Stories from Tohoku captures the stories of survivors of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in the northeast region of Japan known as Tohoku. Using no narration and only first person accounts, survivors reflect stoicism, perseverance, and acceptance of their life-changing situation in ways that are marked contrasts to a more Western approach to life.

Produced by third generation sansei Japanese Americans, the film shows the roles some Japanese Americans played in the relief and recovery efforts. Viewers witness a group of college students from the Los Angeles area who travel to Tohoku to learn and help, and the transformation that a Japanese American photojournalist from Los Angeles undergoes after he visits the area initially to shoot photographs, then becomes involved in ways he did not anticipate.

tohoku women

Also featured is a Japanese American delegation from Northern California and Hawaii, headed by U.S. Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, one of the first international delegations to enter the Fukushima prefecture after the nuclear disaster.

Survivor stories include a woman who rescued kimono from the tsunami debris and uses them as a symbol of their roots and to remind people of what happened in Tohoku, a Fukushima mother who spends two hours on the road each day driving her child to preschool in a distant area to avoid radiation exposure, and an organic farmer in Fukushima who is reviled for continuing to grow crops that the general public falsely fears may contain radioactive elements.

Especially in light of the recent Philippine typhoon, Stories from Tohoku offers insight into the recovery and rebuilding of communities, not just physically, but spiritually as well and shows that times of despair can also offer opportunities for Americans of Japanese descent who were able to re-connect with the home of their ancestors.