On March 11, 2011 a record-breaking combination of an earthquake and tsunami struck the Northeastern coast of Japan. Yamada, a small coastal town located in the prefecture of Iwate, was one of the many devastated communities in the disaster. It lost over 800 lives and thousands of homes to the massive tsunami. To this day, the effects are still visible throughout the town.
With massive reconstruction plans in place, the town is said to recover in about 10 years. While new homes and businesses mark the physical transformation, many residents are still emotionally recovering after losing loved ones and prized possessions.
In 2011, my family and I raised funds for the Takahashi family. At the time, I had only communicated with them through emails and letters. Finally in August of 2015, I got the privilege to meet the family in person. Using my broadcast journalism skills that I had learned throughout high school, I wanted to create something that would reinvigorate awareness as well as show how a community recovers after such a devastating disaster. I set out to make a documentary project involving a short film documentary specifically on the Takahashi family, in addition to other videos and articles on the different aspects of the town.
From just one project, I was able to meet so many incredibly kind and selfless people, who had even more inspiring stories to share. Although I definitely had to step out of my comfort bubble to make this project a reality, it was 150% worth it. Speaking to the people of Yamada and hearing about their experiences with this life-changing disaster made me realize the fragility of life and the things that we deem as completely ordinary. If anyone is able to take away any kind of emotion, lesson, or inspiration from this documentary, that would make my dream come true.
I am forever grateful for the community of Yamada and the Takahashi family for letting me delve into their lives in order to share their unique stories. I also owe a million thanks to my parents for their supporting of this adventure, and especially to my mother who came with me to Yamada.
ありがとう、やまだ町。がんばれ！("Thank you Yamada town. You can do this!")
You can donate to the Iwate International Association (link above) to aid in the recovery of all of the seaside towns in the prefecture, including Yamada.
Read about my other encounters in Yamada, like with a not-so typical taxi driver and a courageous local chef. Also visit my BLOG tab to see more of my personal insights and experiences while in Japan.