– Reed Boat School (Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi Prefecture) –
Three and a half years ago, the great earthquake hit the eastern part of Japan and tsunami swept away a large part of reed fields along the Kitakami River. Today, a specified non-profit organization (NPO) organized by local residents of Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi Prefecture, is trying to restore the fields. In late August, it had an event for approximately 30 people, mostly the local and some from other areas, to offer an experience of building reed boats.
The event was held for the first time by the organization, inviting Jin Ishikawa, a professional adventurer, as a lecturer. Ishikawa has learnt reed boat building skills in Peru and has been trying to go across the Pacific Ocean using his own reed boat. Reeds are aquatic plants which are strong particularly against water. The first part of the boat building process is biding reeds harvested during the winter to make five long parts. Then, these parts are joined together by ropes and fastened again to form a shape of a boat. The participants have built two 5-meter boats in two days and tried them on the shallow water of one of the side streams of the Kitakami River. Audience on the bank let out big cheer, when the boats started moving. Ishikawa smiled at them and said that the reed boats will bring nature and people together.
Kitakami-cho is located at the mouth of the great Kitakami River, which runs 249 meters long through Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. It has extended beds of common reeds alongside and people used to cultivate the plants as roofing materials. So reeds were something important to symbolize rich contacts between people and nature in the region. But on March 11, 2011, the town was attacked by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the gigantic Tsunami caused tremendous damage to the area, sweeping away almost 60% of the reed fields. The NPO was established in February 2012 by Akio Kumagaya, 49, a craftworker specialized in reed roofing, and other members with the purpose of restoring damaged areas and reestablishing people’s live in harmony with nature. Planting reeds is one of their main activities. “Kitakami River is a symbol of our emotional ties with nature, I hope, building reeds boats will help us deepen such feeling and open up new prospects for the region,” said Kumagaya confidently.