Mar 10

WIT Life #263: Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami 3-year anniversary

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03).  She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Today in Japan (where it is already March 11) marks three years since the earthquake/tsunami hit the Tohoku region.  In a nationally televised news conference to commemorate the anniversary, Prime Minister Abe talked about the children who have lived their whole lives only knowing their home as a disaster-stricken area, saying he wanted to invite as many of them as possible to the 2020 Olympics as a “symbol of reconstruction.”  Over the last three years recovery has taken place, though not at a pace as fast as some would like.  The news this morning reported that out of the “reconstruction housing” that is to be built in the affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, only 3% has been completed.  Many of the over 267,000 evacuees are living in temporary housing that has become more permanent than temporary.

In terms of what can be done to help, many speak of the necessity of implementing not only one-time events, but sustainable activities that will serve as a source of both economic and psychological sustenance.  Experts on a recent Japanese political talk show agreed that the goal should not be returning the region to what it once was, some even lamenting oft-used terms such as “reconstruction assistance” and “affected area.”  They claim that these ways of thinking are not a basis for moving forward, but looking back.  They encourage those who want to help to focus their efforts on creating new brands and industries instead of trying to rebuild old ones.  Of course there are limitations regarding people, resources and money, but they hope that with innovation these restrictions can be overcome.

For those of us in the States who would like to contribute to recovery but can’t physically be in Japan, supporting groups that are on the ground is one great way.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at Columbia’s Teacher College entitled “Staying Behind, Moving Forward.”  There were a variety of presenters such as filmmakers and grassroots activists, and they all talked about their experiences in the region.  Interestingly enough, not one of them was from Tohoku but they all expressed the sentiment of having adopted it as their second home.  One group represented was Bridge for Fukushima, a non-profit that organizes a “Fukushima Fukkou Kakehashi Tour” that takes visitors through the affected areas to show them local life, economy and culture.

One immediate option is making a donation to this JET Global Giving fundraiser that will support Tohoku students, families and schools.  If you contribute within the 24 hours of Japan’s March 11, your donation will be doubled.


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