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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Remembering Tohoku 5 Years Later

On March 11, 2011, a horrible occurrence happened on the other side of the world. Japan had a massive earthquake in its territory resulting in a tsunami wiping out most, if not all, the coastal area of the Tohoku prefecture. It was a devastating natural disaster that altered many lives in that region. This disaster is most known for the Fukushima radiation leak that occurred because of the tsunami. There are only a handful of natural disasters that were this big. One of them that is close to home for me personally is Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It's hard to go through an event like that but it's great to see actual progress and people living their lives again.

I studied abroad in the summer of 2010. When I got back home, my life rapidly changed. I got involved with clubs, specifically a club my friends from the abroad trip and I started in order to practice our Japanese. The year went by. When March 11th came around everyone needed to tell me. Everyone was making it a big deal to tell me this thing happened in Japan. Don't get me wrong, it was a horrible event that happened over there and I was truly sad but I just didn't understand why my relatives had to tell me about this. Then I came to the conclusion that they had associated me with Japan since I studied abroad over there. I never really had a thing that made me stand out, but this was one of them apparently. That day was one disaster after another for the Tohoku region. I read all these sad stories online about teachers saving students while their own lives were not spared. It was just a sad thing to hear, and I could understand that sadness and worry since Hurricane Katrina happened. A few weeks (maybe a month) passed and the donations were underway. I remember there being a donation table outside the cafeteria. I was literally dumping everything from my wallet into that donation jar. Did you know that during Hurricane Katrina most of the donations came from Japan? I didn't know that until that day I was standing in front of the donation table. That spoke to me, but what else could I do.

Tabling for the event in cosplay!
The semester ended and Fall semester started. It was back to going to classes and club meetings after school. My friend, and club President, approached me about helping out for an event the Japanese culture club was putting on in November. I wasn't thrilled at first to help out, especially since none of the other club members from our club was going to help out. But I sat in the first e-board meeting and discovered something amazing. The culture club was putting on an event where all the proceeds would go to the Japan relief fund. I loved this idea and wanted to help out as much as I could. I did a lot for this event, more than was asked of me. I spread the word about the event, tabled out in the cold to advertise and raise money, I helped set up the day of, and performed in multiple skits while also being a stage manager for the event. It was a hectic day when that event came around. We called it A Night in Japan. I don't remember the exact number, but I think we raised around $6,000, maybe even more. It was a great night. The venue on campus was packed and we had a lot of fun. I was really proud of that event and the clubs.

Setting up for the event a few hours before it begins.
But now, five years have passed. Many people still think that area is destroyed. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard "Is New Orleans still underwater?" Really? Just like all disasters people come back, the area recovers, and life is restored. Yes, it takes a while to get to that point, but it happens. The first step to that recovery is through help. It can be in the form of a money donation or volunteering. Many people responded with these. I had the opportunity to go to a screening of a documentary called Tohoku Tomo. It was about the recovery of Tohoku by the international community. Tomo means friend in Japanese, so the film translates to Friend of Tohoku. And that is exactly what the documentary portrayed, wonderful people who took their time to help this area of Japan in need. It was inspiring to hear people's stories in the interviews conducted in the documentary. If you'd like to learn more about this film please visit their website here. They also have a Facebook page. The documentary is also affiliated with a short film series called 113 Project about how the land in Tohoku is being reclaimed by the community and how it is growing, recovering, and coming back. It is no longer this far away place that is deserted. It's a home, a place for business, and a place to visit. To watch these amazing short films click here to their website. One day I'd like to go over and see for myself of the Tohoku prefecture as I can understand their struggles of getting back and making it better. But until then, I am Tohoku Tomo! #TTWeek #113Project

Carry it with me wherever I go. I am Tohoku Tomo!
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