The community leader of Kizawa, Mr Hoshino, is a carpenter by trade and nowadays he lives with this wife in their self-remodeled house. Mr Hoshino told us that Kizawa was an agricultural base village, and it was completely self-susficient 100 years back then. ‘Back in the days’ Hoshino san said, ‘After you graduated from elementary school, you work in the farm, but in recent times, due to industries and jobs being located in the urban areas, people gradually moved out of the village, and especially young people who wanted to work in the city.’ With the Chuetsu earthquake, Kizawa village had further suffered population lost. 10 village members out of 50 had left the village to re-build their home somewhere. In today’s Kizawa village, there are no children at all, and everyone is over 65 years old.
Below, Mr Hideo ran us through the happenings and responds that they took after the earthquake on March 11:
‘The whole village was completely isolated on the first night after the first earthquake. The only two roads into town were destroyed. So the next day, the villagers decided to hike over one of the mountains to find help.’ Luckily, on the way to the other side of the mountain, they found an excavator machine whom belonged to a business person from the community, so they were able to use it to clear the tunnel that connects the 2 sides of the mountain. After the tunnel was cleared, the whole village evacuated to a gymnasium school. They stayed there for 2 months, and during that time, they were able to discuss their recovery plans in groups.
Due to the sturdy traditional timber house structure, only 1 house was destroyed, and 1-2% of the others were damaged. ‘Houses are strong here!’ Mr Hideo claimed and he started drawing us the traditional structure of a house with what he considered as sufficient bracing. What actually happened was that within the first month since the earthquake, some people were able to returned and repair their house, others rented apartment or houses in Nagaoka city, while 5-6 families decided not to rebuild their house back in the village.
It took the community 3 years to recover the physical built environment of Kizawa village, however, the recovery of the village community took a much longer time. During the recovery period, some NPOs (non-profit organisations) were presents to help rabbles and trash removal from their house site. The volunteers had to register at the town hall where they would get organised by the local leaders. Hideo told us that the involvement of volunteers from outside the village had activated the livelihood of the community with mutual communicative exchange.
Mr Hideo said that now they have hope and vision for the future. With the regular events and festivals inherent from the recovery, life has become more fun in the village, which is the most important thing at the end.