The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

The Key to Recovery

When the tsunami of March 11th 2011 hit Rikuzen-Takata it obliterated the town. The tsunami reached over 13 metres in height destroying 80% of all the buildings in the town. Rikuen-Takata effectively ceased to exist. Indeed the emptiness of the landscape that had once been a bustling town of 23,000 people was something that affected me deeply on my own visit there last year while working as a photographer covering the disaster for an English newspaper.

Of course the Tohoku people are strong: they struggle on whatever the odds. From the detritus of destruction that covered the valley floor people picked out belongings and salvaged the remains of a life swept away. Many things were smashed and broken beyond usefulness though. Yet even this trash, the broken bits of plastic appears to have been salvaged and turned into something useful with the keyring pictured above.

Called the Re:Key Holder it is handmade by people from Rikuzen-Takata and other areas in Tohoku and is (according to the packaging) to be carried as a symbol of  hope and good luck. Some might think it macabre but I think it is a great idea. It raises much needed cash for the victims of the tsunami as they try to rebuild their lives; it recycles the rubbish caused by the destruction of the town thus avoiding having all of it dumped in landfills. Most importantly though, as I made clear to my sons when I handed each of them a keyring, this is not just trash plastic, these are pieces of people’s lives. I have no idea where the pieces in each keyring come from: they could be part of a traffic-cone or shop display; but they could just as easily be part of some child’s favourite toy. It is hard not to forget that possibility when you reach for your keys every day and look at the scratched and bent coloured plastic hanging from them. Then again the loss the people of Rikuzen-Takata suffered is not something we should ever forget.

The Re:key Holders are available here.

It’s a small investment in the long recovery of the Tohoku coast, so cheap easy to do and yet making such a difference to the people there. I would like everyone who visits this site to buy one or two please.

Many Thanks.



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