Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXIV

Old archives in wooden box, Onagawacho

Published on 30 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Daisuke Sato

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 124

The drifted old archives in wooden box, Onagawacho, Miyagi Prefecture

This is Daisuke Sato, secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. On May 12th, because the secretariat office received the request from the section for preserving cultural property in Onagawacho’s Board of education, we visited to accept the old archives waterlogged by the Tsunami.

The centre of Onagawacho.jpg
The centre of Onagawacho

Our target was a part of the archives which were designated as a town property of the Edo Period. All of the owner’s buildings which included the white washed warehouse which preserved the archives were washed away by the Tsunami and disappeared. Moreover, the whole district was also completely destroyed, according to the aerial photograph taken after the quake. Fortunately the owner family is safe and they are taking shelter out of the town at present.

The sequence of finding these archives was, according to the person concerned, as follows. The day when these archives reached the town office was April 28th, and 40 days had already passed. The person who brought them to the office was a villager, and there lies a cove between the place where the villager lives and the town where the owner lives.

The villager’s living place was also destroyed by the Tsunami, so the residents were taking shelter on the height, and everyday they went down to the village and searched for their possessions where their house had been. At that time, they found a wooden box floating with the old archives in it. The villager judged that it must be precious materials, so he entrusted it to the passing transporter to bring them to the Board of education.

The Onagawacho town office which is located in the centre of the town was also seriously damaged by the Tsunami, so the old archived were turned over to the Onagawacho Sports Complex which was the evacuation place of the town office.

Although the town officers carried out necessary measures, they had a prior responsibility to treat and respond to the sufferers, therefore they requested us to rescue these archives through Mr. Keiichi Shoji who was a representative of the Ishinomaki Archive Club.

Sorry to say about my private affairs though, on the day when I accepted the archives, I had a lecture in the university as I was a part-time lecturer. For this reason, I had prepared for the class till dawn and finished the class in the morning, after that, I rushed to Onagawacho with Ms.Miki Takahashi who also had come from Tokyo as a member of the Miyagi Network.

The wooden box.jpg
The wooden box

As for the Minato district and Tonami district, Ishinomaki City which were located on the way to Onagawacho, the operation for removing debris hasn’t progressed so much. In terms of the centre of Onagawacho, as the media is frequently broadcasting how catastrophic the situation is, such as even how buildings whose constructions were made with reinforced concrete had been eradicated. In the Sports Complex, there are still a lot of people who were forced to seek refuge.

In spare moments from their work, the person responsible for cultural affairs welcomed us, and he told us that it was pretty nice that we could find these archives even though they were in partial condition. In the wooden box which had been used for containing tea leaf, there were some envelopes still wet although 2 months had passed after the Tsunami which were partially mouldy.

According to the officer, he got the owner’s consent that we, the Miyagi Network could preserve these archives through the town office, so we turned back to Sendai as soon as we received them. With regard to these archives, so as to carry out the operation for vacuum dry freezing the same as the archives of the ‘S’ family in Ohunato City whose operation was introduced in Miyagi Network News vol.120 and 122, and other waterlogged archives which were brought into the secretariat office on May 10th.

All of them were transferred to the refrigerator warehouse managed by the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties which carries out the repairs for the documents damaged by the Tsunami. Afterwards, the owner gave a message to the secretariat office and it said that he had abandoned his archives once but as they partially remained he wanted to express his gratitude for our operation.

loading onto the wagon.jpg
Inside of the box

The wooden box was a very ordinary one and it seemed that there was no trace to be sealed. Moreover, when we brought it up so as to transfer it, the bottom was likely to fall through. In such a Tsunami strong enough to destroy concrete-made buildings, I wondered how it could survive intact and unopened. We agreed with the officer that there was nothing to say except it must be miracle.

However, what I want to emphasise over anything else is that the old archives were brought by the local people who experienced the trauma of seeing his house and hometown washed away. Even whilst having difficulties reconstructing his own life and although the archives were not his possession, he paid attention to their value and reacted in a proper way. I honestly can’t stop from being moved at his actions.

We are very proud of participating in the preservation of the historical properties saved by the local people, at the same time, we keenly felt our responsibility to direct all our energies to enable them to be passed down for the coming 1000 years.

Confirming its condition

According to the town officers, because the historical materials which were preserved on higher ground or islands were safe, they will try to confirm their present condition and to take action themselves in their spare time as much as possible. We will also continuously try to cooperate in preserving historical materials in Onagawacho in response to their wishes.

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

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