February – May 2013
After the interviewers were trained, an IsraAID project coordinator scheduled interviews. Local community leaders started conducting interviews first with top ranking officials in the local municipality and then with other local groups and individuals. By doing so, IsraAID was able to document a wide perspective of the community story.
While interviews were only administered to those who wished to share their story, we were able to gather valuable stories from interesting people such as teachers who ran the evacuation shelters, firemen who had saved lives, residents of the temporary houses, and people who had lived in the most affected areas.
Each interviewee was required to sign a release form, in which he /she could choose whether they would like to "share their story with the world", or keep it within the local community. Surprisingly, about 95% of the participants agreed to share their testimony with the public.
As of late May 2013, IsraAID has gathered over 110, 60-90 min testimonies from the towns of Watari and Yamamoto in Miyagi prefecture, and the collection is one of the largest video documentations related to the 2011 Tohoku disaster.
This large number of stories was collected mostly because of IsraAId's strong trust with the local communities. We have received full support from local municipality and our work has gained a positive momentum in the community. Through word of mouth, we were able to find more and more people willing to share their stories.
Personal: Each person interviewed received a specially packaged DVD containing the full contents of their interview and a community book provided by Hewlett Packard (HP). The DVD booklet can be passed down generations, and especially for the elderly, a hard copy of their story serves to preserve their memories.
Community: IsraAID launched the first community archives in Watari and Yamamoto on April 2013.
During the opening ceremony, about 120 participants including the mayor, communitiy leaders and temporary housing residents who were interviewed participated (see attached article).
Each archive includes all the testimonies from the community, as well as the community book, and will be located in the community centers.
So that the local community and schools can use this package for memorial and educational purposes, we have worked to make it as openly public as possible. In Watari, the archive has been given a special section in the central town library, where anyone can come and watch the stories.
National and international Awareness:
To raise awareness of this project, on March 8th 2013, IsraAID conducted two big events at Hilton Tokyo.
The first was an academic event hosted by Prof.Amia Lieblich with professors from Japanese Universities (University of Tokyo, Meiji Gakuin University, Kyoto University, etc.). In this event we discussed the possibilities of research based on the testimonies from Tohoku and presented samples of interviews.
The second was an awareness event under the title "Voices of Tohoku" in which we presented the project, as a whole including few testimonies and the community books. The event received large media coverage and the guests included 30 leaders from Tohoku including the mayor of Watari, Former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Fujisaki Ichiro, and representatives of NPOs working in Tohoku.
Some of the interviews are also in the process of being translated into English, so the stories can be viewed and understood by people worldwide.
Further, so these stories can benefit the future of Japan, we are currently in the process of digitally archiving these videos in various digital archives, including the “Hinagiku”, the Great East Japan Earthquake archive owned by the National Diet Library of Japan. In the archiving process, interviews will be transcribed, translated, subtitled, based on each archives’ needs. In the future, researchers will be able to access these archives to use the videos for qualitative research into the disaster. These archives will provide a sustainable framework that will allow this project to expand in the future as the diversity of the voices grows.
Since the launching of the “Voices of Tohoku” project in early September 2012, the scale of the project has grown dramatically and awareness of the project has further increased interest in the Tohoku region and in the academic communities around Japan. This increase in interest has allowed IsraAID to partner with academic institutions such as Meiji Gakuin University and local NPOs. Additionally, we have been able to create trust in other communities, providing IsraAID with the opportunity to expand the program into additional towns in Tohoku and within the towns we currently operate in. IsraAID believes that this project has a potential for further growth both on the local and national aspects.
Future plans for 2013:
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