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2018.03.12 11:26

The 7th Symposium on Self-Supporting Efforts "Thank You from Tohoku!" (3/11, 2018, Mita Campus, Keio University)


We organized the 7th Symposium on Self-Supporting Efforts on March 11, 2018, seven years after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.

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We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Ikuo Takeyama, Mr. Yuichi Yonezawa and his family and Mr. Hiroya Sato, all of whom took the trouble to come to Tokyo to say "Thank you" as representatives of Tohoku, although it was the death anniversary for their loved ones.

One of the speakers, Mr. Ikuo Takeyama, bravely overcame the devastation after the earthquake and in 2016, set up a Dutch style hydroponic farm in partnership with local farmers. He is now moving toward future. To show his gratitude toward Tohoku supporters, Mr. Takeyama brought tomatoes and peppers he grew at the new farm and gave them away to all the participants of the symposium. Thank you, Mr. Takeyama!

Also, the generous donations from symposium attendees were gratefully received.

The symposium started with the speeches given by the guest speakers from Tohoku and went on to the panel discussion after the break. We are grateful for the audience's contributions to the discussion through various questions and comments.

The symposium was held at the Distance Learning Room, South Wing, Mita Campus of Keio University. Prof. David G. Litt of the Law School kindly arranged the venue. We are truly grateful for his assistances including the site management on the day.

The followings are the summaries of the speeches

(Yuichi Yonezawa/Rikuzentakata)

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Following the huge quake, Mr. Yonezawa first evacuated to the rooftop of his three-story reinforced concrete building. However, the tsunami soon reached there and forced him to climb the chimney to survive the raising water. While he was clinging to the chimney, the fatal wave engulfed many of his neighbours who evacuated to the nearby citizen center which had been designated as a shelter by Rikuzentakata city. Sadly, his parents and younger brother were among the victims. In the same jacket he was wearing on March 11, 2011, he showed us the shocking video of the swelling tsunami he shot from the rooftop for the first time after 7 years. Considering that the sure death was looming, his presence of mind was truly admirable. The variable video made us realize the sheer, killing power of a tsunami.

When the city requested Mr. Yonezawa to sell the building where he barely escaped death, he refused because he was against the city's policy to eliminate the remains of the earthquake. He decided to keep the place as an architectural relic of Tohoku Earthquake. Although he was exempted from the fixed property tax for the building for a few years after the earthquake, to our great surprise and shock, now he has to pay tax of 600,000 yen on the ruined building every year. To show his appreciation to the volunteers who helped Tohoku after the earthquake, Mr. Yonezawa volunteers to guide visitors around his building and told his experience at the time of the disaster. The number of visitors he guided now reaches almost 3,500.

Considering that the building has a potential to become a great tourism resource for the city, we strongly believe that it is only righteous that Rikuzentakata city should exempt him from the fixed property tax. In fact, the Yonezawa family deserves generous support from the city.

(Ikuo Takeyama/Ishinomaki)

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When the deadly earthquake hit Tohoku, Mr. Takeyama was working away from home in Shizuoka. Tragically, though, his mother, wife and daughter back in Tohoku were caught up by the tsunami and drowned while they were trying to evacuate by car. Immediately after the disaster, he returned to his home in Okawa district and searched for victims' bodies with heavy machinery. Mr. Takeyama vividly depicted his devastating experiences at the symposium.

When he realized he lost his beloved families, he lost all the meaning of life and even contemplated suicide. The video of his heart-wrenching interview shown at the symposium depicted the darkest of times of his life. Despite such terrible experiences, though, Mr. Takeyama has now got back on his feet and is bravely moving toward the bright future. Hats off to Mr. Takeyama! We wish him the best of luck and happiness.

Recently, his son, who lives in Hokkaido, got married. Mr. Takeyama happily announced the new addition to the family and confessed how thrilled he was when his new daughter-in-law called him "dad". Our heart was warmed by his shy smile.

(Hiroya Sato/Ishinomaki)
(Hiroyuki Nakamura/Ofunato)
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As time goes by, the general sympathy and support for Tohoku has been gradually fading. The Foundation, however, keeps on organizing Tomodachi Curry events. It was during one of those curry events that we met Mr. Hiroya Sato, who was then living at a temporary house in Ishinomaki. He has become our good friend and never missed our events since then. After his graduation from junior high school on March 10th, Mr. Sato directly came to Tokyo for the symposium. He made a splendid speech and assured us the bright future of Tohoku. When one of the attendees asked for his opinion about the gigantic levee built along the scenic coastline of Tohoku, he made a pointed remark, criticizing the authority that had ignored opinions of the local communities about such an enormous construction. We were all impressed by his mature attitude.

