One Day in Japan

The exhibition ‘In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3.11’ presents works of the most prominent photographers and allows the visitors to see the situation in Japan through the camera lens of an artist. The photos exhibited show the most vivid results of the earthquake of 2011 in Japan

The exhibition ‘In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3.11’ presents works of the most prominent photographers and allows the visitors to see the situation in Japan through the camera lens of an artist. The photos exhibited show the most vivid results of the earthquake of 2011 in Japan. The tragedy became the saddest event in the Japanese history and the aspects of this dreadful event are reflected in the photographers’ works forever. The most amazing part of the exhibition is the fact that the visitors have a chance to compare the state of the country after the tragedy and see the hard work of the whole nation after it. Japan managed to overcome the consequences of the earthquake and to change the situation in their country for the better. Through the discussion of photo works of the greatest photographers in their response to Japanese tragedy, the paper reveals the great power of the nation in its response to the disaster.

The photos presented in the exhibition make the Japanese nation look more powerful in their present and future as they will always remember their past. The photos keep the memories of one of the severest tragedies in the Japanese history. The country experienced one of the strongest earthquakes on the Earth and the experts claim that such powerful earthquakes happen only once in every 600 years. The most dreadful was the information about thousands of people who perished after the huge tsunami and the information that the nuclear station Fukushima was not ready to stand the devastating power of tsunami. The pictures in the exhibition share the history with the onlookers and make them feel the pain and see the ruins of the city openly without using any photo-effects.

The photos of Keizo Kitajima reveal the black-and-white story of disaster and reflect the monstrous power of tsunami. The pictures were shot in April, more than a month after the tragedy and the house yard is flooded with water revealing the parts of house and other buildings that are scattered all over the district. The picture reveals the unmasked situation with no filters or other corrections demonstrating the inability of humanity to withstand the nature. Keizo Kitajima is famous for the ability to render the sublime meaning of the shot presenting it in a simple way. The houses are ruined, while the water soaks the walls of the buildings and does not leave the city streets; all things are scattered all over and the reflection of the tragedy in the water doubles the effects of the earthquake, emphasizing the sizes of the destruction. It is not possible to see people in either of these two pictures shot by Keizo Kitajima and this fact enhances the emptiness and isolation of the district in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture. The shot dates back to April 2011 and it is just slightly more than one month passed after the tsunami and earthquake. The picture has a greater meaning than just presenting the outcomes of the tragedy as it also presupposes the idea of inability to escape and to withstand the nature forces. The house stands isolated and looks protected by the surrounding buildings but the power of disastrous water was ruthless giving no chances to survive.

On March 11, 2011 in the northeast of Japan, there was an earthquake of 9.0 magnitudes, which acquired the official name of the ‘Great East Japan Earthquake’. An earthquake of such force is very rare but the longer it does not happen the stronger its power and outcomes. Getting back to that day, it is important to mention that the earthquake caused the largest tsunami, which covered a total area of 561 square kilometers, according to the latest news. This area makes up 90% of the 23 special districts that make the Tokyo center. More than half of the flooded water area that equaled to 327 square kilometers is located in Miyagi Prefecture. According to the scientific data, the height of the tsunami that affected the Iwate Prefecture was about 40.5 meters. The height of the waves that hit the village of Noda in the same Iwate prefecture was 37.8 meters, and the tsunami that devastated the town of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture was 34.7 meters. Total of 62 towns and villages became victims of the ruinous nature forces. The wave height was unexpected by the scientists, so that no buildings and plants included such data in the process of investigating the risks of tsunami and earthquakes. No computer simulation data for such kind of disaster included the figures that would be as high as it turned out to be in real life. However, the shot of the ruins in Iwate Prefecture by Keizo Kitajima renders the quietness of the city after the great water hit the area and shows the consequences of the disaster to the onlookers. However, the current picture of the same district of Japan gives a larger perspective regarding the number of people involved and the power of forces dealing with the ruins and cleaning the area after the earthquake. The prefecture managed to overcome the dreadful results and to rebuild the significant part of the buildings in the area. However, ruined buildings and thousands of people died were not all the dreadful outcomes of the earthquake and tsunami.

After the waves hit the area, the Japanese government noted a bigger problem that could cause the greatest harm to the whole Earth. Japanese nuclear power plant ‘Fukushima-1’ had significant problems due to the ruined cooling system and lack of readiness to tsunamis the risk of which was high. The fuel burned the housing of the plant and simultaneously, hydrogen explosions at the first and third reactors damaged roof units. This resulted in leakage of radiation into the air and water, after which the radioactive substances penetrated the drinking water, vegetables, tea, and some meat products. The photo of Keizo Kitajima shot in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture reflects significant damage of the buildings. The general impression is intensified by the isolated location of the house remnants. This house symbolizes the country and its solitude in facing the consequences of the disaster. Despite the fact that many countries decided to help Japan, it seemed that it was impossible to feel the pain and to lessen it by sharing it with others, as it affects mostly the one who faces the tragedy. The date of the photo is April, 2012, a year after the tsunami but the rubbish and pieces of ruined buildings are still scattered all over the territory. This area remains in the same situation as it was a year ago right after the earthquake.

The works of Keizo Kitajima have specific color intensifying the images of ruined buildings by dull weather, grey tones and no sunshine. Such color scheme of Kitajima’s works presupposes the idea of no hope for the better future for this territory and intensifies the pain that the area has suffered. Despite the complete despair and lack of hope for improvement, Japan managed to overcome almost all consequences of the disaster. They cleared the areas and introduced a project for protecting the environment from Fukushima radiation; however, people’s lives that were lost during this dreadful event are impossible to get back. The photos of Kitajima have captured no people in the streets and near the houses allowing the onlookers and further generations remember the outcomes of the tragedy. He manages to get the instant image of the place and every shot reflects a look of some person’s eyes on the things left behind by the nature forces. The photos allow people to compare the current state of objects to their look right after the tragedy and this creates a feeling of breathtaking delight and admiration. Humanity has a great chance to see the power of nature and its disastrous consequences while seeing the ability of people to overcome it and to renew their activities and reconstruct the buildings.

To sum up, it is important to mention that the exhibition ‘In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3.11’ is a unique collection of photos that reflect the state of the country after the tragedy. It gives a possibility to see the ruinous power of nature forces and a small portion of human ability to withstand it, but at the same time the huge desire of people to overcome and to reconstruct their country. The current images of Japan prove the fact that humanity is unique and can overcome the tragedy keeping the memory of people who perished, and of ruins caused and aiming to prove that they have power over the nature forces. The earthquake and tsunamis of 3/11 became the blackest page in the history of Earth and Japan in particular, ruining the country and taking lives of thousands of people. The water element is dreadful in its power but people can overcome it over time and keep the memory of the difficult times. The tragedy of Japan became the tragedy of the whole world and people are now able to see that they are not ready for the disaster but can overcome its consequences over time.

The article was published by Regina Lace, a writer on