Futaba High School Film Project
JRCS helps Fukushima students process memories into film


By Francis Markus and Midori Tasaka

“It’s sad to be forgotten..” says Ms.Mari Osada, a senior student from Futaba High school, memorizing her line in a final rehearsal. The snippet provides an insight into an unusual project, which has helped children in Fukushima to process their memories and feelings after the 2011 disaster through the medium of film.

Futaba High school had to be closed down due to the nuclear plant accident during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It was soon reopened, but instead of being all together, its students were divided up and relocated to four different cities; Aizu city, Iwaki city, Kouriyama city, and Fukushima city.

In 2013, all four groups were finally united again at Mesei University Campus, Iwaki City. But the number of students has plunged from 467 before the disaster to only 65.

It’s against this troubled background – and marking this year’s 90th anniversary of Futaba High school’s foundation, that the students decided to create their own commemorative movies , with each class responsible for one production. The Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) has supported the project by providing all the equipment, including cameras and sound recorders.

School principal, Toshiki Kariya, explains: “We didn’t set out with the idea of intentionally helping children process their feelings about the disaster, but this has been one of the results.”

Senior class 3-1, is producing a movie about a high school girl called Yuu, who can’t remember anything more than a day ago – and her friendship with her classmates. In the story, Yuu writes her journal every day to remember, but somehow when conversation about the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami comes up with her, she somehow manages to vaguely remember.
Ayako Yamamoto, who wrote the class 3-1 script, said: “I got the idea of this story from my classmate. She told me that she didn’t remember much about the 3.11 disaster. Even so, I think the memory of 3.11 hangs somewhere within our hearts, but I wanted to focus the story mainly on delightful school life and graduation.”

Her house is within the 20 km exclusion zone around the power plant so her family evacuated to Iwaki city and she currently lives by herself in a student dorm.

“My friends when I was in middle school, were all supposed to be enrolled in Futaba High school but they evacuated outside Fukushima prefecture and their families decided to stay there. We still keepin contact, so I hope one day, we get to meet up and go see our home town.”

In some classes, the students have made a conscious decision to steer away from the theme of the disaster. One girl from the freshman class said: ”at the beginning, we tried to do a movie about our experience on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, but when we shared with each other about our personal experiences in class, we realized we all had experienced it differently, and there were many different messages we wanted to speak about. In the end, we decided that we wanted to create a completely different movie.”

For Principal Kariya who coordinated this movie project, the most important thing is for the students to find their voices amid the still challenging circumstances of post-disaster Fukushima. . Last year, most of the students were simply filled with joy that they were back together in same school. This year, it seems that they are dealing with and facing the reality of the situation around them, and I can sense that some students are feeling lost. Perhaps because of losing their home town, or losing opportunities to join sports clubs due of lack of people, or some because of living apart from their family. With this film project, I want students to express themselves.” As they gain new communication skills and confidence, the students lose fear of trying new things – helping them to build a firm foundation for their future.

All the films created by students are planned to be played on 11th of October, a day before the 90th school anniversary