'Rebuilding Japan' to Air Across Asia in Week of One-year Disaster Memorial

Tsunami in Japan

Six episodes by Japanese filmmakers chart the recovery process.

TOKYO – Rebuilding Japan, a six-part Discovery Channel series charting recovery stories from the tsunami-devastated northeast coastline, began airing today in the country where the disasters occurred.

The series will runin Japan until March 11, the anniversary of the disasters, and air across Asia and Europe beginning between March 6 and 11.

The hourlong episodes, each by a different filmmaker chosen from 250 entries, catalog tales of hope, courage and community from the Tohoku northeast coastline as Japan faces its biggest reconstruction since World War II.

“We decided at heart that these films should be made by Japanese filmmakers or producers,” said James Gibbons, head of Discovery Channel Japan.

The first episode, Tales of Utopia by Shiro Toma, follows the efforts of the mayor of Rikuzen-takata, Futoshi Toba, as he works to rebuild the town using innovative technology and solutions.

In Photos From the Sea, Hideyuki Tokigawa, a survivor of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, documented the efforts of volunteers to restore and return to their owners thousands of photographs that had been swept away by the tsunami.

Super Trains by Hiroshi Nakazawa charts the safety systems of Japan’s iconic shinkansen (bullet train), which saved the lives of the 10,000 people riding them in the northeast when the earthquake struck. No one was injured aboard the high-speed trains.

“This was the other side of the disasters,” said Nakazawa. "Everyone around the world heard about the accident at Fukushimaj, but few about the success of the shinkansen in protecting lives."

Return of the K-Cars looks at the racing scene for compact cars and the determination of drivers in the affected areas to return to the track. The film was produced by Takahiro Sato, a native of Miyagi, the hardest-hit prefecture by the tsunami.  

Brewing Hope by Shogo Sugawara tracks the Otokoyama sake brewery in Kesennuma as it fought to restart production in the devastated city and act as a catalyst for local pride and recovery.

The final episode, The Seaweed Makers by Nano Shimazu, tells the story of the tradition-steeped industry of nori (Japanese seaweed) and the men who continue to produce it in Miyagi Prefecture.

The series is kicked off by Beyond the Tsunami, a 30-minute special narrated by Ken Watanabe, which aired March 4 in Japan