One Year Anniversary observation of the East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami in the Tohoku region - Part One


One Year Anniversary observation of the East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami in the Tohoku region - Part One (Text by Lilian Chua)

It has been a year after the Japan tsunami which happened on March 11, 2011 if you do not already know. In view of this, World Vision (WV) invited Malaysia Asia to experience their ongoing efforts in the affected areas of the Tohoku region.

Before getting to the first WV project area, we arrived at Ichinoseki which is a lovely town with a touch of old-fashioned charm.  Here are some pictures taken from the bus, hotel room and on the streets of this beautiful little town.

Ichinoseki town in Japan

 
Heavy snowfall the night before

Streets of Ichinoseki with snow
 
As we were getting nearer to the WV support area, the aftermath of the tsunami was more evident. I have seen many pictures of the tsunami affected areas, so I was surprised that seeing it in real life was an entirely different experience. Seeing piles of debris of cars, structures, the skeletal remains of buildings and empty lots of land for as far as the eye can see. Thoughts of what really matters ran through my mind. Well, that would be another story another time. I would like to share these photos for now.

Remains of a building after the tsunami in Kesennuma

Tsunami-damaged buildings and homes

 
Building destroyed in the Japan Tsunami

Tsunami flattened grounds in Kesennuma

 
A factory damaged by the Japan Tsunami

Vast flattened grounds in Kesennuma after the Japan Tsunami
 
National Director of WVJ posing with a destroyed vehicle on an empty lot

After lunch on the bus, our first stop was at Kesennuma Fishery Cooperative (KFC), a WV livelihood recovery project. The fishing industry is responsible for 70% of the economy in Kesennuma area. When the earthquake and tsunami struck, the lifeblood of the fishing industry faltered even further. Needless to say, families and children are badly affected.  This prompted World Vision Japan (WVJ) to initiate the livelihood project to help revive the fishing industry.

Overview of the Kesennuma Livelihood Recovery Project by Team Leader, Ryoichiro Mochizuki

 

The first support given by WVJ was to restore the freezer warehouse where fish dealers store the marine products. By mid-March, which is in a few day’s time, all the three freezers will be in full operation. A total of 3000 tons is the capacity of the three freezers and this will benefit 26,000 people, directly and indirectly, in terms of rebuilding life after the tsunami.

In addition, WV has helped with the production of 40,000 stickers for a re-branding campaign. Dealer and distributors use these stickers when shipping their products to other parts of Japan.

Inside the warehouse freezer where marine produce are stored

The Directors of WV Japan and WV Hong Kong trying to muster a smile in -60C degrees!

The team braving the cold in the warehouse freezer!

Some of the equipment provided by WVJ for the Kesennuma Fishery Cooperatives, is to complement the freezer warehouse and fish processing space. These items were forklifts and other machinery for moving goods around.

 
 
  Equipment from World Vision

The future plans for Kesennuma include establishing a team by both WVJ and KFC to improve the marketing and elevate the brand image of swordfish, as well as to expand the market to urban areas.

Later on the bus, I asked Ryoichiro Mochizuki, Team Leader of the Livelihood Recovery Project, what kind of government support has been given to this area. He explained, “WVJ will step in or help where the government cannot. The government builds temporary shelters.”

After Kesennuma, we proceeded to a WV Disaster Risk Reduction Project at Tsuya Primary School. A designated evacuation centre after the tsunami, even though the school is lacking in electricity, access to information from TV or Radio and clean water. Hence, WVJ and the local municipality have collaborated to build wells in ten schools.

In some schools the water quality is still not suitable for drinking and quantity is little, so there will be on-going efforts to improve the situation. Solar panels are also in the pipeline to prepare for a more viable environment during times of disaster.
Understanding how the water well works

Water flows from all the ten wells, though little and the quality of drinking water needs to be supervised.

Is Mr. Nobuhiko looking for the koi fish under the frozen lake? On the side, the headmaster tells a joke to cheer us up in the cloudy and chilly weather.

Protective hats provided by WVJ. Don’t they look dashing?

A guide for the schoolchildren during emergency time

 

Words of hope and thoughts of love and encouragement coming from all over Japan

After our field trip, we had a chance after dinner to chat with Mitsuko Sobata, Communication Officer for WVJ, about her experience during and after the incident of the tsunami and earthquake.

Here is what inspired her the most, “…no one panicked and the resilience of the people.” Despite this, she added, “The people are worried that other countries will forget about what happened. It will take many years to fully reconstruct the community. Before phasing out, WVJ will ensure the local community can survive in the long-term on their own.”

Deep in conversation outside Tsuya Primary School

Ryoichiro Mochizuki also had similar thoughts with regards to the people who are affected by the tsunami. He said, “The people do not ask too much. They try to be self-sufficient, I’m quite impressed.”
 
If you wish to help and let these people know that they are not forgotten, please visit the official World Vision website. Don't forget to read Part Two of this story about the One Year Anniversary observation of the East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami in the Tohoku region.

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