Beauty and the Beast: Reflections after a Tsunami

Nature has many faces. An evening of talks and dialogue about the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, including a screening of Oscar nominated, Sundance award-winning film, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. Scholar Mary Humstone of the University of Wyoming will compare American and Japanese cultural views about landscape and the possibilities of restoration, and Kyoko Yoshida, founder and director of the US-Japan Cultural Trade Network, will discuss Shinto beliefs and the Japanese response to the tsunami. They are joined by the Geologists of Jackson Hole.  Join us for a dialogue about the Japanese response to nature’s destructive force and what we can learn from this tragic experience.

Beauty and the Beast: Reflections after a Tsunami
Monday, June 18
Center Theater, Center for the Arts
6-9PM, screening of “The Tsunami & The Cherry Blossom” and discussion

FREE, no tickets required
Bento Boxes and Japanese Beer available for purchase
Information: 307-733-7016 or
Presented by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and Vista 360

Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Logo  Vista 360 logo

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

“Most of all I was moved and impressed by the people we met, as well as the people we heard about. Like the heroic young woman Miki Endo, an employee of the municipality of Minami-Sanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, who did not move from her post in order to warn people of the impending tsunami, and saved many many lives by keeping at her work until the tsunami killed her. The stories are legion of wallets and possessions having been returned to their owners. It was like the opposite of looting and chaos … This was community cooperation and selflessness to an extent I’m not sure I would have believed possible…” Lucy Walker, Director, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

CLICK HERE for full notes

Film Synopsis
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

This Academy Award-nominated short documentary explores the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the cultural significance of Japan’s famous sakura, or cherry blossoms. On 11 March 2011, residents watch in horror as a town is swept away in an enormous wave as people run to safety and fires erupt. Afterwards, one woman describes seeing a nurse home flooded and explains how it barely seemed like “real life.” Other residents talk about seeing entire houses floating moving in the wave and their attempts to escape the sudden rush of water and get to higher ground. One man grows emotional as he describes the “unbearable” experience of watching his best friend die, saying that items can be replaced, but life cannot. 70% of the students at Okawa elementary school were swept away in the flood, with bodies being found many miles away. One woman admits that she is holding out hope for her sister’s life, and as the townsfolk clear the roads, they salvage photographs and other personal mementos for family members. A small community center becomes a shelter for 600 residents, with its leader explaining that “everyone underestimated” the tsunami’s power. One man states that he will rebuild his home and continue living in the town, as his family has been there for sixty years. Another problem arises near the Fukushima nuclear plant after a hydrogen explosion, and people are advised to stay inside to avoid absorbing the radiation, though most residents continue their cleanup of the town despite the dangers.

As spring approaches, the cherry blossoms, described as “beautiful but not showy” in Japanese, begin to bloom again. One man, who has inherited the position of orchard cherry master from the past fifteen generations of his family, describes the nature’s dichotomy of beauty and terror, saying that raising trees is like raising children, and that Shinto dictates that all living things acquire a spirit. One famous tree in Fukushima, known as the Miharu Takizakura, is over a thousand years old, and though it can no longer be directly approached, elderly women happily describe playing on it as children, saying it will outlive them all. Other residents describe their feelings about sakura, and the cherry master says that “whatever you want to see” is reflected in the blossoms as people observe them in hanami, or viewing parties, and take photos. The blossoms are better together, like the Japanese people, as one man explains, and they “die beautifully” like the samurai after their short lives. There are ten separate, specific stages to a full blossom, and when they fall they create hana-ikada, or flower rafts, and their short lives make them all the more worthy of admiration. Because of the tsunami, the yearly festival is canceled, but many residents nevertheless comment on the plant’s resilience, noting its regrowth in previously-flooded areas and musing that the trees provide hope and strength as they attempt to rebuild and improve their lives.

Courtesy of Supply & Demand Integrated

Director: Lucy Walker
Producer: Kira Carstensen

Running time: 39 min
Country: US

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