Today is March 11, 2016. (well, it’s already March 12 in Japan, but still.) Five years ago, on March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, Japan, triggered a forty-meter (133 feet) tsunami, which, combined with the damage from the earthquake, caused a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
I have had several opportunities to work with and meet survivors of the disaster., and having so many opportunities to meet people from Tohoku and hear their experiences has made the March 11 earthquake an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I wanted to write a blog post today to remember the earthquake and the people of Tohoku who still face adversity and shine despite it.
The first was when I traveled to Tohoku (the region of Japan affected by the earthquake) in 2014 as a part of the Facing Fukushima project. We spent two weeks in Tohoku, researching the aftereffects of the disaster, interviewing the survivors, and discovering that even though three years had passed since the disaster, there were still problems left and right that remained, such as stigma because of radiation concerns, lack of public funding to help people rebuild their homes and lives, and most importantly, lack of acknowledgement from the world at large that these problems still existed. I met some absolutely wonderful people in Fukushima and fell in love with the region: its rural splendor, its peaches, and its people.
After we returned to America, we designed a website where we posted the stories, pictures, and videos we had gathered in Japan, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a plug for our website. If you are interested in learning more about Fukushima and the problems that exist there, please do visit our website.
The second was almost exactly one year later, when I worked as an R.A. for the Tomodachi Softbank Program, an initiative to bring 100 Japanese high school students from the Tohoku region to study at U.C. Berkeley for three weeks. Using the Y-Plan as a guide for developing their ideas, during the three weeks of the program, all 100 students developed ideas for revitalizing their communities, like opening day care centers, starting a farmer’s market, developing a smartphone app to improve the ability to broadcast emergency alerts to the community in case something similar happened, and developing business ideas to increase tourism in the area. On the last day of the program, the students all presented their ideas, and if I were to list every single one, it would take forever.
Some simple things you can do right now would be to visit our website, share it on social media to educate people about the disaster, and maybe if you get the chance to go to Japan, visit Tohoku and Because the power plant itself is called “Fukushima Daiichi,” I often see people on the Internet say that Fukushima itself is dangerous. But there’s so much more to Fukushima than just the power plant. There’s Fukushima city and Fukushima Prefecture, and most of the prefecture is free of radiation. Only the area directly surrounding the power plant is dangerous due to radiation. And although five years have passed since the disaster, there’s still so much more that needs to be done. Fukushima is quite famous for its peaches, and I had the opportunity to try Fukushima’s famous peaches while I was there. Now when I eat American peaches, they just aren’t as juicy or satisfying, and when a friend of mine from Fukushima came to America for a visit and gave me a peach jelly snack made from Fukushima peaches (because he couldn’t bring actual peaches; that would be too complicated) I was able to once more taste the goodness that is a juicy Fukushima peach.
Fukushima’s peaches, history, culture, and most importantly, its people, have all suffered because of the disaster. Please do take one moment out of your day to think of the people of Fukushima who ganbatte (work hard) and shine in the face of adversity.