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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora