Today, Tuesday 11th March, marks the 3rd anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I’ve written on this topic many times, and felt this anniversary couldn’t slip by without a mention. Tohoku, and indeed all of Japan, has been in my mind since that day; a day none of us will ever forget. As of February 2014, 15,884 fatalities of the disaster have been confirmed, with a further 6,147 injured and 2,636 still missing. These numbers are incomprehensible – especially the number of people still unaccounted for.
However, despite the tragedy and the ongoing struggle to rebuild, so much has been achieved in these last three years. Villages, livelihoods and lives have been rebuilt, and it’s thanks to a combination of some amazing charity workers and the Japanese がんばろう (ganbarou / let’s do our best) spirit. I won’t try to list all the charities – there are too many and I would surely forget someone – but I would like to mention two. One is It’s Not Just Mud, a non-profit volunteer organisation specialising in disaster relief, grass-root support and rehabilitation of disaster affected individuals and small businesses. They are based in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, and they do outstanding work. The other, also based in Miyagi Prefecture, is Yarn Alive. Yarn Alive is a group of women from Shichigahama who get together to knit and create. I’ve been reading their blog for quite a while now, and I always love to see the women’s happy faces. It’s clear that this group has given them some purpose and relief.
This time last year I took part in an event in London called You Are Not Forgotten, which focussed on telling the people of Tohoku that we had not forgotten their situation, and that we still supported them. There was a reprise of the event this year but as I’m not in London any more it wasn’t possible to go. But I haven’t forgotten Tohoku – far from it! Recently I’ve been spending hours trawling through websites and travel guides, planning my first ever visit to Tohoku this coming May. In my opinion, one of the best things we can do for Tohoku now is to show support through tourism.
Tohoku was never number one on Japan’s tourist trail, but there’s so much to see and do there! I still can’t work out why I never visited Tohoku in the three years I lived in Japan, but I’ll rectify that situation this year by spending around 12 days travelling around Tohoku as part of my 4-week trip to Japan. I’ll be writing in much more detail about my plans soon, so watch this space! In the meantime, check out the official Tohoku Tourism website for some inspiration.
So, がんばろう東北！Please keep focussing on the future and don’t look back. Terrible things have happened, but wonderful things are yet to come! (*^_^)v
For those of you in the UK, visit the Embassy of Japan in the UK’s website for a list of Tohoku-related events taking place today and in the near future.