Young Japan quake survivor dreams of making movie

Young Japan quake survivor dreams of making movie
Sonomi Sato directs a camera toward Okawa Primary School, in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, where her younger sister died.

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi - Sonomi Sato, 18, a third-year student at Ishinomaki High School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, dreams of making a movie for her late younger sister, depicting scenes of the city, including Okawa Primary School, where her sister died in the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Her sister, Mizuho, was 12 and a sixth-grader at the primary school at the time of the disaster. Sonomi will enroll in Nihon University's College of Art in April in a course on making movies.

Sonomi also graduated from Okawa Primary School. Her current dream is to make a movie based around the primary school building and the natural scenery of her home city, which are full of memories of herself and Mizuho.

At the primary school, a total of 84 students, teachers and school employees were engulfed in the tsunami. Sonomi sometimes visits the school.

Visiting the site makes her feel as if she is able to become closer to her late sister's soul. She directs a camera toward the school, where she and her sister used to go together.

Mizuho's death was confirmed on March 13, 2011, two days after the disaster. Until then, Sonomi had believed that her sister had somehow managed to escape.

Sonomi thought that her sister must have been hungry, and headed for Okawa Primary School carrying sweet buns to confirm the situation at the primary school.

When she was walking on the grounds, which were full of debris, an acquaintance told her, "[The body of] Mizuho was retrieved." Her sister looked as if she was sleeping. When Sonomi touched her body, she was surprised at how cold it was.

Since then, Sonomi has seen Mizuho in her dreams. In one dream, the two ate pasta together and played all day. When Sonomi hugged her sister, Mizuho's form disintegrated. Then Sonomi woke up, wishing she could see her sister again.

The sisters learned to play the piano and guitar together. When Sonomi wrote a novel, Mizuho followed suit. As their father likes seeing movies, the three often went to see movies together.

Okawa Primary School is a place Mizuho had attended cheerfully. Around the school, vast green rice paddies could be seen in summer, and the riverside reeds looked golden in autumn.

Sonomi came to wish she could record such scenes of their home city in a movie, for the sake of her late sister.

The primary school building has been left as it was after its destruction by the tsunami, and some local residents have pressed for it to be demolished. Because of this, Sonomi feels somehow guilty about shooting footage of the school.

"But I feel sorry for Mizuho, if the school is remembered only as the site of tragedies. I want to convey the fact that she lived her life cheerfully here," Sonomi said.

How can she express such feeling in a visual art form? From April, Sonomi's endeavours toward that goal will begin.

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