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Ishinomaki Kawabiraki Festival Report Vol. 3

This post is a continuation from the Ishinomaki Kawabiraki Festival Reports Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Calls of “Heave-ho! Heave-ho!”

On August 1, the second day of the Kawabiraki Festival, there were many high-spirited voices flying about the shopping arcade on Tachi town’s main street. If you looked closely at the mikoshi (portable shrine) which was named the “Recovery Mikoshi,” you could see that it was made of debris such as ropes and buoys used for fishing and empty cans. The mikoshi was made mainly by volunteers from the nonprofit organization “On the Road” which is conducting volunteer activities with Peace Boat in Ishinomaki. The local people of Ishinomaki and the volunteers carried the mikoshi together in the festival.

The main street of Tachi town was hit by a tsunami of more than 2 meters in height and the first floor of shops on the street was covered with sludge. Over the past 4 and a half months, volunteers came here many times to clear away mud. Amongst those sweating as they carried the mikoshi were staff who have been working in the affected areas long-term, volunteers who have come to the area many times to help, and people who knew what the shopping arcade looked like immediately following the earthquake and tsunami. As the mikoshi passed in front of stores that had re-opened, the store owners waved and cheered.

Photograph taken in front of Kouzan in Kotobuki-cho in April. The Tachi town main street is in the background.
The photographs below are of the area in April (photos by Yoshinori Ueno)

4 and a half months after the disaster occurred, the street which had previously been full of sludge and piles of broken housing and furniture was clean enough to hold a parade. The liveliness of the area is continuing to come back bit by bit.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Disneyland came to take part in the parade. There was an Anpanman show as well, and the children were very happy! Local dances were of course performed as well.

Below is a photograph of the “Lively Exchange Square,” next to the Ishinomaki City Hall. This is where member groups of the Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery Assistance Council Inc. (IDRAC) set up booths and facilitated active discussions with the local people who came to the festival.

Many people came to visit Peace Boat’s booth saying that they wanted to have some time to speak with the volunteers who had worked so quickly to help so far.

Peace Boat also wanted to express its appreciation to the local people for welcoming the volunteers into the area by presenting messages of support from around the world, dolls from India and “LUNA SEA paper fans” donated by musician SUGIZO from the band LUNA SEA, who has dedicated great efforts to volunteering in Ishinomaki.

On the main stage in the square, the chairman of the Ishinomaki Chamber of Commerce, which organized the festival, and the mayor of Ishinomaki acknowledged the ongoing volunteer efforts as well, stating confidently that “Ishinomaki will do its best to match the energy of the volunteers!”

There were also live music performances and performances by local children. These performances included Hidakami Taiko (Japanese drums), wind-instrument performances, and performances of famous songs by musicians including KGDR who came to show their support. The people of Ishinomaki were excited when Ishikawa Sayuri, a famous enka (traditional Japanese music) singer, appeared on stage!
The MC for the event was Fukushima Katsushige, a Japanese comedian who is now known as a leader of the Peace Boat volunteers.

Although some people surely had complicated emotions towards the holding of the Kawabiraki Festival, on the day as the parade and the events on the stage were held a great feeling of togetherness of the local people and the volunteers was felt. All worked and sweated together, cried together and laughed together. Over the past 4 and a half months, the distance between the volunteers coming from outside and the local people of Ishinomaki has become much closer.

We hope that the people of Ishinomaki will continue to welcome the many more volunteers who will continue to come to the area to offer support.