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Oct

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Fire-lighting ceremony: Takahashi Tokuji Store commences operations!

On October 1, the long-standing business of the Takahashi Tokuji Store, established in 1905, recommenced business operations. This report is about the “fire-lighting ceremony” which was held to celebrate this occasion.

At the time of the disaster in March, a 7-meter tsunami hit the store which was producing kamaboko (minced fish products) and the store was filled with mud of 20cm in depth.

The factory had no choice but to cease production after the disaster. Company president Mr Takahashi took charge of clearing away the mud and sludge bit by bit, and working towards the day when operations could be recommenced. Many people helped with the mud clearing and other clean-up efforts, including local association members and employees of the store’s clients.

Peace Boat volunteers also started helping with cleaning activities from mid-August. It was necessary to thoroughly clean the pipes and gutters because the factory handles the manufacture of food products.

In order to sterilize surface areas, they were first sprayed with water, then wiped with a chlorine solution and then wiped down with water again. This process was done repeatedly. The factory ceilings were high and so the cleaning process required perseverance.

The work was done thoroughly and at a fast pace. The cleaning process was somehow able to be finished by the day before the fire-lighting ceremony.

Over 50 people including consumers and clients came from all over Japan to support the fire-lighting ceremony. Messages and letters of support collected from all over Japan were put up on the walls of the factory. The many messages show the trust and expectation that the store has gained over the many years of production of good quality additive-free products.

During the ceremony there was a blessing ritual and an Urayasu dance was performed to pray for the company’s future development.

Company president Mr Takahashi gave the following greeting:

“We will never let this fire go out, and never put this fire out. We will make the fire grow bigger. This is what will support us and give us the strength to continue walking forward from here on.”

Then it was time for the main event – time to ignite the machines!

The ignition fires of the production were lit for the first time, approximately 200 days after the disaster occurred.

Production of the popular Otofu-age (fried tofu) product was commenced! It looks delicious!

Freshly made Otofu-age was handed out to the people attending the ceremony. Everyone enjoyed being able to try the very first items off the production line – it was a very moving event.

The factory employees looked so happy after the first Otofu-age was made.

After the ceremony finished, Mr Takahashi (photo: left) said, “It doesn’t quite feel real yet, but I am sure that I will become happier and happier as the days go by.”

Peace Boat volunteer Aki (photo: right) was involved in the cleaning activities of the store for over a month. She joyfully commented, “I can’t quite express how I felt when the machines that we had made spotlessly clean with our own hands were lit for the first time. I am so happy that I was able to see this day.”

We hope that the step that the Takahashi Tokuji Store has taken will continue to warm the hearts of the residents of Ishinomaki.

 

Photos: Suzuki Shoichi