Kanagawa Factory Ashigara Site is the original manufacturing plant where we produce photographic paper and film. From June 25 through July 27, we worked in the plant's gymnasium to clean photographs from Kesennuma and other areas. On the first day, our staff — past and present — and members of their families gathered at Ashigara, and there was a feeling that the damaged photographs had returned to their birthplace: the factory where many of them had been produced. From that point onwards, the volunteers worked earnestly to save the prints.
In the early days, there was a lot of confusion as to how to manage such a large-scale cleaning operation, but we made improvements (kaizen, in Japanese) day by day, and soon established a highly efficient methodology that resulted in the site becoming a photo cleaning factory. In addition to producing photographic material, Fujifilm Group also includes various enterprises such as cosmetics and photocopiers, and as the members of different departments and group companies worked together, new friendships and strong bonds were formed. On a daily basis, more than 60 volunteers were involved in the cleaning operation, and collectively we managed to clean in excess of 170,000 photographs from areas including Kesennuma, Onagawa, Kawaishi, Rikuzen-Takada and Natori.
Despite being a necessary part of the process, there was some concern as to whether it was ethically correct to open and take apart the album pages in order to prevent the propagation of bacteria and mold. At these times, we often recalled the words of Mr. Takai in Kesennuma:
He had courageously accepted the responsibility of cleaning a large amount of albums, he never gave up and in a short time he achieved more than many people had thought was possible. For the photographs contained in albums, it required great care to peel the prints one by one from the pages. Our hearts ached every time we tore an album apart, knowing that for someone, it was a precious, irreplaceable object.
That was the basis upon which we made our decisions, and at the temporary cleaning workshop at Kanagawa Factory Ashigara Site we set the following rules:
This system was established to help us take care of the albums. The methodology was shared with other cleaning operations and soon became the standard process for photo salvage activities.