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13:00~ Kumamoto Castle

On August 14, Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi visited the disaster stricken areas in Kumamoto Prefecture. At 13:00, Nagabuchi visited Kumamoto Castle, guided by Mayor Kazufumi Onishi. In consideration of the possibility of further collapse, the observation was carried out with helmet protection. The temperature was 38 degrees Celsius that day, and going outside guaranteed a good sweat. The Mayor and those responsible at the site, covered with sweat, did their best to explain the situation. As one can easily tell from observing the photos, the situation at Kumamoto Castle is much more serious than reported by the media. The stone walls have crumbled in many areas, and looks as though it may collapse at any moment. There are some parts that are standing on 2-3 stone pillars, and it is like a miracle that the castle is still maintaining its current form. It was more serious than Nagabuchi expected. When Nagabuchi told the Mayor of such thoughts, he replied that the media is asked to not report such images. Since Kumamoto Castle is the symbol of Kumamoto, special consideration is being made so that people do not feel shock and lose their hopes. However, Nagabuchi felt a strong desire to have the current situation of Kumamoto Castle known to more people. After seeing the castle on the brink of collapse, but still enduring such tough situation, he felt the strength in people to live. He reflected upon his thoughts that day in the following manner.

“I felt the weight of what the castle had built up in its 400 year history. No matter what nature brings upon it, the collective strength of everyone who gathered in support of it, is helping it endure this hardship. I felt the strong need to show how Kumamoto Castle is still holding on. I had the opportunity to observe parts that were considered unsafe, but the more I saw, the more I felt that the castle was enduring, and holding on.”

 Kumamoto Castle is supported by the power of hundreds and thousands of people who carried and piled up stones to build the castle. The spirits of those who have protected the castle in its long history, are with the castle. The castle is alive, has energy, and is 400 years old. Kumamoto Castle is on the brink of collapse, but still holding on, saying “I’m still standing, gamadase, gamadase”. In Kumamoto, “gamadase” is a regional dialect that means “hold on, hang in there”, and I feel this is the spirit of Kumamoto Castle, and the pride of the people in Kumamoto. It is the symbol of strength in people, to keep their head up and move forward, no matter how many times they are knocked down. The collective power of people will not collapse easily. When told that this is the belief behind the request from Nagabuchi to release the photos to the public, Mayor Onishi replied “If that is the will of Mr. Nagabuchi, please do so” and happily accepted the request. The photos will surely touch everyone’s hearts. Thinking of the stricken areas, is not just about feeling sad and sympathizing with them. It is important to sense their feelings toward revival, and to energize them.

15:00~ Mashiki-machi Gymnasium

 Afterwards, we traveled to Mashiki-machi, the epicenter of the earthquake, and arrived around 15:00. In our observation of the town, we saw houses that were still crushed and stuck in the river. In such scenery, Nagabuchi saw the fear people must have felt. Then we visited the Mashiki-machi Gymnasium, which had become an evacuation shelter for the victims of the disaster. It was surprising to see so many people still living there, and they seemed quite uncomfortable with the environment. Little by little, people are being moved to temporary housing, but there are still many people left in the evacuation shelter. Mashiki-machi is still suffering from the aftereffects of the earthquake. Nagabuchi sensed this as he shook hands with everyone in the gymnasium. There was one elderly man who had his head down out of the curtain, and when Nagabuchi shook his hand and asked if he was ok, he replied faintly, “Yes, yes”, but he was clearly not feeling well. However, Nagabuchi told him “It’s hard, but we have to hang in there.”, and this time, he replied with a strong voice, “Yes, yes”. The power to rebuild is still alive.
  Then, we went upstairs to the second floor, the children’s study room. Nagabuchi told them “Let’s put our fists up!” and took a photo together in front of Kumamon (a mascot created by the government of Kumamoto Prefecture). Before leaving, Nagabuchi stood on his seat, and told the elderly men and women “It took a while, but I’m here. Kumamoto was on my mind for a long time”. He told them what he felt when he visited Kumamoto Castle, and said “Senior citizens also need to hang in there”, and they replied back “Yes, we will” with a smile. When leaving the gymnasium, we noticed a large crowd around the entrance, about 1,000 people. Nagabuchi, with a transistor megaphone in hand, spoke again about his visit to Kumamoto Castle, and told them, gamadase, gamadase.

