Rediscovering Tohoku

On Friday March 11th, 2011, the Tohoku region of Japan was hit by the fourth most powerful earthquake in history, which was powerful enough to alter the angle of the Earth’s axis. It caused a major tsunami and nuclear meltdowns all over the region. Thousands of lives lost, homes destroyed. You are probably familiar with the photos of the ruins of Tohoku. But have you ever thought about the Tohoku that existed before?

The exhibit TOHOKU Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers tells of the Tohoku most of the world does not know. The exhibit features crowded photos of festival-goers, empty frames of roads at night; black and white photos of grinning children at play keep company with vivid photos of twisting roots in the puddles of a summer storm.

Around Sunset, Hiraka County (1958) Teisuke Chiba
Around Sunset, Hiraka County (1958) by Teisuke Chiba

There are many ways to tell a story, and every story has multiple points of view. Each of the photographers have their own versions of Tohoku, and yet they mesh beautifully. These photos are beautiful, and powerful, and they make me uncomfortably aware of the shallow way disaster regions are portrayed without truly understanding what, or how much, was lost. Frankly, it’s unfair that these are not the representative images of Tohoku.

Reflection of Great Beech Woods (2011) by Meiki Lin
Reflection of Great Beech Woods (2011) by Meiki Lin

Take an hour to explore Tohoku! This exhibit will be in Chicago until February 7th, at the Japan Information Center Hall, on the 10th floor of  737 N. Michigan Ave. (Note that the entrance to the building is on Chicago Ave)

Check out the exhibit at the Chicago Consulate’s website.
Read more about the 2011 Tohoku disaster here.


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