Salvage Operations for Historical Materials after the Tsunami

Operations at the Honma Family in Ishinomaki

              The Honma Family lived in Kadowaki Ward, close to the bay in old central Ishinomaki City. They had an old-style white-wash stucco warehouse built in 1897. Kadowaki Ward received a direct hit from the tsunami, and all the buildings around the warehouse were reduced to mountains of debris, but miraculously, just this sole warehouse was left standing. The historical documents and other materials stored on the upper floor of the warehouse were still dry and intact.
              However, even a month after the initial disaster of 11th March, large scale tremors were still happening around the clock every day, and we decided to move the documents temporarily elsewhere for safe-keeping. On 8th April 2011, in cooperation with the Tōhoku Museum of History, we conducted our first salvage operation within the tsunami disaster area, and carried away 50 cardboard boxes full of historical documents.

‘We want to preserve the warehouse which withstood the tsunami’: saving the Honma Family warehouse

              The documents were saved, but the warehouse itself was condemned for demolishment, due to suspect damage from the tsunami. However, the warehouse itself was becoming a monument to local people, and a symbol to preserve the memory of the tsunami. In order to determine just how much damage the warehouse had endured,  we put together an investigatory team under the direction of a qualified architectural specialist.
              This specialist team investigated the warehouse on 13th April, and confirmed that the building had not suffered irreparable structural damage. After the specialist team announced their findings, plans to demolish the warehouse were abandoned. Today, the people of Ishinomaki are undertaking plans to secure the preservation of the Honma Family warehouse.
              Many old historical buildings predating Japan’s modern era starting in 1868, have suffered serious damage. Our building specialist team has been active in providing advice to owners of such buildings about emergency measures to save them until proper repairs can be made, and in making detailed records of the building plans of these buildings.

 Preparing to enter the Honma Family warehouse (8th April 2011)

 At the entrance to the warehouse. We used a portable electric generator to run the lights within the warehouse. 

 The original documents stored on the second level of the building were luckily spared from tsunami damage.

 Carrying out the documents for safe-keeping (above and below). The white marks on the wall are dried pulp washed in by the tsunami from the paper mill nearby.

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