Ties among Nepal villagers withstood 2015 earthquake

Bon Ishikawa (left) shows video footage he recorded to a girl who appears as one of the main figures in his documentary.
PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

A documentary following villagers' lives in a mountain area affected by the spring 2015 Nepal earthquake, filmed by a Japanese photographer who supports them, is scheduled to be shown in Tokyo on March 25.

The film, "Sekai de Ichiban Utsukushii Mura" (The most beautiful village in the world), has already been screened in disaster-hit areas, six years after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Its depiction of people helping each other struck a cord of empathy among those who have seen it.

The documentary is set in Laprak, a village about 2,200 meters above sea level, within sight of the Himalaya Mountains.

The massive quake in Nepal killed about 9,000 people, and destroyed the Laprak village.

Immediately after the quake, Bon Ishikawa, a photographer from Machida, Tokyo, set out from Katmandu for the village. Traveling by car and on foot, the trip took two days.

Ishikawa, who is now 57, has worked for AFP News. He has extensive experience reporting from disaster areas, including taking aerial photos of the tsunami's impact the day after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

He rushed to the Nepalese village because "it would be a region where help would be slow to arrive."

Using social media, he showed the outside world the damage and collected donations from Japan, eventually delivering three tons of food and 600 cots.

Like the sufferers of the Tohoku disaster, the villagers displayed resilience while they lived in tents.

But he also noted some differences. While some elderly people in the Tohoku region became isolated living in mainly temporary housing, none of the Laprak villagers were left on their own.

In the devoutly religious community, funerals for the victims were village-wide affairs. And by the time of the festival for the new year, their smiles had returned.

"They taught me the good sides of community," Ishikawa said.

Wanting to show the villagers' lives to people in the disaster area in Japan, for a year he followed a family who raised cattle and the village's only nurse, recording the sadness of losing family members and conflict over the government's decision to relocate the village.

Chieko Baisho, who has worked to support sufferers of the Tohoku disaster, and other artists who agreed with the film's objective helped by providing music and editing work.

In late February, the film was shown in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. "Six years ago, we thought families and other bonds were so important, but we've forgotten," one person who saw it said.

The film showing in Tokyo is scheduled to take place at the Tokyo Gekijo (Togeki) movie theatre in the Ginza district from March 25.

"I hope seeing people who draw close in times of adversity and approach their lives straight on will provide an opportunity to think about what real happiness is," Ishikawa said.