At 5th Anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake, Robust Steps for Regeneration of Tohoku Region Encouraged
As of March 11, five years have transpired since the Great East Japan Earthquake. 15,894 people have perished and 2,561 people are still missing. We want to offer a prayer of condolence for people who lost their lives and renew our determination for recovery.
Value of human bondage felt
Many people still have vivid memories of the initial shock of that tragic day and ensuing anxiety, insecurity and sadness. Time stopped on that day in the minds of many victims of the disaster who lost their beloved family members and friends
Today, about 170,000 people remain to be displaced and live as domestic refugees throughout the country. About 59,000 people in total still live in temporary housing in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. In Fukushima prefecture where the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occurred, 43,000 local residents evacuated and still live outside the prefecture. The problem of radioactive contamination prevents them from returning home.
On the other hand, we learned lessons from the disaster at great sacrifices. We learned a lesson that an earthquake which occurs at plate boundary causes enormous damages and fundamentally revised predictions and countermeasures for possible future earthquakes including Nankai Trough earthquake based on the lesson.
Awareness of disaster prevention was dramatically heightened as well. A mindset of each one looking out for himself during a disaster has been shared throughout the country which encourages individuals to escape to higher ground for safety on their own when tsunami hits. It is important to convey the experiences during the disaster including such lesson to future generations.
The calm attitude of disaster victims to help each other was praised by people throughout the world. Many volunteers came to the disaster areas for rescue under the slogan of “Ganbaro Tohoku” and “Bonds of Friendship”.
Especially, the “Bond of Friendship” captured hearts of Japanese people. Through experiences as victims of the disaster, we again realized the preciousness of bonds among family members and fellow citizens. Bonds of friendship were enhanced with people overseas including members of the U.S. military who mobilized an aircraft carrier for Operation Tomodachi and Taiwanese who provided a large amount of relief fund. Mr. Donald Keene, an American researcher of Japanese literature, was so inspired by the attitude of Japanese people after the disaster that he obtained a Japanese citizenship. We need to be aware of the virtues of Japanese people and make efforts to value and nurture them.
Through the nation-wide dedicated efforts for reconstruction in the past five years, a great progress has been made in construction of public housing complexes for the disaster victims and mass-relocation to higher ground and inland areas for disaster prevention. 80 percent of companies in coastal areas directly hit by the disaster resumed their business operations, and fishery catches at ports have been recovering. Nevertheless, there are severe challenges in reality including population decrease, labor shortage, lost marketing channels and damages caused by negative rumors.
The intensive reconstruction phase which lasted for five years gets completed at the end of March, and the government considers the next five years until 2020 as the recovery and regeneration phase.
During the discussions on the reconstruction plan right after the disaster, it was emphasized that the reconstruction should not be a mere restoration but a creation of “new Tohoku”.
Incubation of new industries increasingly important
For the creation of “new Tohoku”, it will become important to nurture new industries including tourism and fisheries that are distinct from the conventional ones. It will not be a wasted effort to review the reconstruction works for the past five years and the future plan from the perspective of regional revitalization which is a nation-wide goal of Japan. We want to expect and support enhanced recovery efforts from the perspective that Tohoku revitalization is Japan revitalization.