I am an exchange student in Tsukuba University from Zhejiang University, China.
I read about Archiaid in an architecture magazine when I was in China and was totally moved by the group of architects for they are working so hard on reconstruction after the earthquake. At that time, to see how the association works, or if possible, to do something for it became one of the passionate dream of my exchange journey to Japan. Then I was so lucky to meet Professor Kaijima in Tsukuba. Thanks to her, I got to know Archiaid better and got a chance to be an intern here.
As Archiaid aims at not only the reconstruction of the disaster areas but also the revival of architectural education, it provides excellent chances for architecture students to take part in the scene. What I want to do in Archiaid is to take part in site-work, to see what has happened in the disaster, to know how the locals think, and to use my own hands to do something practical for the areas. I believe that the reconstruction process is where we can see how architecture makes a difference in people’s live and my experience here can be applied when such kind of catastrophe happens to China.
It’s such a pity that I could only stay here as an intern for 3 weeks. In the first week, I did some translation from English to Chinese as well as read the annals and reports about the work that Archiaid has done. I felt so bad that though there have been so many projects that were really helping the reconstruction, I didn’t get a chance to take part in. Actually my office work didn’t go smoothly as my Japanese is too bad. The first week in Archiaid, I felt miserable and useless as I couldn’t help much here.
I also went to a “town planning” meeting in Ayukawahama. In the meeting, local residents, government and architects gather together to discuss about the reconstruction plan of the village. On the way to Ayukawahama, we drove pass the Ojizosama project. It’s a reconstructed shrine, designed and constructed by architecture students from Hosei University.
I got a chance to listen to the graduation design presentation of students from Tohoku university. It was a little bit different from the graduation design in China, especially the graduation design by undergraduates. Every student can choose what they want to design in Japan. All the projects had a strong idea and the students spent lot of time on making models.
The second week, things turn out to be much better. I did some design about the hori-gotatsu of the house in Ayukawa and the covers of the panel file
In the general conference at the end of the week, I was one of the photographers. I found all the projects presented very interesting and also felt the strong enthusiasm that conveyed through the format of PechaKucha 20*20. It was a very successful conference.
The final week was the most remarkable and memorable week. I visited those disaster areas and helped to build hori-gotatsu of the house in Ayukawa.
I have watched documentaries and read reports about the tsunami. But when I really arrived at the scene, I realized that those records are all to pale to describe the catastrophe on that day. Tsunami was like a crazy monster, wiping all the villages off the map, swallowing every trace and memory of living. The fear and desperation, when people facing a wave that was eight times higher than themselves crashing all the dams but could not be stopped, is totally beyond imagination. The sea is calm and peaceful now. It’s hard to believe that it can become that insane and cruel.
I also went to the lost homes exhibition in Morioka. It is a really fabulous idea to use models to rebuild the image of the villages before the tsunami. It can be clearly seen from the models where everyone lived, where and when they gathered, what activities they took part in all those places. “I swam in this river with pants when I was a child””I know this sakura tree when I was young” these vivid sentences written on small plastic sheets were telling stories of people that lived in the villages. All the once lively and bustling streets fell into ruins. I think everyone would feel in duty bound to give a hand in the reconstruction after visiting the exhibition. And the models will become precious record for the reconstruction and the revival of local architectural culture.
The one-day craft work in Ayukawa was very interesting. It was the first time in my life that I ever used my own hand to build something in 1:1 scale. To feel the texture of the material and imagine how the residents feel when touching the material is a completely new experience to me. In school, architectural students are always focusing on the void and entity, paying little attention to material. But the material actually takes a great part in creating the atmosphere of the space.
After the long day work, we had dinner in Abe-san’s house. Thanks Abe-san for the delicious food. That was the best sashimi I ever had. I really want to go back to Ayukawa and eat again!
On the last day of my internship, I went to Minami-soma to visit the core-house and the tower of hope. Within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, people are still not allowed to live. The disintegration of the houses is going on slowly as well as the clearance of debris. Comparing with the reconstruction of Iwate prefecture, the area is sticking in a rut.
Fight on!(がんばろう) can be seen everywhere in Tohoku, reminding everyone of the disaster three years ago. There are still lots to be done in the reconstruction, which needs the cooperation of local residents, government, architects and the whole society.
At last, thanks to Inuzuka-san, Tanata-san and Kanamori-san for all you have done for me during my stay.
I had a really good time and learnt a lot.
Zhejiang University, Bachelor 4th year
Tsukuba University, Watanabe Laboratory, short-term exchange student