Okinawan man observation deck for a pair of Shisa in front of his house on the Fukushima coast “for the soul of restoration”

Okinawan man observation deck for a pair of Shisa in front of his house on the Fukushima coast “for the soul of restoration”

Yukiteru Naka and the Shisa that will be placed on the observation deck – January, Fukushima Prefecture (photograph provided by Yoichiro Naka)

February 12, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Ryota Nakamura


Next month, March 11, will mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Izena native Yukiteru Naka, 79, chairman of Tohoku Enterprise, which is tasked with nuclear power plant maintenance, is building an observation deck overlooking the ocean in front of his house in Tomioka, Fukushima. Carved in memory of the earthquake, and praying that another disaster does not occur, are two Tsuboya ceramic Shisa that will be placed on the observation deck. “Since I was working in nuclear power, I feel like both a perpetrator and a victim. I felt that there must be something that I could do for the area.” While dealing with these complex emotions, he continues to think of the land where he lives.

The observation deck will be made of wood and will have two levels, and will be built at a high elevation overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Shisa, which ward off misfortune, were made by the late “contemporary master craftsman” Ikuo Takaesu around 40 years ago. As a native of Izena and through personal connections, the studio sold the Shisa for a low price “for the restoration [of Fukushima] with Shisa that are packed with soul.” They have also decided to offer Okinawa roofing tiles to Okinawa for Shuri Castle, which was destroyed in a fire, and plan on laying down the dirt floor.

Naka was at his office in Tomioka when the earthquake hit March 11, 2011. When the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant happened, a 20 km radius around the plant became a hazard area. Naka and other company employees photographed the town’s landscape, and recorded the stories of victims in a collection they published titled, “3/11 – We cannot forget – stories of the earthquake.”

It has been 10 years since then. People’s lives were upheaved, and the town’s landscape was forever transformed. Tomioka’s residency restrictions were lifted in April of 2017, however the population of the town at the end of January was only 12,319 people, with only 1,576 people actually living there; only around 1/10 of the population before the earthquake.

“Many people are not going to return; however, the observation deck is located along a seaside walking course near the rebuilt houses,” says Naka. He is looking forward to seeing the guardian deities keeping watch over the ocean.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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