Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXXII

Preserviation activities in Karakuwacho, Kesennuma City

Published on 19 June 2011

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

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 132

Under the Auspicious Clouds

The preservation activity for the damaged old structure in Karakuwacho, Kesennuma City

This is Daisuke Sato, secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Material. 3 months has passed since the quake. The progress for the reconstruction started gradually yet the serious situation is still continuing in the devastated area, especially in the coastal area.

The following is a report about the preservation activities for the old structure damaged by the quake in Karakuwacho, Kesennuma City. We carried out the operation in the field from 7th to 8thof June.

Covering the walls with vinyl sheet.jpg
Covering the walls with vinyl sheet

The target was the house which the Miyagi Network had once investigated their old archives and had preserved them. After the quake, we visited them to confirm the extent of the damage on April 30th. Although the area where the residence was located was catastrophically damaged by the Tsunami, fortunately this family was saved from the damage, and the old archives were also preserved.

The whitewashed warehouse where the historical documents had been preserved was also approximately safe along with her inner structure such as pillars. However two parts of the mud walls were seriously damaged as you could see the insides through the fallen parts, so the old archives faced the risk of being soaked by the rain.

Therefore, on 30th April, we had transferred the documents to the place where the rain could be avoided, at the same time we conducted urgent measures for the whitewashed warehouse to cover the walls with vinyl sheets.

After the previous inspection on April 30th, we were apprehensive that the treated walls would be damaged again, along with which the old archives would be drenched by the heavy rain and wind of the no.2 typhoon at the end of May.

In addition, there was a risk that the pillars of the whitewashed warehouse would decay due to the interruption of the airway under the floor by the collapse of the mud walls, so we had to react to this situation.

Digging the fallen mud walls.jpg
Digging the fallen mud walls

Meanwhile, during the previous investigation, we had asked whether we could record the circumstances of the main house and whitewashed warehouse which ware built around the 30s of the Meiji Period(*) including the surroundings and the landform, and the master of the house had accepted our suggestion.

As for this project, Mr.Toshihiro Sato who is a leader for the architects’ team of the Miyagi Network will organise the architects living in Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kansai area and the students who major in architecture into the inspection team, and they will carry out the project in July.

This time’s activity combined the advance inspection of that. As an advance party, Mr.Hiroshi Ota, a lecturer of the Institute of Industrial Science, at the University of Tokyo, and his 8 students accompanied us.

The preservation of the structure is the operation where the fallen mud walls are dug by shovels and are stuffed into sandbags. This mud will be available for use in the future restoration. We were unaccustomed to this work, so we scraped the skin of our palms and we felt pain from head to foot, especially in our waists and knees.

However, because this mud was piled up to 50cm in height and 10m in length, we couldn’t finish removing it all during the 2 days. In this time, we dug 2 metres long and secured the airway to under the floor of the east side of the warehouse where the old archives were preserved, and finished the operation. Then we carried out the investigation of the whitewashed warehouse, and finished surveying the east side of warehouse.

At the same time, the present issue for the community is how to reconstruct the community. According to the master of the house as a head of the ward, he wanted to plan their upcoming reconstruction based on the lives that their ancestors and community people have lived based around and connected with the sea for hundreds years.

He enthusiastically told his house and the community’s circumstances to us and the participants from Tokyo including the overseas students, so we could feel his keen desire to let us know the Karakuwa’s environment and the present condition after the disaster.

The sandbags.jpg
The sandbags

What we can do for the participation in the plan for reconstruction is to go along with the wish of the master of the family, with regard to the field of the preservation of the historical materials. There is nothing but to offer the previous inspection data. Simultaneously, to watch how the result of historical investigation will reflect on the reconstruction plan is strongly connected to the issue of whether the research results should be returned to society.

I personally anticipate that the activity in Karakuwa, Kesennuma City will become a model case when we consider to record the community’s memory by the interdisciplinary survey and to return the research results to society.

During the investigation activity, we could see auspicious clouds in the sky. It is an Atmospheric Optics and so-called ‘indecent clouds’ to give it the technical term, this was said to be a sign or prophecy of good omen since ancient times. According to the master of the house, it was said that those clouds appeared after the great disasters though, we also saw them after the quake and it meant this would be a sign that we could advance towards a brighter direction.

We strongly hope that the activity for the reconstruction in Karakuwa will progress to be a more forward-looking one based on the residents’ wish.

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

*Meiji Period (明治時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

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