My Devastated Hometown - Soichi Watanabe
Japanese artist Soichi Watanabe wrote about last year’s disaster in Japan in the December issue of the Japanese Protestant magazine Shinto no Tomo (Friends of Believers).
God is With Us - Remembering my Devastated Hometown during Christmas
by Soichi Watanabe
Soichi Watanabe: Ishinomaki - My home town, 1987
I was born in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi prefecture, and lived in Sendai City during my student days. This means that many acquaintances such as my relatives, teachers and friends were affected by the huge earthquake in the east of Japan. My mother in Ishinomaki, my uncles and aunts in Sendai and my sister’s family in Fukushima were safe. However, seven relatives, friends and acquaintances died in the tsunami.
I returned to Ishinomaki in July as soon as I was able to travel there by train and bus from Saitama where I live now. I had not seen my mother who lives alone for a long time, so we talked all day. In the afternoon, when I saw a panoramic view of downtown from a hill in Hiyoriyama park, I was lost for words as the town was completely changed.
After the disaster my wife Nao and I received many emails from overseas. In 2008 I was invited by the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) to be an artist in residence with my wife for ten months, and during that time we made friends with many people in Asia, Africa and America, who now sent emails to us. The staff and residents of OMSC organised a benefit concert for Japan on April 1, 2011 and sent JPY 200,000 to our church, the United Church of Christ in Japan.
Rev. Kenneth and Gerry Milhous, who for a long time were missionaries for the Baptist church in Japan, came to Japan again as volunteers for the non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse in America to help in Tome in Miyagi prefecture. We deeply appreciated the prayers and support by people from all over the world.
I wondered what I would be able to contribute as a painter, so I prayed and painted for restoration and held a solo exhibition in May at the Ein Karem Gallery of Kyobunkwan in Tokyo. I showed the landscape of Ishinomaki painted in 1987 and works with the title ‘Here I am’ to portray that Jesus is with us in troubles and bears our burdens.
Soichi Watanabe: Jesus Come Down to the Lowest Depths, 2002
This is the message I would like to share with everybody this Christmas. I thank and glorify the Lord Jesus who came to the world as Emmanuel, meaning God with us, and was born in the lowest of positions and the most difficult of circumstances in order to encourage and save us.
Published in Shinto no Tomo Magazine (Friends of Believers Magazine) by the Board of Publications of the United Church of Christ in Japan.