November 15, 2011
By Tomoko Doi, translated by Ryoko Sato
I greatly appreciate the worldwide support we received for the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. The great tsunami took many lives and displaced many who survived. In terms of glass and ceramics, big museums had measures for the earthquake and the damages were limited for them, but outside these institutions there were irreparable damages and losses.
As far as I have researched, there were no glass studios directly damaged by the tsunami, but the earthquake damaged or destroyed a few glass furnaces. For the ones who survived the main shock, the shortage of water and electricity has made leading a normal life difficult. With the lack of information about the disaster and simply not knowing when the power would return, running a furnace became difficult. Most studios had to shut down temporarily. It is notable that neither ceramic nor glass studios caught fire. I want fellow artists working with “fire” to know that even in the midst of the strong shakings, artists risked their lives to prevent uncontrolled fires.
The earthquake was not only about the main shock. On the day itself, there were almost a hundred aftershocks. Japan is an earthquake country, but it was unprecedented to shake so long in such a large area.
Compared to glass, ceramics were hit much worse. Traditional ceramic centers, such as Mashiko, Kasama and Oborisoma are located in the area heavily hit by the earthquakes and many pieces of art as well as traditional climbing kilns and historical kilns were destroyed. Oborisoma is also located within the evacuation zones of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and to this day, their future is uncertain.
Except for some, most glass studios managed, through their own efforts, to reopen by the end of April in order to prepare for summer, which is the glass season in Japan. Many questioned the meaning of being a glass artist in such a circumstance. Everyone is grateful that they can “create” and are working hard; however, time seems to pass in a different way and what was “normal” before the disaster seems somehow lost forever.
It will still take a long time for the areas damaged by the tsunami to return to normality and I feel frustrated in the slow process of recovery. What can I do, through glass, to help? I still do not know, but I (and many others) would be grateful if the international glass network could help in one way or another in the process of recovery.
Within Japan, glass artists have taken active part in projects such as charity exhibitions, sending day ware to victims. Some design and create specific objects for which part of the proceeds are set-aside as relief funds. I have also participated in a project to help rebuild Mashiko, by making necklaces combining glass and ceramic fragments.
But, as a glass artist, who uses a lot of energy and lives in East Japan, the nuclear power plant accident, with the resulting shortage of electricity and the ongoing problem with radioactive contamination, has created very difficult and complicated issues to grapple with. It is not easy to find a solution.