11 March 2011. The magnitude 9 earthquake in the Tohoku region of Japan and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant caused severe damage to my hometown of Namie-cho, Fukushima Prefecture. Not only were buildings and other structures damaged by the earthquake, but the entire town became an evacuation zone, making it uninhabitable. At the time, there were more than 20 kilns in the Ohori area of the city that produced the traditional Ohori Soma-yaki craft. The Matsunaga kiln, where I am now the fourth generation, is one of them. But we were all forced to evacuate, leaving behind kilns that had been passed down from generation to generation.
The Namie-cho evacuation order was partially lifted six years later, but the Ohori area is still evacuated (in June 2022). Nevertheless, a dozen kilns, including the Matsunaga kiln, have rebuilt their kilns in new locations, with great effort, so as not to extinguish the light of this traditional craft that has endured since the 17th century. By mixing clay and new glazes, they have revived the Ohori Soma products.
While the revival of their hometown's traditional craft has become a source of comfort to the people of Namie who have continued to be evacuated, the kilns that were forced to leave the area are now asking, "What is tradition? What is home?" The kilns continued to face difficult questions such as, "What is tradition?