35 of 24×30 inch Rolleiflex
Since 2011, I have devoted my time to investigating the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that caused the explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. FUKUSHIMA SAMURAI is a project that differentiates from the major news stories about the disaster, capturing the evacuees not as victims, but as part of a 1000 years old folk culture and Japanese identity, and depicting how they are surviving. At the same time, it also represents the current relationship between the land and the people as well as between tradition and modern technology.
Soma Nomaoi is an annual celebration of Samurai culture in Fukushima started about 1000 years ago. 1800 died in Fukushima due to the disaster, most of them were from the area where Soma Nomaoi is held. Despite the harsh conditions, loss of lives, hundreds of horses, and much of armory, the majority of the surviving Samurai warriors agreed to hold the gathering, just in a month after the disaster. It is not just an event but also an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival of living.
The Samurai warriors portrayed here were once residents in the area but they were no longer allowed to live there*. Each of them firmly stands in the self-selected places in their hometown land that had each personal story. Human being tries to reconnect their roots when something devastating happened and assuring it could bring incredible strength to them. This process that I had also experienced made me think it as self-portraits of myself.
* Ahead to the Tokyo Olympic, the government has lifted the evacuation order for the most of the area. However, most of residents are not able to go back due to anxiety of radiation, children’s school life, jobs for living, insufficient infrastructure etc. even though coming 2021 counts 10 years on since the disaster.