The triple disaster on 11 March 2011 inflicted unprecedented damage on the coastal towns and took away tens of thousands of lives. However, the revitalization efforts from both the locals, Japanese from other prefectures, as well as foreigners, blew a fresh breath of renewed hope to these towns. Even before the disaster, many coastal towns in Tohoku were suffering from ageing population, and a declining population due to outer migration to bigger cities. The disaster had ironically given the people a chance to rebuild their hometowns to something better and more sustainable than the original.
“Sustainability” became a key word in various fields, including agriculture and energy. This includes cooperation among local farms, the use of innovative technology to solve environmental problems, as well as the utilization of branding to market their products and tourism.
Japan might have lost its leadership in economics terms, but it has taken up a new role in the world- Kadai-Senshin-Koku (Frontier in Solving Global Problems). Japan faces a myriad of problems- ageing population, low birth rate, dealing with natural disasters, depopulation in rural areas, replacing limited energy sources with renewable energy and so on. However, these problems are not restricted only to Japan. Many, if not all, developed countries will be facing similar problems in the next 10, 20 years. In other words, Japan is in a position to discover the solutions of these problems ahead of the world.
The Next Step:
I have been to the disaster-stricken places several times, and met with various people from the local towns. The people have since then gotten back up on their feet and started/ restarted their businesses. . What the people need now is not merely financial support in the form of donations, but an increased awareness and interest in what they are currently doing.
So combining the need to learn about the current developments and revitalization efforts, with the little help we can provide by increasing awareness on what they are doing, I have organized a study tour with 10 people from 10 different countries in August.
We have joined forced with the locals from the Minami-Sanriku region (including a local NGO and people involved in agriculture and other industries). We will be there to learn what they have to offer, not just to us, but to the rest of the world too.
I foresee this to be the start of a larger trend of people (whether Japanese or not) going to Tohoku to learn from them.
To kickstart this little initiative, I have started a crowd funding project to gather funds, and more importantly, awareness to this issue/ project.
The crowd funding site is all in Japanese, but if you are interested to lend a hand to help, you will be more than welcomed!!
The details of the tour are as follows:
– Discussion with O.G.A for AID (O.G.A is a NGO established 1 week after the tsunami by an American who grew up in Japan. They have been helping with the town’s agriculture and product branding since then.)
– Visiting Locals Leading the Resurgence
Iriyado: A hostel that provides not just accommodation and meals, but also a chance to learn about their revitalization efforts in the local agriculture, fishing and other industries.
Astoro Tech: Established in July 2003 as a manufacturer of electrical components, but was destroyed by the tsunami in 2011. However it restarted its business one month later in Tome city. In September 2011, it started producing high quality chic leather bags that gained attention from both within and outside Japan.
– A Visit to OGA’s farm and learning about their Green Farmer’s Project
You will get the following “returns” according to the amount you donate.
1. A Thank You Mail
2. An invitation to our presentation cum discussion session after the tour
3. A Small Kindness Movement Set (Including a certificate, badge sticker and clear file)
4. A compilation of the after-tour reports of the participants
5. WATALIS strawberry strap
6. Miyagi-no-arare (Japanese crackers from Watari-cho in Miyagi Prefecture)
Amounts available for funding:
For 3000 yen, you get (1). For 10,000 yen, you get (1), (2), (3) and (4). For 30,000 yen, you get (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) OR (6). For 50,000 yen, you get all 6 of them!
Participants of this tour:
Name: Chia Mu Kai Dennis
– Traveled to all 47 prefectures and self-published a book about it named “Japan From Inside/ 日本人に思い出してもらいたいニッポン”
– Entering School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies ITASIA Program, University of Tokyo Graduate School
– Actively involved in volunteer activities after 311 Japan Disaster
– Deeply interested in the revitalization efforts of Tohoku and how Tohoku could serve to become a frontier in global issues such as achieving sustainable development.
– Organizer and Co-ordinator of this Tohoku Study Trip
Name: Lee Jang Boo James
– 3rd Year at School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University
– Leader of SILS Sempai Project
– Intern at Refugees International Japan
– Ultra/ Trail Runner, 100K Ultra Trail
– Human beatboxer, Top 3 in Japan in Hamonepu 2011
Name: Lin Yen Ting Chase
– Senior Student at School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda Univeristy
– Ex- Vice President of Waseda Taiwanese Students Association
– Amateur Marathon Runner (Completed 2 full marathon and 3 half-marathon courses)
Name: Sonam Choden
– Student at Nihon Kyoiku Center
– Former Leo Club Member
– Participated in Model UN 2011, Doha, Qatar
– Cellphone Novelist
Name: Sara Ariafar
– 4th Year Student at School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University
– Reporter at NHK World going around various countryside towns of Japan, introducing Japanese culture to international audience.
– Leader of RIJ Students, Refugees International Japan
Name: Pan Lichen Pete
– 5th Year Student at School of Human Science, Waseda University
– Major in Information and Communication Technology
– Leader of Waseda Lunch Organization.
Name: David Nguyen
– International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University
Name: Roxanne Niveri
– Graduated from University of Queensland
– Working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) and CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) at Oyama City’s Board of Education/ City Hall
Name: Truong Trung Nghia
– Studying Japanese at Yohan Waseda Foreign Language School
– Major in IT – Software Engineering
Name: Kodai Suzuki
– Born in Minami-Sanriku
– 3rd Year Student at Utsunomiya University
– President of Acapella Circle U-MiC
– Intern at Iriyado (Minami-Sanriku Manbi-no-Sato)