From mayor to scrivener, the man who won’t stop serving tsunami-hit town

Yutaka Ikarigawa in front of his office as an administrative scrivener in the tsunami-hit town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, where he previously served as mayor (Yusuke Hoshino)

Yutaka Ikarigawa in front of his office as an administrative scrivener in the tsunami-hit town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, where he previously served as mayor (Yusuke Hoshino)

February 01, 2016


OTSUCHI, Iwate Prefecture–As mayor here, Yutaka Ikarigawa led rebuilding efforts after the 2011 tsunami disaster, and following electoral defeat he will continue the task by cutting through red tape for local residents as town scrivener.

Scriveners produce official papers and contracts submitted to local authorities, and perform often complex administrative procedures on behalf of their clients. Continuing post-tsunami reconstruction in Otsuchi means town residents’ need for a scrivener is acute.

Survivors who lost their homes and other properties have faced a mountain of papers to fill out in their efforts to rebuild and move on from the catastrophe.

“As evacuees now living in temporary housing move into their newly built homes, they need help in producing documents to be handed in to the town government,” Ikarigawa said.

Ikarigawa was certified as qualified and registered last December.

Although the official launch of his service is expected to start in April, Ikarigawa has already received many requests for his help.

The 64-year-old, who was defeated in the mayoral election held last August, said he hopes to help local residents with “just about anything” in a field he is set to enter and has harbored a desire to serve for the past 20 years.

He was elected mayor for the first time five months after the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, generating towering tsunami that devastated the town and took more than 1,000 lives.

The disaster highlighted a sharp demand for scriveners, which has since become overwhelming.

Ikarigawa was aware of residents’ desperate calls for assistance, but he was too busy performing official duties as mayor.

According to the Iwate prefectural association of administrative scriveners, the town, with a population of 12,400 as of late 2015, had been without a scrivener since 1989.

The catalyst for Ikarigawa’s career change came when a relative complained to him about detailed forms concerning inheritance that had to be submitted to the town hall.

While working for the Otsuchi town government, he took a course on the side to become a scrivener when he retires.

In addition to his relative, he was keenly aware that other residents need assistance in preparing documents.

Some people had to visit the town government repeatedly to obtain approval for permits and licenses because their documents were incomplete.

In the case of the elderly, many had trouble filling in forms online, which is becoming more common.

“Locals will not need to go through such trouble if there is a place for them to consult with ease,” Ikarigawa recalled thinking.

Public servants become qualified as the scrivener after handling official documents in the line of duty for a certain period.

In the mayoral race, Ikarigawa lost to a candidate who called for a review of a package of programs targeted at reconstruction.

The defeat presented a new opportunity for him to serve locals with skills he had acquired over decades.

“I’m hoping to help survivors by working together with judicial scriveners and licensed tax accountants,” he said.