, proved to be a goldmine. She turned over written records of folk tales from the Namie area that she had recorded over many years to the kamishibai project after retrieving them from her home in Namie during a brief visit.
When a performance was held in March in Koori, about 100 people showed up and there was plenty of emotion among the audience. Sasaki has since been admitted to hospital.
"Whether I die or live, I don't know if I can ever return to my home," Sasaki said. "I am very grateful that the folk tales can be remembered in the form of kamishibai. I hope the young people living in temporary housing will pass on those tales through the kamishibai."
The two groups are planning to hold a kamishibai festival in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in December.
And a senior high school in Hiroshima is planning to produce an animation version of the kamishibai based on Sasaki's experiences. There are also plans to make digital versions.
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