Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXVIII

Evidence in Sendai City

Published on 3 June 2011

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

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 128

The evidence which remains and will be conveyed in Sendai City

This is Daisuke Sato, as a secretariat office. Today we will introduce the report of the preservation activites in Sendai City.

The coastline area of Sendai City, as Mr.Shinichiro Kurihara had reported in our Network News vol.121, was seriously damaged by the Tsunami. The Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials which is engaged in Sendai City with the cooperation of various institutions was contacted by a resident who lived in the coastline area about the urgent measures for the old archives waterlogged by seawater on May 10th.

According to him, when he had requested volunteers to clean up his house, the letter box which contained the archives had been discovered. As for our activities, he heard from his acquaintance, and he directly brought them to our secretariat office at night on the day when he contacted us.

The old documents and scrolls.jpg
The old documents and scrolls

The black-lacquered letter box, which was just the same size as a A4 version notebook, closely contained the historical documents and scrolls (approximately 30 pieces in total.) He said that his ancestor had attended upon Masamune Date(*1) as a Bugei(*2) master, and had been given a piece of land where his family still live. These archives were indeed the historical documents which proved those historical facts. Fortunately, the extent of waterlogging was not so serious, so the secretariat members carried out the urgent measure spraying ethanol to dry them.

Simultaneously, according to him, although the barn which stored the old utensils was washed away by the Tsunami, some materials which remained under his hand were placed in his house, and then he offered to explain the actual situation of the damaged area himself in the field. We knew his difficult circumstances though, we accepted his kind offer and we scheduled to visit his place on May 16th. On the day, we headed to his house accompanied by Mr Hiroki Hatai as a curator of Sendai City Museum for History and Folklore, and 3 members of secretariat office.

Carrying out the urgent measure.jpg
Carrying out the urgent measure

On the way to the village located in the coastline area, in the same situation as the devastated area as we had visited before, a lot of debris and vehicles were left behind in the paddy fields. The village in which remained the traditional style pathways, or so-called ‘Kagimage’ since the Edo Period(*3), many houses kept their original form before the quake, so we speculated that it vouched for the report mentioning that the barrier woods which were planted along the coastline resisted the power of the Tsunami to a certain extent.

However, in most of the houses were flooded up to their ground floor or the traces which indicated flooding remained on the windows and the walls. Furthermore, we sometimes found the mark forming a white ‘X’, which meant that the bodies of the victims had been recovered from there.

According to the master of the family, although the letter box had been usually placed on the Tokonoma(*4), it had dropped down right below. He also said that the degree of the Tsunami was intensive enough to destroy the house though, surprisingly the letter box stayed there. We can say that these old archives were also saved from the disaster miraculously.

He never heard from his mother that a great Tsunami attacked the area where he lived, moreover, because when the 2010 Chile Earthquake occurred nothing happened here although the Tsunami warning had been announced, therefore he had thought that this time would be safe too.

If he had stayed alone and his grand-son had not made him evacuate together, probably he couldn’t have survived, he said. We couldn’t confirm the existence of other old archives though, we could hear his precious experience about the situation when the earthquake and the Tsunami occurred and his intense passion for the oncoming reconstruction.

Afterward, according to him, there is a possibility that the village where his family have lived since the early Edo Period will disappear. However, he had a wish to research the village’s history as of the present, and also hoped to construct the new town based on those results.

In terms of the old archives which we have preserved, not only they have the meaning of the family’s origin from the early Edo Period, but also they let us gain the new meaning of spirit for the community’s development. We have already finished to carry out the urgent measure for the archives, to take photos of all materials, and to pack them into the envelopes made from alkaline paper.

We will try to consider how to make use of these archives for the community and investigate the village’s history cooperating with the local people and the institutions concerned.

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

*1 Masamune Date(伊達政宗):1567-1636. at 18 years old, he succeeded to a house and after that obtained the present Tohoku area with battles. After the Tokugawa Shogunate coming, he became the first lord of Sendai Domain.

*2 Bugei(武芸): the general term of Japanese traditional martial arts which included the swordsmanship, spearmanship, archermanship, and other unarmed fighting techniques.

*3 Edo Period(江戸時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1603 to 1868.

*4 Tokonoma(床の間): a kind of interior decoration in the traditional Japanese Tatami room.

Back to previous page