23 Dec 2011

Okinawa prefecture has launched a program that accepts evacuees from Tohoku

Okinawa prefecture government has set up a “Working Team for Evacuees” in its Department for Tohoku Earthquake Assistance and has launched its “acceptance” program. They also opened the “Information for all evacuees” portal on the Okinawa prefecture government website in June 2011. The latest information was updated as of Oct 28th.

At first, the evacuees should register “Japan evacuee’s information system” at the municipal governments’ office so that they can get current information from their hometowns in Tohoku. The program consists of providing education for children, health care programs, assistance for job opportunities, and other programs directly related to evacuees’ daily life. The distinctive feature of this special program is long-term life support for the evacuees. The Okinawa prefecture government offers almost the same services to these evacuees as it does to its residents. In addition, evacuees can use Okinawa monorails for free, and get discounts at local supermarkets, and live in prefecture apartments if they have an evacuee certificate. Although Okinawa’s income per capita is lowest and its unemployment rate the highest in Japan, Okinawa provides an effective and useful support program for evacuees.

Since the incident of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, more than 500 Fukushima residents have relocated to Okinawa, even though Okinawa is over 1,000 miles away from Fukushima. One of the reasons why they decided to relocate to Okinawa is that they believe Okinawa is the safe place from the catastrophe. Although they survived the disaster, the lives of evacuees must be very hard, especially having to adjust to a new style of living where they have neither relatives nor friends. I hope the generous support by the prefecture, and local residents will be a relief for them, and the disaster areas will recover as soon as possible.

Satoko Kaneshi, Assistant Director