An Interview with Konishi Haruko (Director)
Not for Today, but for the Next Generation
Q: How did you start filming the Akahama district in Otsuchi Town?
KH: In March 2011, I could only watch the disaster unfold on television and was feeling helpless that I couldn’t be there. I went to Akahama for the first time in August of that year as a relief volunteer. I took a camera with me, but didn’t dare shoot. I guess I thought it was not decent for me to be filming at that time and place. I went to Akahama again in October, and when I got to see how they make salted aramaki salmon, I was so impressed with the care they put in the craft. I started to visit the town regularly since then, and began shooting at random.
This is the third film I shot in Akahama. The first of the trilogy is about the residents rising up to recover from the disaster, taking the theme of sustainable water cycle at the center. Then the Akahama population started moving out when redevelopment was delayed because of changes in the execution of town planning. Plans were further changed according to the shifting demography and residents became thoroughly exhausted. I covered this story in my second film. The situation in Akahama kept transforming thereafter—at first I saw how the blueprint drawn up with resident input was greenlighted by the central government. Then an organization to lead a reconstruction aligned with the government took power and started to push against residents’ demands. I was compelled to tell this story, and it became this film.
Q: Tell us how you met Mr Kawaguchi.
KH: In April 2012, I came upon Mr Kawaguchi in Tokyo where he was talking about the organization “The Group to Think about Akahama’s Revival.” He looked tough and kind of scary but he had charisma. He really speaks from his heart and backs his statements with scientific logic. He was talking about moving to higher ground and building a town that would be safe until his grandchildren’s generation. I had then thought that constructing a seawall was inevitable, but he and the residents were saying, “We don’t need a seawall. It’s dangerous not to be able to see the ocean in the case of evacuation.” He’d done first-hand research on why Akahama victims had perished. He showed me the results proving how people who lived just by the embankment died. They had not escaped because they thought the barrier would protect them. I was affected by his commitment to action that was directed not for today, but for the benefits of tomorrow.
Q: I understood from the film that reconstruction can mean different things for the residents and for the government.
KH: I wanted to convey the love of the disaster victims for their hometown. For whom was this reconstruction meant for? Throughout the filming, I felt strongly that the ongoing plan was not for the people who live there. Reconstruction should be about the residents, yet there was a prevalent logic defying this. My Akahama trilogy was meant to be a voice of objection that challenged this status quo. Without adequate funding, a local government cannot persevere in protecting its own community without giving in to outsiders’ interference. In the bureaucratic organization, it’s hard to figure out who is responsible. Regarding the seawall, the prefecture claims they were instructed by the central government; the government claims it was the residents’ decision; and the residents say it was ordered by the state. There’s an absence of anyone taking responsibility. Actually, there is someone who intentionally set this situation up, and I wanted to film it, but it’s not easy.
(Compiled by Inotani Yoshika)
Interviewers: Inotani Yoshika, Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Tokunaga Ayano / Video: Tokunaga Ayano / 2019-10-14