The village of Iitate was one of many that had to be evacuated due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster and subsequent widening of the radiation exclusion zone. The village, to this day, remains closed off and when a small fire broke out in 2013, there was no one around to put it out. By the time a nearby fire station responded, the 11th century Yamatsumi Shrine had been burnt to the ground, taking with it roughly 240 images of a wolf deity that had watched over the village for almost 1000 years.
A large piece of the village’s heritage was thought to have been lost. But as luck would have it, a group of archivist from Wakayama Universtiy who had been studying the Japanese Wolf had entered into the village before the fire and photographed the ceiling that the wolf deity had been painted.
When Tokyo University of the Arts professor Kei Arai heard about an effort to try and restore the lost paintings he got in touch and agreed to take on the project. Together with about 20 of his graduate school art students, the group spent 1 month practicing the traditional style of painting.
They then went to work creating faithful, accurate reproductions. The group has now completed their first 100 prints (they documented their progress here) and put them on display over the weekend. It’s touching to see pieces of culture, lost from the nuclear reactor meltdown, be brought back to life in the hands of a younger generation.