At the time of the earthquake, Mr. Hiroyuki Nakamura was working at an institution assisting people with disabilities to attain self-reliance. He described how he headed for a hill to escape the tsunami. He also talked about his following rescue efforts. Learning from the experience during the disaster, he set up an evacuation center for handicapped people. Presently he is actively working at a children's institution.

(Panel discussion)
(Mr. Bill Lewis/Oshu)
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Mr. Bill Lewis has been in Japan since 1988 and teaching English at high school. He is also a member of the International ILC Support Committee and proactively working for the realization of the ILC project in cooperation with the Oshu International Relations Association. If the ILC is successfully constructed in Tohoku, a number of foreign researchers and engineers will come to the region with their families. Mr. Lewis is expected to act as an important intermediary to link their needs with the local government, NGOs and private enterprises.

He spoke about the significance of teaching Japanese language and introducing Japanese society to foreigners who will come to Japan for the ILC project. Inspired by his speech, we discussed the issue of globalization of Tohoku as well as entire Japan. In honor of the spirit of Prof. Inazo Nitobe, Tohoku should be more open to the world because internaionalization is a key to solve the problem of depopulation in the area.

We understand the importance of ILC for Tohoku and are hoping that the project will become reality.

(Mr. Masayoshi Sugawara/Hiraizumi town)
(Ryoki Sato/Ichinoseki city)
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Mr. Sugawara, former mayor of Hiraizumi town, set up a joint disaster relief office with Ichinoseki city and Fujisawa town immediately after the earthquake to support Rikuzentakata city. They offered cars, delivered tons of drinking water and food, sent their staff members and accepted evacuees from the tsunami affected city. When the Foundation planned a curry event for the Rikuzentakata city office to thank their staff for their devotion to tsunami/earthquake victims, Mr. Sugawara wholeheartedly supported the idea as he had a special feeling toward the city. Despite his busy schedule, he even came to help us cook curry in the morning of the event.

Presently, he has become a precious member of our volunteer activities and actively cooperates in our events with Mrs. Sugawara. We greatly appreciate their generous support.

Mr. Ryoki Sato is a Buddhist monk who lives in Fujisawa town, Ichinoseki city. Although the temple was not affected either by the earthquake or the tsunami, he happened to be on his way from Kamaishi to Ichinoseki when the fatal earthquake struck. He was about to be engulfed by the tsunami and barely survived the huge wave.

As a monk, he provides pastoral care to victims and offers them opportunities to talk about their experiences to relieve stress. At the symposium he introduced his activities at a child supporting organization called "Hamawarasu" he is currently involved with. He believes that it is important to get children to be involved with the nature, people and community in their hometown so that their vitality will be enhanced. He calls it a key for them to grow strong. For this purpose, he hosts nature experience events for children.


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Special Music Program

Mr. Kensho Maekawa (tenor)
Ms. Miki Akamatsu (piano)
Ms. Miki Tominaga (soprano)
Ms. Junko Watanabe(piano)
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One of the two musicians who sang for the special music program at the end of the symposium was Mr. Maekawa, a tenor singer of Niki Kai Tokyo Opera Foundation. He is also a certified monk and considers music as a form of prayer. He joined the event in the hope of providing an opportunity for people to be energized through music and reflect on themselves.

Ms. Tominaga, the soprano singer, is a graduate from Keio University. She learned singing as an amateur singer for 10 years when she was working as a bank clerk. Mr. Shoji Kinoshita, a friend of Mr. Sata's, specially invited her and Ms. Watanabe, the pianist, to join the event. On September 11, 2001, Ms. Tominaga's husband was at the office on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center in New York. Although he miraculously survived the horrendous disaster, since then, Ms. Tominaga has developed a personal belief -- each and every day is precious and life should not be taken for granted. The theme of the symposium seemed to pull her heartstrings and she kindly accepted the invitation.

Thanks to the support from many people, the symposium was successfully closed. We are truly thankful.

Categories:Staff reports

2018.03.12 11:26 admin


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