British YouTuber Chris Broad highlights locals in Japan in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami
YouTube shows Chris Broad showing the current status of tsunami-affected areas in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake in this screenshot from one of his videos.
Sendai – Chris Broad, a 30-year-old British YouTuber who has focused on the magic of the Northeast Tohoku region of Japan, visited the areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, capturing his interactions with locals and the region’s recovery through a video reaping Over a million views. The video is with subtitles in more than 10 languages, and has collected many comments from abroad. As a foreign citizen, the Mainichi Shimbun asked Broad for his thoughts when visiting the affected areas.
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Brod has been interested in Japanese culture since he was in university, and began living in Sakata, northern Japan, Yamagata Prefecture, in 2012 – the year after the earthquake – as an English teacher. He also had a dream of becoming a filmmaker since he was a student, and he started posting videos on YouTube showing his way of life in Japan.
YouTube said his trip to Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in 2013 inspired him to create videos about the effects of the earthquake. Talk about seeing destroyed buildings, homes, and cars while driving along the coast.
Ichiyo Kanno, left, owner of “Tsunakan” guesthouse on Karakuwa Peninsula in Kesennuma, Northeast Japan, appears in this YouTube screenshot.
“After the disaster, you haven’t really heard of the tsunami today, all you hear is Fukushima, and the nuclear disaster that overwhelmed everything,” said Brod. However, after seeing with his own eyes the disaster areas, he felt the need to convey the fact that tens of thousands of people had died in the tsunami.
In his first video he made in 2018, he spoke with entrepreneurs and other people in the disaster-stricken areas. When he visited Onagawa, new shops and roads were created, and the landscape developed. He was affected by the fact that a city that had suffered such devastating damage was making a fresh start from scratch.
Viewers of Brod’s videos seem to be touched by the life of Ichio Kanu, owner of a guesthouse on the Karakoa Peninsula in Kesnuma, Miyagi Prefecture. Broad says Kanno has a fun and hopeful attitude despite losing her family and home. He felt that the local people in the affected areas were looking to their future with optimism despite the unfortunate and terrible disaster.
The 2018 video has been viewed over 1 million times, garnering 50,000 likes and 4,000 comments. Brod believes the video grabbed attention because there weren’t previously many tsunami-related videos. Since there are many videos about Fukushima, Brod believes that people from outside who want to know more about the tsunami have discovered his video. The second reason for the video’s popularity, Brod says, is because of the people he interviewed. He spoke with several people, including a local guitar store owner, as well as workers at a carton processing company that the emperor also visited. Reflecting on his encounters with locals, Brod notes that “they were all very different personalities, different stories, different backgrounds, and they were all connected through this one event.” He thinks it must be interesting for viewers to be able to learn about these different stories through one video clip.
The YouTuber has uploaded a documentary on the tsunami this year. On his return to Onagawa, he was surprised to see that a huge seawall had been built in the city. When visiting Minamisanrico, construction vehicles and cranes lined up along the coast, which was in the midst of reconstruction. He was shocked that the town was still recovering nine years after the disaster.
Among the places featured in this video that made a lasting impression on Broad is the wedding venue in Minamisanriku whose remains have been preserved. Brod spoke of the importance of leaving buildings behind as a reminder of the devastation. He gave the example of Hiroshima, which was reborn as a beautiful city in the wake of the US atomic bombing, but home to the atomic bomb dome that gives visitors a glimpse into the horrors of war. It was a powerful experience, Brod said, “to walk somewhere that was devastated by (the tsunami) and to experience some kind of devastation,” rather than just watching videos taken at the time of the disaster.
This screenshot of a YouTube documentary on the tsunami shows Chris Broad of YouTuber at a guitar store in Onagawa Township, northeastern Japan, Miyagi Prefecture.
According to Brod, ways to overcome adversity form the overarching theme of the two videos. He believes that interest in Japanese culture is definitely a factor behind viewership, but at a basic level, people want to learn how to bypass bad events and “what kind of mentality you need to survive and thrive after something terrible like a tsunami.”
Brod says the earthquake appears to have given opportunities to people he met to reflect on their lives, and to note how valuable the fleeting life is. He wants to delve into the psychological effects of the earthquake on people, and has spoken of his intention to continue to visit the affected areas to hear the experiences of the locals.
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Chris Broad appears in this photo provided by Tokyo Creative.
Chris Broad is a YouTuber who was born in the UK. He came to Japan in 2012 to work as an assistant language teacher, and moved to Sendai in 2016. He currently provides content about food and tourism centered around the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan on his YouTube channel “Outside in Japan.”
His videos about the tsunami in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake can be viewed via the following links:
(Original interview by Hana Fujita, Sendai Office)
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