Six years ago, Sarukoya was engulfed by ocean water and mud to a height of 1.7 meters. The 30 pianos were not the only products that saw damage. Numerous musical instruments were stolen, as the shutters would not close. Total damages exceeded 50 million yen.


What encouraged Inoue, who had been absentminded, was the assistance of volunteers and the passion of the local residents for music. Several music studios, which had been operated for about 50 years, were demolished. But the local children desperately wanted the room reopened. Meanwhile, those who had lost family members and were living in temporary housing paid a visit to the shop to look for a harmonica to play. They said that playing the harmonica made them feel calm for a spell. Even when there seems to be no hope, music is what makes humans human. Inoue took this power of music, as well his duty to reconstruct his shop, to heart, and reopened his shop.


Soon after, he began restoring the damaged pianos. Despite the denial of professionals, who said that removing the salt would be impossible, Inoue continued his efforts through trial and error. Using washing machines used at optician's shops as a clue, he dismantled the parts and put ultrasonic on them underwater. After doing this, the salt gushed from the inside of the parts. With the help of his employees, Inoue continued to work on the handwork until the restoration was complete.


This was the start for a renewal project that would attract the cooperation of numerous people. The pianos have been used for performances in various regions, and the network of support has grown. The next year after the earthquake, renowned American singer Cyndi Lauper made a visit to the shop and supported the efforts immediately. Thanks to the donations of Lauper as well as local volunteers, the sixth piano that Inoue restored was delivered to Ishinomaki Municipal Hospital. Its sound will soothe the souls of the people of Ishinomaki harmoniously for years to come.

Teruo Inoue

Born in Ishinomaki City in 1929. At the age of 26, he succeeded ownership of a toyshop that had been established in 1922.

Originally, Inoue’s father had a pet monkey, which he kept at the entrance of his shop to attract customers. The monkey became popular, and Teruo inherited it to serve as the shop’s symbol. The shop was affectionately called “Sarukoya” by the local residents, taken from “saru” which is Japanese word for monkey, and before long the name stuck as the official name of the shop.

The monkey, whose name was Taro, lived until the day of the earthquake, falling victim to the tsunami at the age of 36.

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine

created by

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)