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Japan beyond 3.11 Stories of Recovery

GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUATE PROJECT NHK WORLD
SCK GIRLS Sing for the Locals

This page is adapted from the original transcript of NHK’s TOMORROW, broadcast on February 16, 2015

Tomorrow Logo
SCK GIRLS

A group of young girls walk through Akihabara, the sacred ground for idol groups.

Walking

“Eh? We’re walking in the street?”
(Karen: Member, SCK GIRLS)

“It’s called a “pedestrians' paradise”. The road’s closed to motor traffic. Isn’t this great? Wow, we’re walking in the middle of the street in Tokyo!”
(Rino: Member, SCK GIRLS)

“It’s great!”
(Karen)

SCK GIRLS

They are SCK GIRLS, a local idol group from Kesennuma, a disaster-stricken area in Miyagi Prefecture.

SCK GIRLS

“Hello everyone, we’re Sanchi Chokuso from Kesennuma Girls, in short... SCK GIRLS!”
(SCK GIRLS)

Fans

They have been invited to an idol event being held in Akihabara.

Singing

The song the girls are singing is “Feelings of the people in Kesennuma who are trying to rise from the disaster”.

("The Words of Thank You" Lyrics)
Echo! “Thank you!” We sing it loud!
Watch us going forward,
We’re going to make a new story
Until the day that scenery returns.

SCK GIRLS

“We’ll keep working towards recovery. Please visit us in Kesennuma!”
(Rise: Former leader, SCK GIRLS)

Murasaki Market

SCK GIRLS’ base is Murasaki Market, a temporary shopping mall in Minami-machi, Kesennuma.

SCK GIRLS

“Good evening.”
(SCK GIRLS)

“Hello.”
(Marika: Leader, Age 17)

“Croquettes, croquettes!”
(Rin: Member, SCK GIRLS)

Croquettes

“Nine crunchy croquettes, please!”
(Marika)

Croquette shop owner

“Nine? Sure. Just a moment. Going for a practice?”
(Croquette shop owner)

“Right.”
(Marika)

“Keep warm and have a good session!”
(Croquette shop owner)

“Thank you.”
(Marika)

Damage

Temporary shops to replace the original shopping mall washed away by the tsunami were constructed around the time SCK GIRLS was formed.

Croquette shop owner

“I really feel we’ve been growing together! They practice and join events held here in the temporary shopping mall. We’ve been watching them and looking after them just as if they’re our own children.”
(Croquette shop owner)

Sushi restaurant owner

“In the early days, they were just ordinary local girls and not so striking, but as they held events around here, they got better and better. The fact that those local girls were energetically involved in their live performances and practicing so hard had a very positive effect on us all, you know, just after the disaster. They were good for everyone’s mental state.”
(Sushi restaurant owner)

Dancing

SCK GIRLS continue practicing at the temporary shopping mall. They were featured last March in this series and in this edition we’ll introduce their growth over the past year.

Morley

Journalist Morley Robertson is the reporter.

Morley

Morley is also an electronic music researcher and a professional musician himself.

“When I’m in distress, I’m often uplifted by the Japanese idol groups, their music, like the AKB48. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck this city of Kesennuma, a local idol group was formed. But now, four years after the disaster, things are fading away. The group faces a new kind of challenge. Today, we’ll be reporting on how the idol group works against all odds, but never giving up the fight.”
(Morley Robertson: Reporter)

SCK GIRLS Sing for the Locals
Kesennuma

Many residents of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture perished in the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami. Morley visits Murasaki Market, where SCK GIRLS hold their practice sessions.

Morley arrives

“There they are. Wow!”
(Morley)

Morley watches the practice

“Hello.”
(Morley)

“Hello.”
(SCK GIRLS)

“May I come in?”
(Morley)

“Sure, please come in.”
(Takeshi Sato: Representative, SCK GIRLS)

Dancing

As members have started work or graduated, the group has gradually changed.

Marika

Marika became the third leader three months ago.

Members

The group now consists of 12 girls from local elementary, junior high and high schools.

Karen

Karen in the center is still only a 5th grader at elementary school. She is dreaming of becoming a nationwide idol.

Takeshi Sato

Takeshi Sato, the SCK GIRLS Representative, has been involved in their management as a volunteer. He also produces their original music.

Self-cheering song

The girls come up with the choreography themselves. They have just started practicing for the event to mark the third anniversary of the group’s formation.Their latest number is titled “Self-Cheering Song”.

(“Self-Cheering Song” Lyrics)
Say to yourself reflected in the mirror
“Keep at it!”
Cheer on yourself, starting up your heart
Words steering the future to make you stronger

Morley's advice

“After Karen, how does Marika go?”
(Morley)

(Karen & Marika sing)

“Sorry, but did you notice you were a little off there?”
(Morley)

Girls

“Yes, I was a bit off!”
(Marika)


Oh, Morley’s musician’s spirit has turned on and he cannot keep quiet. He is giving advice!

