News

Cherry Blossom Symbolizes Japan's Rebirth After Tsunami

Documentary chronicles aftermath of earthquake and tsunami

Cherry blossoms frame a house tumbled by the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Cherry blossoms frame a house tumbled by the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

A new film by British filmmaker Lucy Walker documents the powerful earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coast a year ago.

"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" opens with a powerful image - a single long shot from the top of a hill as a town is swept away in a rolling wave of blackened water.

Below, people react to the horror.

“It can’t be,” shouts one. A child cries, “Grandma! Dad, where is Grandma?” Other voice screams, “Get up here quick!” Someone then moans, “They aren’t going to make it.”

Walker films survivors in refugee centers as they sort through the rubble and reflect on their lives.

“The film takes you on a journey from the very initial stages of grief and shock and tells the story of how these amazingly courageous people manage to pick themselves up and carry on," Walker says. "What is that process? What is that journey that human beings can go on from being so struck back to being able to clean up and get along and continue on into a future despite having lost so much?”

Walker talks to one man who watched his best friend drown right in front of him because he had gone back to move his new car.

“He speaks very passionately about how he doesn’t want clothes, a house or anything. He just wants his friend back.  He says, ‘I have nothing. I have nothing. I have nothing.’ And then, by the end, he says, ‘No. No. I’m going to revive.’  And you can tell he’s digging deeply enough to get the courage and it’s very inspiring actually to see how resilient human beings can be.”

In Japan, that resilience, that capacity for rebirth, is symbolized by the cherry blossom. The cultural icon appears everywhere, adorning holiday events, schools trips and wedding parties. The film shows cherry blossoms in bloom against a rubble-strewn landscape.

“In this very brief, very beautiful season, there’s a lot of spiritual feeling about it," Walker says. "There’s emotional healing power of the cherry blossom, not only is it spring and renewal, although that’s wonderful energy, but there’s something about how quickly and beautifully they come to life.”

Walker sees her film as a visual haiku, a kind of Japanese poem about life, death and how to live with tragedy.

“And so it is a poem about surviving and how beautiful life is," she says. "Somehow these cherry blossoms are sublimely, exquisitely, kind of uniquely beautiful and fleeting and that has a lot to teach us about life.”

"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" ends with a message of hope. Walker meets a young woman on the same hilltop from the film’s opening sequence. She is taking pictures to document the change she's seen in the year since the disaster.       

“Every year that the trees bloom, they will give us courage to keep going," says the young woman. "They blossom as they watch over this town. They saw the tsunami. They see everything. I want to tell the bloom, 'Keep watching us. We’ll revive.'”

MORE: Interview with Lucy Walker, director of "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom"

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs