It’s been a year since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, a crippling disaster marked last week by memorial services, prayers and monuments. Many Japanese families lit paper lanterns and sent them out to sea in remembrance of those lost, reflecting on the homes and memories taken by the ocean.
To bring some sense of comfort to the bereaved, Satoko Kinno scours the rubble of her town for photographs. Once they are cleaned and put in the freezer to stem mold, the photographs are displayed at a local community center, where families are ecstatic to rediscover their memories. With seven other city employees, Kinno returns the photographs to their overjoyed owners. “They’re crying and screaming, because they are very, very happy they found their stuff and their memories. It’s the most important thing,” says Kinno.
Watching the short video created by CBS This Morning, the most touching moment occurs when the reporter asks Kinno if restoring the photographs is an emotional process. Kinno begins to cry, saying that every time she cleans a photograph, it says to her, “Send me home.” Fortunately, for the photographs of Japan, Kinno is an excellent travel guide, volunteering her time to ensure that families receive their photographs, which are often the only remaining memories of loved ones whose lives were lost. A year after that horrible day, it’s stories like these that make the rest of us proud to share the same planet with such an enduring, hopeful nation.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.