(Marika sing)

“The pitch in the middle was off!”
(Morley)

Girls

“Do you know the children’s song ‘Bumm, Bumm, Bumm’?”
(Morley)


(Marika sing)

“That’s it! Good!”
(Morley)

“You’re great! You’re great!”
(Marika)

Takeshi Sato

“Actually, Marika started off tone-deaf.”
(Takeshi Sato)

“No?!”
(Morley)

“I thought she was so bad that it wouldn’t work. But, after all, effort bears fruit.”
(Takeshi Sato)

SCK GIRLS work hard by themselves. They rarely have the chance to get professional coaching.

Tsunami

In 2011 the tsunami swallowed up the central part of the city, claiming more than 1,000 lives. There were few places left for children to play and many were close to losing all hope.

News

In October that year, a tiny ad appeared in a paper targeted at children.

News

“We’re planning to enliven the area with performances by local ‘idols’ and send out the message that we are all striving hard.”

Sato

Sato, who was involved in volunteer activities using music to cheer up local people, started producing music for the idol group.

Original members

SCK GIRLS was formed in November 2011, with girls who had all suffered in the disaster.

Media

The common theme of the songs sung by SCK GIRLS is “The feelings of the people living in Kesennuma”.

Members

Their debut song “The Words of Thank You” was imbued with gratitude to all the people who supported them.

("The Words of Thank You" Lyrics)
Echo! “Thank you!” We sing it loud!
Watch us going forward
We’re going to make a new story
Until the day that scenery returns
Yes, some day soon, we’ll meet again here.

CD

The group’s management is all carried out by volunteers, and their activities are funded by sales of original goods.

Market

Murasaki Market is the base for SCK GIRLS’ activities.

Damage

This area was Kesennuma’s major shopping district, with around 160 shops.

Murasaki Shrine

However, the tsunami washed everything away and the shop owners were all forced to evacuate.

Masato Sakamoto

In that situation, Masato Sakamoto, the chairman of the young people’s association, decided to build a temporary shopping mall.

Murasaki Mall opening

In December that year, the temporary shopping mall Murasaki Market opened with the help of local people.

cadocco

Sakamoto created a free space for children called “cadocco” in what used to be a pharmacy and let SCK GIRLS use it for free.

Morley

Morley is on his way to meet Sakamoto.

Sakamoto

“The number of children in this area decreased. Quite a lot of people moved out and there are now over 50% fewer children than there were before the disaster. Now it’s brighter at night, but it was very dark around the time cadocco was opened. So the lights at the place where SCK GIRLS were energetically practicing made us all feel relieved. Just the fact that they’re there with lively voices has given us all at the somewhat downcast shopping mall feelings of courage and relief.”
(Masato Sakamoto: Deputy director, Murasaki Market)

SCK GIRLS

SCK GIRLS grew to become a group that could lift the spirits of all the people around them.

Event

And Kesennuma city appointed the group as a messenger for recovery to convey information about the city nationwide.

January 2015

It will soon be four years since the disaster struck. SCK GIRLS decided to hold an event in Kesennuma, their hometown, to mark the 3rd anniversary of their formation.

Morley

Morley visits the SCK GIRLS’ office, lent to them free by a supporter.

“Hello! Nice to see you again.”
(Morley)

“Hello!”
(SCK GIRLS)

Event planning

The girls are discussing what they still need to do for the event.

Yui

“We’ve been performing for over three years, so I kind of think our passion for delivering our gratitude to everyone and working to help for recovery are fading a bit.”
(Yui: Member, SCK GIRLS)

Karen

“I recently saw what Kesennuma used to look like on TV. It was totally different. I’m starting to get used to the present town, but after all I want to get rid of that feeling.”
(Karen: Age 11)

Marika

“We all want to deepen our bonds with local people, right? The locals and SCK GIRLS… We want to create a relationship of mutual support. Because if we support each other, if one side collapses, the other will hold up. We want to become an indispensable group for them. That’s why I want to continue our activities.”
(Marika: Leader, Age 17)

Notes

How can they pass on their feelings to the local people? The discussion goes on.

Murasaki Market

Murasaki Market is also now facing issues different from those in the days immediately after the disaster.

Morley

“It’s almost four years since the disaster. Has the number of visitors from outside the prefecture changed?”
(Morley)

Sakamoto

“Well, the number of tourist buses has dropped. The town looks clean now, so visitors say, “You’ve recovered, well, haven’t you?” But we’re still in the middle of the recovery. This temporary mall will be torn down some day.”
(Masato Sakamoto: Deputy director, Murasaki Market)


“What do you think will happen to this market in the future?”
(Morley)

“The new site has been more or less fixed and we’ve been making plans for that. All 53 shops would like to move together, you know, that would be ideal, but we have various problems, including finance, age, a lack of successors, and so on. So, not all the shops will move, but I think more than half are planning to continue their business.”
(Masato Sakamoto)

Morley

It has been decided that the new shopping mall will be constructed in 2017 and the present shop owners will have to leave this temporary shopping mall.

Morley in a shop

“Excuse me. Hello! How’s your business going? Any customers?
Not many?”
(Morley)

Greengrocer

“We were alright for the first two years. The tourists no longer come, either.”
(Greengrocer)

“This is a temporary site, but I hear there’s a plan to construct a permanent mall.”
(Morley)

“Yes. It makes me feel ‘Right, I’ll keep at it!’ and I’m trying hard here like this, but what can we do without customers? I talk to people and beg them to visit the shop, but you know…”
(Greengrocer)

Shopowner

“When they build the new shopping mall, will you move in there?”
(Morley)

“Well, to tell the truth, I’m not sure yet. You see, I’m concerned about the cost of the carpentry work and also whether we can pay back in 20 years because the number of customers is decreasing.”
(Souvenir shop owner)

The locals want to go for a full-scale recovery, but is that really feasible? They face many anxieties.

SCK GIRLS' office

SCK GIRLS are making progress with their preparations for the 3rd anniversary event.

Sato

Sato is explaining his thoughts imbued in the new song “Jibun Oenka” Self-Cheering Song.

“In the early days, we were encouraged simply by the power of wanting to manage our lives. But we couldn’t be so enthusiastic forever. We got tired of words like ‘Stick to it!’ and ‘Let’s keep at it!’ flying around. We even had to be careful using those words to each other. But we needed some power. By saying to ourselves ‘Keep going!’ and ‘Yes, we will!’, we can support each other again. This kind of meaning’s imbued in the new song. You should be singing about the feelings of everyone from the shopping mall and the rest of Kesennuma.”
(Takeshi Sato: Representative, SCK GIRLS)

Practice

Immediately after the disaster, they all felt uneasy about phrases like “Keep at it!” that everyone outside the stricken areas said to them. Nobody says those words today, so the time’s come to cheer on yourself.

(“Self-Cheering Song” Lyrics)
“Keep at it!” Cheer on yourself,
starting up your heart,
Words steering the future to
make you stronger
Resonate those words loudly
to reach you in the future


“That was great! Impressive. You really got better! Thank you for that.”
(Morley)

Morley

“I didn’t expect these young girls to be, you know, more than teenagers, or even children, because some of them are so young, but I’m very surprised that they’re maintaining an adult order of concentration to what they’re doing. They’re on a mission. Maybe that’s what’s driving their sort of fierce dedication to all that singing and dancing.”
(Morley)

Members

The girls want to hold the 3rd anniversary event at Murasaki Market that has been such a great help to them. They are going to talk to Sakamoto.

“We came up to this shrine once when we had a tsunami warning, didn’t we?”
(Marika)

Marika

“Hello. Thanks for giving us your time.”
(Marika)

Members

“We’d like to hire Murasaki Market to hold an SCK GIRLS event.”
(Marika)

Sakamoto

“Well, cadocco started with your activities. So if you hold such an event, I’m sure everyone from the mall will be happy. Why not? Please use it. It will be cold, though!”
(Masato Sakamoto: Deputy director, Murasaki Market)

Members

“We know you plan events at Murasaki Market from scratch. When that happens, are there any special things we should pay attention to?”
(Karen: Age 11)

“Well, you often hear the term ‘fading of memories’. We use it trying to convey to others the feeling of not forgetting what happened. But I feel somehow that we ourselves are starting to forget. While we ourselves are forgetting, we can’t really ask other people not to forget. So, I’m hoping that we will value the feelings we had in the early days. Some adults are losing those initial feelings and saying ‘We’ve been sticking to it, but I wonder if we can continue doing that’. So, I want you young SCK GIRLS to convey to them the message of ‘Let’s keep at it, all of us together!’”
(Masato Sakamoto)

Sakamoto and SCK GIRLS

Sakamoto wants to show something to the girls.

Planned construction site

“This is where we’ll create the new shopping mall.”
(Masato Sakamoto)

Sakamoto and SCK GIRLS

“This is more or less where it will be. And a new cadocco will be created in it. We have a plan of creating a square, and laying out the shops so that it’s easy for people to get around.”
(Masato Sakamoto)


Two years from now, the new shopping mall and cadocco will be opened here. Sakamoto is hoping that it will remain as the base for the SCK GIRLS’ activities.

