As you may recall, the Fish Arch project was led by a group of students taking Yasushi Ikeda’s lab at Keio University. The group was asked to contribute to the Obon Festival by doing an installation. Since there had been a construction moratorium up until recently, there was no way the students could build anything permanent. So they decided that a temporary installation that the residents and children could take part in might be fun and uplifting and serve as a symbolic act. A lumber yard in Kesennuma donated the wood scraps for the project, which were then laser cut into the fish shapes. Visitors, staff and students from Keio University signed the fish with messages of support for the victims.
The student group then took the modular fishes down to Kesennuma for the Obon Festival at the end of August. The Obon festival is a national holiday devoted to remembering the dead and is usually a positive time where families return to their homes and celebrate being together. This year was a little different because of the tsunami as many did not have homes to return to and around 1,000 people perished and 400 are still missing. Bill Galloway, a research lecturer at Keio University who assisted with the student project, told us “Preparations for the festival were not so easy and really there is always the question of whether it is appropriate to return to a more normal life already or not. In the end the community decided to go ahead with the festival but to keep it a bit low key.”