Jan. 17th, 2018
On the 23rd anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

A lecture about the current situation of the Great East Japan Earthquake and live music show was held at Kobe International junior and senior high school (Suma).

It provided a spark for one of the participants of the project to hold the commemorative event. The participant is a girl who visited Tohoku disaster area who spoke loudly saying

“I really want everyone to know about the current situation of the Great East Japan Earthquake’s disaster area.”

At the time, she was just a fifth grade student.

“Pass the word”
It would be just a tiny thing, but it would lead to “action”.
It would be a strong power which would make people do something for the future.


In 2011, May 1st, just two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake; we met a Singer-songwriter, Ikumi Kumagai who lives in Kesennuma. She experienced the big earthquake and tsunami in her hometown. She took our interview even though she was still suffering from shock of the big earthquake.

After this interview, she met school students from Kobe and Hanshin area who joined this project. One girl’s voice had a strong impact on her and made her visit Kobe. In 2018, on Jan 17th early morning, at the gathering of the 1.17 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial at Sannomiya, Kobe, there were a lot of memorial bamboo lanterns. Candles’ lights were put out by the rain but Kumagai lighted a candle.

“Last night, at 11:00 p.m., I passed the Higashi amusement park; I saw just the preparations for the memorial event. On the 17th, it was raining but many people still came. So I think they keep thousands of thoughts about the big earthquake.

At a school lecture, I talked about disaster with slide show. After the lecture, students asked me “what should we prepare for an earthquake and tsunami?” Everyone listened to my song at my live concert so I believe I could tell them my feeling. I feel strongly that it is really important to continuously tell people who haven’t experienced an earthquake and tsunami about what happens as a kind of cautionary tale.”

In Kesennuma, Karakuwa peninsula is located in typical deeply indented coastline. There has been “Tsunami Taiken Kan (tsunami experience center)” since 1984. Tsunami is more familiar natural disaster for them than you think.

“In Kesennuma, there are a lot of alerts of tsunami. Two days before March 11th, we felt big earthquake. At that time, everyone evacuated to a hill, many of them bringing piggybanks and cash boxes. We stayed there until the alarm was all clear. So I believe that on the 11th everyone thought “AGAIN”. It was viewed as almost routine but everyone considered “to head for higher ground” on a daily basis.”

The high sea was very rough and turbulent but Karakuwa Peninsula and Kesennuma inland bay were so calm. Around that time, many ships took refuge in Kesennuma harbor. Kumagai is used to spending time with the natural environment and her emotion has been driven by it. She has expressed it in her songs.

“The sea is calm but sometimes it blusters. I was born in Kesennuma and since I made songs, my songs’ themes have been based on nature. I feel familiar with earthquakes and tsunami, that’s why sometimes I put that kind of scary topic into my lyrics. Although it was difficult to sing these kinds of songs because my head was full about living, I never ever hurt people by my songs. But seven years have passed and it could be okay to sing songs about nature and make “very Ikumi style” songs.

Seven years ago, Kumagai said “I really hope lovely Kesennuma will recover and as many people as possible can see the future.” She also got married and had a child. Her vision is looking toward the future and being down-to-earth.

On January 17th, twenty students answered a student council call and went to the Higashi amusement park in Sannnomiya to run a fund drive. What did they hope to get at the park where memorable bamboo lanterns light softly?

Ikumi Kumagai: Singer-songwriter. She was born in Kesennuma, Miyagi, 1985. In 2011, when she was being interviewed in the town she was born in, Kesennuma, she experienced the big earthquake, tsunami, and fire. She joined NHK song project “Hana wa Saku (blooming flower)”. In 2013, she won the 68th Japan FIM Award, Film music of the year for “Good bye my love”, theme song of “Kuchizuke (Kiss)”. In 2016, she got married and the next September she had a baby girl. Now she spends her busy days making songs, doing her radio show, and raising her child.