A group of 35 students from Kozukata High School in Iwate Prefecture and Toride-Shoyou High School in Ibaraki Prefecture visited San Francisco in mid-January to talk about their experiences during and after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami (“3/11”) that devastated much of the Tohoku region of Japan. As part of their visit, the students met with representatives of the JET Alumni Association of Northern California, where Mark Frey, vice president of the chapter, gave a presentation on what current JETs and JET alumni have done since 3/11 to support the people of Tohoku. Mark focused especially on those efforts that have received support from the JETAA USA Relief Fund. The roughly $87,000 raised by this fund has gone toward supporting a variety of projects to help promote recovery and education for students in the region. Altogether, American JET alumni have raised nearly $400,000 in support of recovery efforts, and alumni around the world have also volunteered in a wide range of efforts “on the ground” in Tohoku.
Besides listening to Mark’s report, the students also gave one of their own, talking about 3/11, their experiences since then, and their thoughts about the future. For the students in Ibaraki one big topic was how they have been dealing with concerns about radiation, including their observations on the ongoing cleanup process and their encounter with an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo. The students also talked about recovery and hope, highlighting “miracle” stories about things such as a lone palm tree on the coast that survived the tsunami and the boat used by one of the schools’ rowing team that was found, repaired, and used to compete again. Mark noted that through all of their talk with the alumni, the students showed a level of maturity, positive attitude, and good humor that bodes well for the future of Tohoku and of Japan.
The Kizuna Project is sponsored by The Laurasian Institution, in partnership with The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. For more information about the Project, please visit: http://laurasian.org/kizuna/index.htm.
Matthew Gillam, Senior Researcher