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Testimony in Tanka

Many painful but beautiful tanka, a traditional poetic form of only 31 syllables, have been published every week in newspapers in Japan. The editors of Voices From Japan where these poems were collected ask: Why do the Japanese write poems during a time of crisis? Voices from Japan are usually not very audible in the world. But when Japanese voices are composed as tanka, amazingly, one can hear them as a common world language.

The Tanka were originally exhibited at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City in the summer of 2012. It featured 75 tanka, which were assembled mainly from the poetry section of Asahi Shimbun newspaper and was presented by The Studio for Cultural Exchange and assembled by Isao &  Kyoko Tsujimoto, Director of SCE. The tanka were translated by Joan E. Ericson, Ph.D, Colorado College, Amy Heinrich, Ph.D, Columbia University & by Laurel Rasplica Rodd, Ph.D, University of Colorado Boulder.

Aftermath Soundscape

As I walked through the vast swaths of destruction sometimes I’d close my eyes and imagine what life in Yuriage was like before the tsunami came. Eyes closed, I heard sparrows singing and wondered what they were doing in this battered town, where they could possibly still be living. In the distance I heard the all-encompassing vastness of the Pacific Ocean. It soundedlike the ocean I loved as a child. If I was near an evergreen that survived I heard the wind blowing through the needles. I felt lively spring energy all around me.

Eyes open there was only death; all I could hear was the drone of helicopters and the mocking cawing of crows. Eyes closed there was life somewhere that I did not perceive when only seeing.

The Recovery of Memory

In the aftermath of the tsunami all that remained of people’s lives was either washed away or left rotting in the destruction. After the emergency response ended volunteers and the self defense forces shifted attention to the precious things that were left of people's lives. Millions of photos were salvaged, collected and, one by one, cleaned and left for the living to find again.


These photos and video were originally released on Unknown Spring.