16:00~ Nishihara-mura Gymnasium

 We traveled again to Nishihara-mura, and arrived at 16:00. We visited a gymnasium that was being used as an evacuation shelter. Nagabuchi sensed the fatigue in the people, who have stayed there for 4 months since the earthquake, and he decided to hold a special live performance for them. Many people gathered for the live performance, with 100 becoming 200, 200 becoming 400, and finally there were about 500 people in the fully packed gymnasium. Nagabuchi was very motivated. At the spot, he wrote the lyrics “Kumamoto Castle is still hanging in there, so we need to gamadase, gamadase”, and made it into a song. Several minutes into the live performance, everyone stood up and put their fists up. They put their fists up, and let out their anger which they did not know what to do with. There were some who were crying while putting their fist up. After the live performance, the members of the young men’s association who were in charge of the site, expressed their deep appreciation. They said “It was probably the first time in 4 months that the villagers smiled this much. Thank you very much”. Creating smiles like that, may be the true meaning of revival.

Visiting the disaster stricken areas in Kumamoto

 Nagabuchi finished his visit of the disaster stricken areas. What Nagabuchi felt the most from this visit, is that in the stricken areas, there will always be the will of people to live and hang in there, even if they are on the brink of collapse. Another thing he noticed and felt strongly, is that the stricken areas are being ignored too much. News and reports of the stricken areas are very rare now, and television is filled with images of the Olympics. They probably think that the earthquake in Kumamoto was not that bad, and compared to the Great East Japan Earthquake, less people died so it is not a sensational topic. Nagabuchi says with anger, “It is not about data, like the number of people that died. That is not what it is about for the people in the stricken areas”. The media puts the spotlight on events or topics that look splendid, and make issues that are on the other side, hard to see. They focus on data and things that are easy to understand at first glance, and ignore what is not visible there.
  Nagabuchi says that this is not only a problem with the media, but also a problem with life in the city. For example, nighttime in Tokyo is full of light, and people can move around based on what they see. Of the five senses, they are mainly using the sense of sight. In such lifestyle, it is hard for them to understand that there are things that they do not see. That is why Nagabuchi is suggesting, to put yourself in darkness once, so that you may see the things you did not see before. Instead of the sun, the moonlight shows us the streets. When looking at the moonlight, one will realize that light is not a single color, but sometimes red, or even blue and yellow. Silence in darkness, at times, will make one lonely. Parents you will never see again and children you left behind. Such potential feelings, come up, like a candle lit in the darkness. Nagabuchi says that is what feeling for the stricken areas should be like. Not being shown by the light of the media, not being shown as data, but the actual feelings of people. To touch the feelings of people, who are hanging in there and trying to rebuild what has been broken.

“I strongly believe that people will strive to move upward, no matter what hopelessness they are faced with. Sometimes, people need opportunities to do so, such as music, kindness from other people, words and sounds, that all represent light. What light should be presented to them, or what light are they looking for. When one lives in the city for a long time, the five senses do not work so well anymore.”

 Shut-off the city light once, and feel the true feelings of people. It can be a small light, such as moonlight or candlelight, but show your true feelings as light. Not only will it help someone’s recovery, but it may help you get back your five senses, or your true self. Nagabuchi is currently in the middle of a national live tour. The theme of the tour is darkness. What kind of light will it represent. Let us stop looking at people through data and numbers. There is only one important thing. Revival, and inspiring others through it. Nagabuchi is always calling out. “We also need to gamadase, gamadase!”

Photo by Hiroki Nishioka