つれづれの記

” Ogatsu Canvas of Hope”

Days are passing quickly this December.

On December 1st, I caught an early morning Tohoku Sinkansen for the couple hours ride to Sendai. At Sedai, I rented a car and drove about an our to Ogatsu, a small town by the ocean in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture. It’s also a town that was severely damaged by the tsunami.

It was cold, but there was no snow.

Instead, as I arrived at Arahama Beach, my eyes were drawn to the pure white 4m x 40m plaster wall. It stands parallel to the ocean shore. I mentioned it before. It is the Ogatsu Canvas of Hope project. I took the opportunity to come with my tool box.

Right here, right now, there’s only so much that I can do. The decision is whether to do it or not. All that I can do is to merge my own drawings with theirs, to add my support to this wall that belongs to the people of the area.

The locals have written their own thoughful messages and drawn their own images on the wall. I was also painting next to those. It was fun and fresh to hear an old woman laugh that “it’s crooked” as I painted. There were many girls who drew Snoopy. Charlie Brown and other human figures are hard to draw, so I was surreptiously checking and searching for images as I was painting. But I didn’t have a chance to draw him. Some ladies were talking about manga, “My daughter likes ‘One Piece’, but why is it called that, it’s not like they are wearing a one piece”. I tried to help, answering that “One Piece is one piece so the Grand Line… yeah”, and unfortunately couldn’t explain it very well…

Sunset on the 1st came quickly at around 4:30. I couldn’t see the color of the thin black ink anymore so I decided to finish it up the next day.

I had breakfast on the 2nd at the beach around 8:30, and after warming my hands at the campfire, I turned to the wall. Sand was being blown around by strong ocean winds and were getting mixed in my ink palette. I think that this was probably my first time painting something so large outside.

I was surprised. The wall felt really different from the day before. It was slick, and it wasn’t dry so it made things difficult. Looking from an angle at where I had painted, I could see that it was still shiny and that it hadn’t dried. But it stayed shiny for long that I started wondering. When I touched it, it turned out to be frozen. The tempurature was below freezing that morning. I was now afraid that the freeze would mix with the thin ink, but even more so that the ink would all just run down the wall when it thawed.

The answer was to mix the ink with sea water (salt water). Salt water has a lower freezing temperature, so on that day we were able to make it through without it freezing. It felt like something was leading me toward the answer by having it found in the nature around us.

I finished the painting around lunch. In order to paint a 4m tall painting, I needed a large platform to stand on, which the Shuhei Guild helped move around with precision as I was working. It was their crisp support that allowed me to paint without stress, for which I am deeply thankful.

We ate freshly made pork soup and grilled rice balls while seated on an Ogatsu rock stage that the ocean had washed up (or so the rock appeared). I had a conversation with Mr. Sugiyama, a thatcher on top of the rock. It’s important to know that people live a long time, and that the current moment is everything. Those aren’t contradictory. I think that’s what we talked about.

I was lucky to have several such occurences.

The closing cermonies had great performances by the Houin Kagura and Date no Kurofune Taiko groups. The cold wasn’t even noticed. And along with the marine products, the stones that are used to make the Ogatsu ink stones (which I could look at forever and never get tired of looking at), Ogatsu has many of Japan’s treasures.

The local school had been destroyed and so there is no kindergarten. I hope that for the sake of the children living there and the parents of the younger generation, they will again have a kindergarten and be able to go to school.

The time to leave approached and although I was sad that I had not been able to greet everyone, there was no help for it. I made the drive away on the dark roads. One other thing I am sad about is that there were 2 or 3 other spaces that I wanted to draw in. Maybe the next time I am in Ogatsu I can draw in those spaces. But by then, maybe the locals who had not yet had a chance to write there, or people who have returned will have filled in all the space.

From a distance, it may appear that it is as black as an Ogatsu stone, and that will become the strength the wall is filled with.

Takehiko Inoue

2012.12.07

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