SENDAI – A craft shop in Fukushima Prefecture is producing lifelike replicas to help pet owners remember cats and dogs that were lost in the March 2011 earth-tsunami disaster and Fukushima No. 1 nuclear crisis.
Word has spread about Kinomoto, a shop in the city of Kitakata, with some people who lost their pets willing to wait three to six months for a look-alike.
The replicas have a corklike texture and are made from paulownia wood powder, produced locally in the Aizu area of western Fukushima Prefecture, which can be crafted to give the “animals” an authentic appearance.
Some customers are said to be moved to tears when they receive the handmade models based on photographs of their lost pets.
The shop has made replicas of various beasts represented in the Chinese zodiac, as well as other animals, for the past 10 years, and it was popular before the disaster for selling souvenirs made during a unique production process, such as using special wheat flour — an ingredient used to make Kitakata ramen.
After the disaster, the shop began receiving inquiries from people who evacuated to Kitakata from the towns of Namie and Okuma, which are situated near the crippled nuclear plant, to make models to replicate their dead pets.
Sometimes muddy photos or word of mouth were the only guidelines upon which the shop based its creations.