Memories and Conflicts of Disaster Victims: Why They Wish to Dismantle Disaster Remains
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), National Museum of Ethnology
10-1 Senri Expo Park, Suita, Osaka 565-8511, Japan
This paper focuses on the memories and narratives of victims of disasters recalled using objects – namely, disaster remains – and examine what they mean to victims who want them to be dismantled. In the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami that occurred during the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE), the issue of whether to preserve the former town office building – the site where the mayor and many municipal workers fell victim to the tsunami – developed into a heated controversy. Among the many affected residents, who desired dismantlement, some asserted that it was a “place of shame.” Most of these people were men in their 60s at the time of the catastrophe and recalled the pre-disaster situation of the local society; they were emotionally triggered by the accident to the tsunami. There are two reasons for the mention of shame in this context. First, former leaders of community activities (before the calamity) strongly criticized the fact that the town officials, who had been in a position to protect the residents, had failed to evacuate and became casualties. Second, there were residents who had an objective view of the local society based on their experiences working outside Otsuchi; this group felt that their pre-disaster activities were partially to be blamed for the loss of many town officials and were thus ashamed of themselves. Among disaster-affected residents who desire dismantlement, disaster remains serve to evoke diverse, fragmentary memories related to their life stories. While these men were able to reconfirm their love for their hometown, they used the narrative of “shame” to resist the impact of disaster remains by which an unequivocal image of local society is broadly disseminated via accidents surrounding the disaster remains, which is why victims wish for dismantlement.
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