“It’s only a plan right now. You’re the ones who have to be involved in the actual construction! It’ll be nice to have a permanent town again, won’t it?”
(Masato Sakamoto)


“Yes, it will!”
(Karen)

Event day

Finally the day for the event has come. And there is snow on the ground.

Marika

“See you later.”
(Marika)


The girls really want the people working at Murasaki Market to come to the event, so they visit them one by one.

Members and shop owner

“Hello, we’re SCK GIRLS. Today, we’re holding an event at Murasaki Market. Please come and see us!”
(Marika)

“It’s cold, but good luck!”
(Convinience store owner)

“Thank you.”
(SCK GIRLS)

Sushi restaurant owner

“Hello.”
(Marika)

“You know, you’re just as good as all those idols in Tokyo! Cuter than them, in fact! I’m looking forward to the event!”
(Sushi restaurant owner)

“Thank you very much!
(SCK GIRLS)

Tonkatsu shop owner

“Hello, we’re SCK GIRLS.
(SCK GIRLS)

“Oh, my!”
(Tonkatsu shop owner)

“We’re sure you’re busy, but please come and see us if you have time!”
(Marika)

“Just hang on a second! You’re just as busy as I am! Please take these! Good luck!”
(Tonkatsu shop owner)

“Thank you!”
(SCK GIRLS)

“Stay warm and don’t catch cold!”
(Tonkatsu shop owner)

cadocco

Before holding the live performance, the girls will report on their activities at cadocco.

Audience

“Thanks for coming.”
(SCK GIRLS)

“Please make yourself at home.”
(Marika)


A big audience is gathering.

Talking

“Each of us would now like to present our dreams. We hope you will listen to us warmly.”
(Marika)

Karen

“My dream is to appear as the center singer of SCK GIRLS, Japan’s top idol group, on the most popular TV music show!”
(Karen)

“Oh!! Yeah! Go-go!”
(Audience)

“That will surely help Kesennuma to recover, so I definitely want to make my dream come true!”
(Karen)

Rikako

“When I joined SCK, I had just become 6 years old and I only danced in my own way. When I started appearing at various events, I realized that we could share our enthusiasm with other people. I will try to work harder hoping to share our energy with everyone who comes to see us in the future.”
(Rikako)

Morley

“That was the last message. Thank you!”
(Marika)

Show location

The live outdoor show starts at 1 o’clock. The snow has mostly melted.

Sakamoto

Masato Sakamoto, who has been keeping an eye on SCK GIRLS since the start, has come.

Morley

“Everyone, break a leg! I’ll be watching you.”
(Morley)

Marika

“I’m so nervous…nervous…nervous!”
(Marika)

Performing

“Hello, everyone… We’ll give it everything we’ve got…”
(Marika)

Sushi restaurant

(“Thank You” Lyrics)
Echo! “Thank you!” We sing it loud!
Watch us going forward,
We’re going to make a new story
Until the day that scenery returns.
Yes, some day soon, we’ll meet again here.

Marika

“March 11th this year marks the 4th anniversary since the disaster. Many of you may be so used to the present look of the town that your memory of the lively Kesennuma of the past is fading away. Our generation wants to continue handing down what happened that day and what we have gained from that experience to the future. Now, please listen to this song! We weak people want to say ‘Keep at it!’ to ourselves!... ‘Self-Cheering Song’.”
(Marika)

Performing

SCK GIRLS’ new song is filled with the thoughts that they want to convey most to the local people.

Sakamoto

(“Self-Cheering Song” Lyrics)
Recently you avoid some words
because of your concern
But sometimes I need those words
When you’re discouraged and feel like crying
When you have to do it on your own
Say to yourself reflected in the mirror
“Keep at it!” Cheer on yourself,
starting up your heart,
Words steering the future to make you stronger
Resonate those words loudly
to reach you in the future

Fans

“Kesennuma! Kesennuma!”
(Fans)

Thanks

“We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for coming today!”
(Marika)

“Thank you very much!”
(SCK GIRLS)

Hopes for Kesennuma

“So what are your hopes for Kesennuma?”
(Morley)

“We mustn’t allow our memories of the disaster to fade away. Without forgetting what Kesennuma used to be in the past, we want to help create a new Kesennuma and make it much hyper and greater with our music, songs and dancing.”
(Marika)

Morley summarises

“If they were to succeed, they will bring about a new hope to Kesennuma, as a whole city. They will help the adults heal and get their motor running again. So, in a way, they, they are the bearers of the torch, they are running with it, and I hope that they can keep the fire going, and that they can help restart Kesennuma.”
(Morley)

SCK GIRLS has continued running along with the local people in their disaster-stricken hometown. Four years on, whenever you feel you are low on energy, cheer yourself on by saying “Keep at it!”

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