Moai “Living for the future”“Connect with the bonds of friendship across the distant Pacific Ocean.”
“Connect with the bonds of friendship across the distant Pacific Ocean.”
Across a distance of about 17,000 km, the Republic of Chile and the Town of Minamisanriku have continued to promote friendly relations. The start of this friendship can be traced back to the tsunami caused by a major earthquake in Chile that hit Minamisanriku before dawn on May 24 1960.
In the Shizugawa district (former Shizugawa Town), 41 persons died, 312 houses were washed away, 653 houses were destroyed, 364 houses were partially destroyed, and 566 houses were flooded. In this way, Shizugawa suffered tremendous damage. In 1990, 30 years after the disaster, the monument of a condor, the national bird of Chile, was presented by the Chilean Government and in 1991 the moai statue which the Minamisanriku Government asked a Chilean sculptor to carve as part of the ‘Hometown Creation Project’ was completed. Both were placed in Matsubara Park in the Shizugawa district.
The park was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the head of the moai statue that was detached in the tsunami was found, and transferred to the premises of Shizugawa High School. The Chile Domestic Committee of the Japan-Chile Business Cooperation Committee asked the elders on Easter Island for their cooperation.
Mr. Manuel Tuki, a 93-year-old sculptor, called on everybody. “Should we present the moai, which can give mana (supernatural powers) to the people of Minamisanriku and provide them with the hope to live there again? I will carve the moai, which the Japanese people need, together with my son!” It is said that the meeting of the elders was enveloped in loud applause.
A moai made of stone from Easter Island had never left the island before. But because the Japanese people had previously supported restoration of moai statues that had fallen and scattered to their original glory, this unprecedented project of Easter Island was started.
In this way, Mr. Benedict Tuki, son of Manuel, carved the moai out of stone with his relatives who were also sculptors. Mr. Tuki put the eyes made from white coral and obsidian in the installed moai. It is said that there are only two moais which have eyes in the world.
When Mr. Tuki visited Minamisanriku and saw the disaster of the tsunami with his own eyes, his eyes filled with tears. “When the eyes are put in, mana (supernatural powers) dwells in a moai. I hope it will remove the sadness in Minamisanriku and watch over its revival,” he said.
Both Chile and Minamisanriku obtain food from the rich sea, and appreciate its benefits. Over their long history, the people well understand the dangers of the sea that can very easily take away peoples’ lives and livelihood. Tsunami can cause huge destruction from the opposite side of the earth, even if an earthquake is not felt. Over long eons, the damage from Nature that both lands have experienced, has taught them how humans should live harmoniously with nature. They have acquired the spirit to fight bravely, even in the face of horrific disasters.
The word “Moai” means “living for the future” in the Rapa Nui language of Easter Island. The moai of Minamisanriku contains the thoughts and hopes of many people such as the people of Chile and Easter Island who presented Minamisanriku with this much-treasured object as well as the staff of the companies who did their best to carry the huge 3-meter high image weighing 2 tons from this faraway island. The moai statue will continue to encourage and watch over the people of Minamisanriku far into the future.
The Moais are located all over Minamisanriku town − how many can you find?