TIME Man on the Wire

Photographs of a 4-year-old Survivor of Japan’s Tsunami

Many family photographs have been found in the rubble and ruins of the earthquake and tsunami. Photographer Toru Hanai explains how these precious keepsakes are being restored and returned to their owners.

Many family photographs have been found in the rubble and ruins of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. In Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, photographer Toru Hanai explains that search and rescue teams, police, firefighters and the Japan Self Defense Force have been gathering the muddied and damaged pictures and bringing them to the local police station. At the Collection Centre the images are cleaned under the direction of project leader and Ofunato resident Satoko Kinno, a paper conservator and graduate of Camberwell College of Arts in London.

Once restored the images are taken to the shelters where they can be reclaimed by their owners. This photograph, taken by Hanai on April 12, shows a volunteer washing and drying images of one single child, a 4 year-old girl. Just a few days after this photo was taken, Kinno got word that the child and her mother and father had all survived the earthquake and tsunami, and were safe. The photographs will be returned to the family.

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