Kiriko Art

“Explore the beautiful Kiriko reflecting the Heart of Minamisanriku.”

“Explore the beautiful Kiriko reflecting the Heart of Minamisanriku.”

During the New Year, the household Shinto altar of the houses in Minamisanriku became bright with beautiful “divine ornaments,” cut out from pure white paper and used for good luck. In many houses, which were swept away by the great tsunami, the altars had always been decorated with such “Kiriko” paper cut-outs and paper streamers.

Cut-outs of sea bream, purse seine, sacred sake, etc. are uniquely designed by each shrine in Minamisanriku. “Kiriko” cut-outs created in all the shrines are lively, and in the powerful beauty of form, convey the overflowing blessings of our lives as we live among all beings and creatures. Just this one sheet of white paper transforms the altars into beautiful and fantastic spaces of blessings. “Kiriko” expresses the rich spiritual culture of the people of Minamisanriku.

In 2010, young women in Minamisanriku visited houses from the JR Shizugawa Station, Ekimae-dori, Itsukamachi to Tokamachi, and briefly interviewed residents about the treasures and recollections in each of their homes. In this “Kiriko Making Project,” they created new “Kiriko” shapes based on the unique features of each household, and displayed the works in front of each house. The cut-outs of 650 sheets decorated the streets, displaying the various tales woven in this town.

A project was begun to decorate the Utatsu and Iriya areas with these “Kiriko” cut-outs in the following year, 2011. In February of 2011, the group held a brief session on the project in which 140 people gathered. With so many interested persons, the group gained greater incentive to make the project a success. Unfortunately, soon after they gathered for the meeting of a new business year, the streets of Minamisanriku in which various tales had been displayed disappeared with the unprecedented tsunami of March 11, 2011.

The volunteer organization which took the lead in this project decided to start the Kiriko Making Project again with support from many collaborators in Minamisanriku. They displayed 230 “Kiriko” cut-outs in two temporary shopping centers. Also, 61 cut-outs made from aluminum compound boards were installed at 28 sites of houses that were washed away by the tsunami. They installed the aluminum cut-outs facing the sea at the sites of some households where they had held interviews, together with a few short lines describing the people who had lived there who faced their hardships with courage and dignity. This concept came from the idea that the sky and sea will watch over all the townspeople who are trying so hard to live their lives to the fullest.

One person said, “I feel happier about this kiriko display here rather than having my house rebuilt on this spot,” as he overlooked the lands where his family had lived for tens of years, brightened by white “Kiriko.”

It is because the town has lost its original features that we need to hand down our traditions and history from generation to generation to show to our children. We must hand down the humbling message that we must never forget that we are kept alive by the bounties of Mother Nature. We must convey the pride we feel in our brave and hardy predecessors who stood up to disasters such as tsunami and massive fires in this town. We want to show to the world that here are people who can work together to rebuild the town where people can live happily.

In winter, the prayers of the townspeople of Minamisanriku are reflected in the form of the white and pure “Kiriko.”

Kiriko Project

Address: Minamisanriku Portal Center, Gozenshita 51-1 Shizugawa, Minamisanriku-chō, Motoyoshi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture 986-0768

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