Exploring Suzu’s Image: A Filmmaker’s Perspective Post Noto Earthquake

On May 5, 2023, Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture, was struck by a magnitude 6 or higher Noto earthquake, resulting in significant damage, including over 300 buildings being partially or completely destroyed. Filmmaker Hisashi Arima (36) from Machida City, Tokyo, had been planning to create a documentary about the community’s recovery efforts through the Suzu festival. However, amidst these plans, the Noto Peninsula was hit by another earthquake in January of the same year.

A filmmaker who was affected by the Noto earthquake What is the image of Suzu that he wanted to convey in his film?

It started with the shooting of Kiriko.

The film is titled “Nagi ga Tomoru Koro.” It focuses on the traditional Kiriko Festival in the Noto region, where large lanterns, some weighing about 4 tons and standing over 15 meters tall, are paraded. The term “Kiriko” refers to these lanterns.

Arima was approached to create this film by an acquaintance who was volunteering in Suzu. He began filming in late May 2013. Initially, there was uncertainty among the residents about whether to proceed with the festival. However, as the date approached, the community gradually united and decided to move forward with the event.

A filmmaker who was affected by the Noto earthquake What is the image of Suzu that he wanted to convey in his film?

In August and September, Mr. Arima closely followed three districts of the city, capturing residents as they bravely navigated through the Kiriko festival. “Everyone approached the festival with a deep sense of purpose. I could sense the town’s atmosphere transforming through the festival.”

He returned to Suzu on December 28th to document the year-end and New Year holidays, which were beginning to regain their vibrancy. Arima captured scenes of residents ringing the bell on New Year’s Eve and making hatsumode visits on New Year’s Day.

Sudden big tremor

After 4 PM that day, I was taking a nap at a private house in the city between filming. A sudden tremor startled me awake, prompting me to quickly grab my camera and start recording.

Shortly afterward, an even stronger quake struck. The building groaned, and the sound of tiles crashing to the ground reverberated through the air. Feeling the imminent danger, I rushed outside.

The ground undulated like a living creature. Dust billowed up from collapsing buildings. What I witnessed was an unbelievable sight.

Afterward, we evacuated by car to higher ground and spent the night there.

A filmmaker who was affected by the Noto earthquake What is the image of Suzu that he wanted to convey in his film?


The next day, on the second day after the earthquake, I walked through the Takojima-cho area of Suzu City along the coast. Most of the buildings there had collapsed and lay in ruins. A sense of despair overwhelmed me as I wondered about the city’s future.

That night, I sought refuge at an elementary school converted into an evacuation center and helped prepare rice balls with the other disaster victims. Using flashlight beams to see, we cooked rice in a pot and mixed it with the rice we had brought, distributing it to everyone. I also ate one myself. “It was a challenging time for everyone, but I deeply appreciated how kindly they welcomed outsiders like me.”

A movie that conveys the reality of the disaster area

Upon my return to Tokyo on January 14th, about a week later than planned, I immediately began intensive editing work.

Many of the cityscapes and landscapes I had painstakingly captured were now severely damaged or lost due to the recent earthquake. During this period, I grappled with worries about how to proceed with the film production and felt a deep sense of despair.

It was during an additional week of filming in Suzu in late March that I heard the resolute voices of the residents: “In times like these, we must bring out the Kiriko.” They spoke of the upcoming summer festival despite the recent disaster. “This is Suzu’s spirit. We must give our best,” the residents encouraged.

Despite the current challenges and my busy schedule towards completion, I remain optimistic. “I have documented everything from last year’s festival to this year’s earthquake. I am the only one who can bring this film to completion.”

The film will have an early preview screening in Kanazawa for the disaster victims in June. “While it may not depict hope directly, I hope it will inspire many by depicting the reality of the disaster-stricken areas and showing that there are people who refuse to give up in the face of adversity.” [Abe Hiroken]

A Village in Ishikawa/Suzu: Zero Tsunami Deaths and the Lifesaving Code

The Shimode district of Jike, Misaki-cho, Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture, faced the imminent threat of a tsunami just 25 minutes after the Noto Peninsula earthquake struck. Despite being lined with coastal houses, the village miraculously reported zero fatalities because residents promptly evacuated to higher ground, guided by a shared password and a pre-designated meeting place. This coordinated action proved instrumental in saving lives during the disaster.

Approximately 40 households and 80 residents reside in the area. Just before the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, Yushin Okuhama (73), a certified disaster prevention officer, and Masahiro Demura (76), the ward’s mayor, initiated the formation of a voluntary disaster prevention organization and began planning evacuation drills. Okuhama remembers facing opposition from his seniors, who questioned the necessity of preparing for such scenarios. However, he persisted, emphasizing the vulnerability of his beachfront residence to potential disasters.

To enhance preparedness, the district was divided into four groups, each assigned with a guide and caretaker. Over the past decade, these groups have diligently conducted annual evacuation drills, focusing on taking the shortest route to designated meeting places, guided by the motto, “In case of emergency, gather at the meeting place.”

The results of this effort were evident during the recent earthquake. “Even though my legs are not in the best condition, I climbed the slope desperately,” recalled Hisae Nitta, 83, who evacuated alongside her childhood friend Sachiko Wakasa, 82, with a smile, noting, “It probably only took us five minutes from our homes.” Nobuko Takeuchi (53), who was in her friend’s living room after a bath, initially panicked. However, she quickly reminded herself, “Once the shaking stops, I’ll head to the meeting place.” Spotting a gap in the collapsed house, she slipped out barefoot and encountered five or six neighbors, initiating a discussion about…

Local Treasure, Lantern, Washed Away by Tsunami; 18-Year-Old Vows to ‘Revive It’ After Noto Earthquake

The Noto Peninsula earthquake inflicted significant devastation, including serious damage to the region’s cherished festivals. In Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture, where the tsunami struck, the iconic Noto lanterns known as “Kiriko,” central to local festivals, were washed away and badly damaged. Residents, already reeling from disrupted daily lives due to the earthquake, now face emotional turmoil and a profound sense of loss as they mourn the loss of this cultural symbol.

“It’s still incomprehensible that Kiriko was washed away. I haven’t been able to bring myself to see it because it saddens me,” lamented Masaru Terayama (61), a cormorant fisherman from Horyu-cho, Suzu City. He had personally carried Kiriko during the summer festival and now feels disheartened as the tsunami swept away the Kiriko stored in a warehouse near the sea in his area.


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