© 2018 All reserved by Mayumi SUZUKI

The Place to Belong  now in progress

   Since the massive tsunami of 2011, I have become interested in the layers of history in my hometown, Onagawa. Why do people continue to live here in this town, in spite of being hit by a tsunami many times? I felt I had lost my identity when our hometown was destroyed by the tsunami and I lost my parents.

    Actually, I would be the third generation photographer from my family, yet I had no real knowledge about my town, not even that there were other disasters in the past. My grandfather started his business in 1930, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the town just three years later, but he managed to rebuild his photo studio. Later my father took over the studio when he was 21 years old, then in 1960 another tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile, South America hit the town, but he also reconstructed his studio.  

    Thinking about the whole town now, many families are continuing their business onto the next generation. The majority are fisherman, they have overcome all the difficulties by themselves and managed to reconstruct. What is it that gives them such a strong attachment to their hometown? Because they have a strong family bond. We work for our families and nurture the next generation. Children will grow up looking back at the lives of their parents. I have learned the importance of family ties here from my father's work where he had taken memorial photos for many other families. Will advances in technology and better town planning help protect future generations from natural disasters as much as learning from the past or understanding nature by experience ? No matter how the town changes shape the importance of the family does not change. In the Tohoku region, we have faith in worshipping nature in addition to Buddhism and Shinto, such as believing in the god of the sea. Even if nature bites us with a huge tsunami, we are not deterred by natural disasters, we are grateful for the benefits from the sea.

   We can hopefully shape the future by learning from the past. I believe each personal family's history adds a layer onto the history of this town. I try to visualise this process by mixing residents portraits with archive pictures from the town.

The survival of the families and the revitalization of the hometown will lead to the restoration of personal identity and create new Civic pride. Through this project, I am trying to regain this too, because I feel what I have lost is the same as many residents have experienced.

   The population of the town before March 2011 was ten thousand people, it has now decreased to only around six thousand people. I hope this project will help the next generation to learn from the past and survive into the future and beyond.