SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Lindsay Ray Morrison “Fukushima Study Tour :Our old home is made of earth (soil)”
I visited Iitate Village as a member of the SGRA Fukushima Study Tour from May 25 to 27, 2018, early in the summer. As it was my third visit to Iitate, I felt comfortable and at ease, and came back to Tokyo feeling refreshed and healed by the nature in Iitate rather than taking it as a “serious study tour”.
Whenever I go to Iitate, I feel more and more relieved by the lessening risk of danger.
Especially this time, as I did not bring a dosimeter I could feel more at ease. If I had brought a dosimeter, my consciousness would be fraught by thinking about the danger around me. I recall feeling courageous upon arrival in Iitate in the past, but upon taking out the dosimeter I would start to get tense.
Iitate Village has changed a lot compared with my last visit. We could see newly built buildings here and there and a new highway as well. The village was busy with construction work. Such construction seems to be done in order to use the reconstruction budget, and I do hope that they will be beneficial to the villagers. I still have doubts as to whether such construction projects are for the benefit of construction companies, and not for the benefit of villagers. If that is the case, then it is not true restoration.
Only 700 villagers have returned to Iitate. However, most of them return during the day only and live elsewhere at night. Mr. Muneo Kanno (Chief of Agriculture Committee of Iitate) regrets that reconstruction countermeasures by the government were not sufficient for the villagers who wanted to return. He is concerned about taxpayers’ precious money which will be wasted and not used for reconstruction..
I wonder whether the young villagers really want to return. There are not few who do not want to return after having settled down in evacuation destinations or other villages. According to Mr. Eitoku Kanno, “when a road is completed, the area becomes weaker”. What he meant was that when an exit is completed, the young will move out in search of a more convenient life. He could not understand the difference of such values between generations. He understands people who get out of villages have to live an uneasy life bound by money, because people can live in towns with enough money. In the case of farmers, they can live if they have water, air and soil (land). He said “I cannot understand why the young want to live a life in towns, a life which clings to money”. And he, feeling responsible, regretted that the young had left the village because he could not succeed in maintaining the culture of the village or passing down the importance of their history.
After we listened to Mr. Kanno’s thoughts, we, as SGRA members, discussed how to restore Iitate and proposed cultural events which might lead to the restoration of the village. Mr. Kanno taught us many things. “In the past, there was a festival which gathered more than 30 thousand people at Yamatumi Shrine. This shrine was built 970 years ago and became a central symbol of Iitate. According to the historical records of the shrine, a white fox appeared in a dream of Yoriyosi Minamoto (a samurai, 988-1075) and Yamatumi Shrine became a symbol of the cult of the fox. Before the Meiji era, there were a lot of such shrines alongside the Pacific coast. But, after the Meiji era, the number of the shrines in which the fox is enshrined decreased. During festivals at Yamatumi Shrine, “Shishimai” (Japanese lion dance) used to be performed. However, after a crop failure once the Shishimai performance was stopped.”
We had a party on Saturday night, and there we met Mr. Kenta Sato, an assemblyman of Iitate, He said he wants to revive ”Kagura” sacred music and dance. He thought that if festivals or cultural activities such as “ Kagura” were revived and brought back, Iitate would be restored. As his idea was similar to ours, we, Mr. Kato and SGRA members agreed that it would be good if festivals or dances with a connection to folklore or history could be established. A shrine is not only the center of annual events, but it shows relations through blood and local community. As a shrine is, at the same time, the symbol of regionalism, it would be best if we could start a new Iitate event centered around Yamatumi Shrine.
The experience of rice-planting this time left a deep impression on me. Eleven years have already passed since I came to Japan, but this was my first experience of rice-planting. The rice-field was muddier than I expected and it was very hard for me to walk in such a muddy field. However, when I touched the soft and rich nourishing soil, a feeling of pleasantness and comfort came over me. Though I have atopy, the soil did not seem to affect my hand and in fact I thought it made it better. Exercising and breathing outside, touching the soil – these experiences made me once again realize the healing power of nature
After rice-planting, we had “SANABURI”, a kind of naorai (feast). Naorai is an event in which people share their offerings after a festival and SANABURI is also a feast after rice-planting in which people pray for a good harvest and give offerings to the God of rice fields and enjoy dinner while exchanging “sake”.
When I lied down in my room after coming back to Tokyo on Sunday evening, I had a strange feeling. I still had the feeling of rice-planting in my legs, the feeling of walking in the soft and muddy field after standing on hard pebbled ground. This feeling of rice-planting remains in my body. It is like the feeling I get when I swim during the day – at night I still feel that I was swimming. It made me consider how the way a person moves and works could permeate into their body.
I could not easily remove the soil which stuck to my skin or the reverse side of my nails, not even by washing with soap. I thought it strange how I usually do not touch the soil and recalled what a real estate agent had told me. When I shared a room in Tokyo a few years ago, he told me that the small front yard of our house would be covered with concrete soon, using the word “clean” to describe this. I felt strong antipathy toward the word “clean” for “concrete”. Is it truly clean up to cover soil with concrete?
This may be usual for people who live in cities now.
Nowadays, people are departing from touching soil. It may be true that it is unnecessary for people to touch soil. But, is this the only experience that we have lost?
Is there anything else besides soil what we have forgotten?
As I have lived in the city for a long time, my body has become accustomed to city life. The smell of city life has sunk into our bodies. As Mr. Kanno said, I also feel guilty of my life which I live for money and consumption.
I hope the young rice seedlings which I planted will grow without problem. I am filled with both worry and anticipation.
I look forward to visiting Iitate again.
(Lindsay Ray Morrison / Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities, Musashi University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sonja Dale