Preface for the Second Edition of the Quake Victims' Memoirs

KOBASHI Shigeyoshi

The Japan Association of the Examination of Ability in Chinese Characters chose the Chinese character "Shin (Quake)" as the one to represent the phases of life in 1995. In the year of the 50th Anniversary of the End of the World War , we have seen various incidents. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake on January 17, extraordinary terrorist attacks have been committed allegedly by a religious cult group. Many financial institutions went bankrupt, and the problem of bullying in schools became serious in the area of education.

@Although politicians tried to make an overall settlement of "the reparations for World War E",opposition to the US Military Bases in Okinawa was rekindled again.

@One year has passed since the occurrence of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
@It depends on one's perception whether it is 'already one year' or 'just one year'.@Against such a backdrop, the word "Fukko (Restoration)" in two Chinese characters has been present everywhere in the area devastated by the earthquake,and onlookers have continuously encouraged quake victims by saying "Cheer up!"

@However, I don't think these two words are appropriate.@The quake victims tend to harbor more or less ill feeling against the attitude of only pronouncing "Restoration" and "Cheer up".@These two words are employed in the manuscripts of quake victims, but these words reflect their serious reality.

@The 'evacuation shelters' continue to exist, having changed their names to 'waiting centers'.@And still now, a lot of quake victims are forced to lead harsh lives. Although one year has passed, the number of victims is still increasing. The lonely deaths in temporary housing persist.

@There are some dead people who are not accounted for in the government statistics.@There are still more who are suffering from physical and mental illness.

@In the publication of experiences of the earthquake titled "The Great Hanshin Earthquake - The Record of Ourselves As Quake Victims" in May 1995, there were many manuscripts that savoured the preciousness of saved lives and which expressed the terror and sadness caused by the great earthquake as well.

@Now facing the reality of 'living', various sufferings have been placed on the shoulders of quake victims. How should we dispose of the collapsed houses and earn a living? Trembling with anger without any solution, the quake victims who are looking for the breakthrough to the future with bleak outlook, found the word "Restoration" too cold.

@The 'dark' side of the earthquake, which was not seen in the previous edition, is exposed here and there in this second edition. The discord among family members, the separation, and the meanness and ugliness revealed from behind beautiful stories are described.

@More than two hundred people have written their valuable experiences this time again.@We had never imagined that we would receive such a number of memoirs.@ "Although I tried to write it down, I couldn't do when I looked at my writing paper. It was too painful to refresh my memory of that moment. But I absolutelyshould write it down." There was a manuscript the margin of which is filled with that phrase. We can perceive the desire of the writer who tries to keep a record of his or her own emotions rather than make others read it.

@There are some who began volunteer activities, triggered by the first edition of the memoirs. One person is still walking around the area hit by the earthquake and keeps track of that moment elaborately. Another person tries to revive his or her own actions on that day according to the information made public after the earthquake.

@New networks are forming. Everybody is initiating activities in various areas.

@We've come to understand the significance of continuing to keep records again.

@Many writers begin their writing from 'that day, that moment', at
5:46 a.m. on January 17, 1995. That's because this is the origin, the starting point for the quake victims' lives.

@People continue to say 'already a year' and the situation will be perpetuated 'still ten years later'. This second edition of memoirs is only a 'milestone' for a long and arduous way to go.