Participants enjoying folk songs
From 17th to 19th June, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) organized the tour of concert events held at community spaces in temporary housing complexes in Fukushima Prefecture. The popular entertainer Nekohachi EDOYA and 6 folk singers and musicians entertained the evacuees living in the temporary housing complexes, making them laugh from the bottom of their heart.
The tour was scheduled to cover 10 venues in just 3 days and the total number of the audience for 10 concerts amounted to 402 people. Many of them were elderly people living in the temporary housing complexes, who are unable to return home due to the concern over radiation exposure caused by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Led by the cheerful, fun and smooth MC by Mr. Nekohachi, who is well known for his performance of mimicking animals, the event began with the vigorous session of tsugaru shamisen (traditional Japanese string instrument). The audience then enjoyed powerful folk songs performed by 3 folk singers including Mr. Masao Suzuki, who was originally from Soma City of Fukushima Prefecture. Needless to say, Mr. Nekohachi’s performance of mimicking a bush warbler was very popular among the audience, making them laugh heartily and helping them forget the stress from their daily lives. In the latter part of the event, the performers answered the requests from the audience and sung several local folk songs originated from the area, which moved many of the audience to tears with nostalgic feelings. At the finale of the event, ‘Soma Bonka’ was performed. As soon as the song began, the audience voluntarily stood up one after another and started dancing making a big circle. Soma Bonka is a song that reminds people of a sense of unity among the community- it used to be played at ‘Bon dance festival’, a Japanese seasonal festival usually held by local communities. After the communities in Soma area were broken apart as the disaster survivors evacuated and were dispersed to different temporary housing complexes, they had few chances for community gathering and greatly missed it. The audience danced lightly and cheerfully as if they were back in the old days.
After the event, many of the audience gave remarks that they felt so brightened up, which had not happened for a while. There used to be many of such events in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake but the number significantly decreases after two years have passed since the disaster. Here are some remarks from the audience.
‘This is my first time to attend such a fun event. Many people lost their lives because of the tsunami in this area and I myself was drawn as well. I am feeling better day by day but I’ve never had such a cheerful feeling.’ - A woman aged 62, who participated in the event at the community space at Gongenzawa Temporary Housing Complex
‘I have not laughed so heartily for a long time. Right after the earthquake and tsunami, I was just struggling to survive and did not really think about my life. Now that I have more time, I often think about the hardship I am facing and this makes me feel sad. I often see people crying but today we could all laugh together. It was really good.’ A woman who participated in the event at the community space at Ogawa Kouen Temporary Housing Complexes
Mr. Nekohachi asking for request from the audience
Mr. Masao Suzuki, a singer from Soma City
Big laugh of the audience
Participants dancing together to Soma Bonka
Mr. Nekohachi and Mr. Suzuki