The terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011 tore apart the lives of an incalculable number of people. Over 15,000 people lost their lives, with many more injured and missing. The disruption to so many friends and families continues– but some measure of healing has been brought about thanks to a project to repair and return precious photos lost or damaged in the double disaster. The ‘Save The Memory’ initiative has been run by Ricoh, a Japanese electronics company. The project started because “a staggering amount of photos were washed away by the tsunami. The photos became mixed in with rubble, covered in mud, and scattered violently. A considerable number of photos also disappeared in the ocean”.
Just a month after the tsunami, volunteers started to collect the lost and damaged photos while teams in various factories in Japan have spent the last four years compiling and cleaning the pictures using a special process to carefully and meticulously remove the dirt and heavy contamination. Once the photos were clean and dry, they were scanned and uploaded to a digital database where people affected by the tsunami could search for and view the images. The photos are organised by region, and separated into subcategories such as “wedding photos” and “children.” When a person sees a photo that belonged to them, they submit an application to receive the original copy. As of March 9, 2015, a total of 90,128 photos have been returned to people who had thought their irreplaceable memories had been swept away. It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when the storytellers are no longer with us.