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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs