Ｒａ / Ｐｅｎｅｐｌａｉｎ
It was the 11th of March, at exactly 14:46 and 18.1 seconds, when the 2011 Tohoku Pacific Ocean Earthquake occurred in the Sanriku Coast region of the Pacific Ocean, its epicenter at a depth of approximately 24 kilometres, about 130 kilometres to the southeast of the Ojika Peninsula. The hypocentral region extended about 200 kilometres in width and 500 kilometres in length, an offshore zone of one hundred thousand square kilometers from Iwate Prefecture to Ibaraki Prefecture.
This magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused a large tsunami that hit the southern Sanriku Coast region in Iwate Prefecture as well as Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture in northern Hamadori, before travelling about 6 kilometres inland. With a maximum height of 40.1 metres, the wave caused enormous damage in the Pacific Coast region of the Tohoku area.
I used to visit this coastal region very often to take pictures, it was here that I created several photographic works. When I took those photographs, I realized that the region was much better prepared for a tsunami than other regions in Japan.
The reason is to be found in the characteristics of the region, where a number of tsunami have struck the area again and again throughout its history. But when I saw pictures of how even the well protected landscape here had been destroyed by the tsunami, I felt an inescapable fear that every region in Japan could be swallowed by waves.
After the earthquake, when I revisited the destroyed areas for the first time, I felt extremely shocked. I had never before had a comparable experience with which todescribe my impressions. It looked like an area just after a bombing raid, and it was impossible for me to express all of the intense destruction. When I saw everything surrounded with heavy and heart-rending wreckage, I got the feeling that all the survivors and the victims who lost their lives still could not accept this reality in which all significance had flowed away. Facing the suffering landscape, I remembered the pictures of the tsunami I had seen on television and had a frightening feeling, as if the tsunami were pouncing on the land one more time. When I saw the destroyed town I felt unable to release the shutter of my camera. All I could do was remain standing there.
Half a year passed by, and when the coastline was covered by heaps of rubble assembled from the surrounding areas, I felt finally able to take my pictures of the destroyed land. Of course everything that I had photographed before had disappeared when the sea took the land, razing every object, leaving only the pure ground.
Even the seawalls that covered the coastline like fortresses looked like the remains of ruins, as if waves had continuously washed away the earth since ancient times.
People say a tsunami of this scale occurs only once in one thousand years. I think that one wave in a thousand years destroyed more than even the erosion of one thousand years could erase.
It is said that 4.6 billion years have elapsed since planet Earth was formed.
Since then, everything on Earth keeps on changing steadily without any pause, and if I imagine the span of one thousand years within this enormous lapse of time, it seems no longer than an eye twinkling for a moment, and makes me imagine the powers of erosion reducing lofty mountains as well as small sand hills to the level of the plain ground.
Now, after the destruction caused by the tsunami, day by day people use their own hands and time to change the place, as if erecting a fortress to complete in their own lifetime. But, in the whole duration of planet Earth, sooner or later even huge chunks of concrete will lose their protective function as well as their shape. Thinking in the long term, all the things surrounding us will not stay forever, and every encounter seems to be no more than one short moment of change. The things made by mankind are nothing more than a part of this natural cycle.
Photography is a medium with which to see human actions as well as natural processes. Detailed observation of created objects, knowledge about the nature of forces and how they impact objects, is also a way to imagine our continuously changing circumstances. To show the process of everything on earth changing into plain ground and to present to our era the memory of eternities in one short moment, I chose the title Peneplain to complete my photographic works. To imagine how objects disappear in time, how everything will follow this way, is what my works are made for.
“Peneplain is the aim of everything.”
Regardless of the painful experiences they’ d had, the earthquake victims I met spoke to me about their respect for nature and that day’ s incident. This felt like a memory of bitterness that will never fade. All I can do is to preserve that memory in my works.
I hope that people’ s aching hearts too will find their “peneplain” of calm and peace.