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A photo book "Black Tsunami" by James Whitlow Delano documenting the devastation of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, published by FotoEvidence

Background

"We started north from Tokyo at three in the morning, in a rented mini-van loaded with jerry cans of extra fuel, drinking water and food, all of which would be in short supply. We crossed to the Sea of Japan coast of Honshu because of rumors about an imminent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

There would be an explosion at Fukushima Daiichi later that day which would deposit a massive amount of nuclear fallout on the ground, creating a nuclear no-man's land, but we were unaware of the severity of the situation on the other side of the island, as we were focused on getting over to Iwate Prefecture safely.  By the next morning rain had turned to snow. In the center of the island gasoline was being rationed and lines of cars stretched for kilometers.  Supply lines in Japan for everything, including food and bottled water, were already breaking down.  In fact, we had to abandon the mini-van and hire a taxi that used propane for the lack of gasoline.  The snow intensified in the tsunami zone. I wanted to climb right out of the taxi window, so intense was the desire to record the unthinkable.  Still, we had little notion that life in Japan would never be the same again.”

James Whitlow Delano, an American photojournalist who has lived in Japan for 20 years, captured conditions immediately following the Tohoku tsunami and has been back several times to record the eerie emptiness of the contaminated no-entry zone and the conditions facing displaced people.

FotoEvidence is partnering with James to produce a hard copy book of his work, “Black Tsunami: Japan 2011,” a beautiful but haunting portrait of the devastation left by the great tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and caused the nuclear meltdown that has permanently displaced tens of thousands. James’ images of farms and villages in the exclusion zone show an uninhabited landscape where ancestral graves lie in neglect, where pets and livestock have been left to perish, and massive mountains of contaminated debris have become permanent features of the landscape. He takes us to the shelters where displaced families huddle around heaters for warmth and struggle with understanding their uncertain future.

An ocean going ship sits where it came to rest in the debris of the great 25m high (82 ft.) tsunami that hit Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture following the massive earthquake that struck under the sea off of Japan.
An ocean going ship sits where it came to rest in the debris of the great 25m high (82 ft.) tsunami that hit Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture following the massive earthquake that struck under the sea off of Japan.
This formidable tsunami wall was not enough to halt the black wave that hit this village after the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history, Toni, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The tsunami was 25m (82 ft.) high, though residents here claim that it was 30
This formidable tsunami wall was not enough to halt the black wave that hit this village after the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history, Toni, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The tsunami was 25m (82 ft.) high, though residents here claim that it was 30
Cherry blossoms have open on a tree that seems to rise right out of the rubble. Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
Cherry blossoms have open on a tree that seems to rise right out of the rubble. Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
Once a great pine forest of 70,000 trees, covered the oceanfront at Takata Matsubara until the 11 March 2011 tsunami swept through decimating them all. Now the sea under cuts the roots beneath their stumps, giving them an other worldly appearance. Rikuzen
Once a great pine forest of 70,000 trees, covered the oceanfront at Takata Matsubara until the 11 March 2011 tsunami swept through decimating them all. Now the sea under cuts the roots beneath their stumps, giving them an other worldly appearance. Rikuzen

The Book

“Black Tsunami: Japan 2011” will be an important book because the Tohoku tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have had a profound effect on the Japanese psyche. James' work reveals a deep appreciation for the beauty of Japan and profound compassion for those whose lives have been devastated by both the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown it provoked. The book is designed by Mark Weinberg, whose recent work for FotoEvidence was recognized as one of the best books for 2011 by Photo Eye.The hard cover, black and white book will be printed using a four color process at Ofset Yapimev in Istanbul.

The iPad version of "Black Tsunami: Japan 2011" (FotoEvidence) took the bronze medal in the digital book category at PX3 in 2012.

Afterword by Bill Emmott

The afterword in the book is written by Bill Emmott, former editor of of The Economist, the world's leading weekly on international current affairs, now an independent writer and consultant on international affairs, who writes regular columns for The Times in Britain and La Stampa in Italy. 

From the afterword

"An outsider’s memory is of little importance compared with the memories of the people of Tohoku, and of the rest of Japan, for they will not forget March 11th for centuries, if ever. But it is nevertheless important to share those Japanese memories, in however small a way, to maintain a sense of solidarity, of understanding, and above all of our human vulnerability in the face of nature’s force."

From James Delano dedication

"This book is dedicated to the people whose lives were lost, or continue to be disrupted because of the Black Tsunami. This natural event created a cleavage in Japanese history and in my life here in Japan. It has truly been a “Year Zero”. To stand on solid ground and look up to third floor windows or higher impaled by trees, has forever cemented my sense of humility and awe for the forces of nature. A lot of people, young and old, weak and strong, needlessly lost their lives that day. I think about them, especially when walking through the cities where they once lived along one of the most beautiful coastlines on the planet."

Links to the Black Tsunami project

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Thank you to Noriko Hayashi for his help making the video.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

If we raise the money to print "Black Tsunami", we don't anticipate major challenges. James is a working photojournalist, diligent about producing assignments and meeting deadlines. FotoEvidence has published several high-quality photo books without any problems and has a designer and printer for the project, who have always delivered on time and within budget. We expect to meet our commitments to donors without difficulty.

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