2012 April Tohoku Trip

A veiw from a hotel window in Ofunato, Iwate. 

Temporary shopping site, convenient for consutruction workers and NGO/NPO staff/volunteers, inconvenient for the locals without cars.

Raising ground level to rebuild warehouses for the aquaculture industry. 

At the office of Habitat for Humanity Japan. 

The very first seaweed harvest since last March.

Fishermen heading out to the ocean for the first time in a year. 

Debris can be seen pilled up everywhere in Iwate and Miyagi, due to lack of municipal governments outside Tohoku agreeing to accept and dispose tsunami waste.

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Transition: Rescue and Reconstruction - Peter Grilli

The following is another report from Peter Grilli, President of the Japan Society of Boston, who recently returned from Japan. Peter spent most of the last week traveling through various parts of Tohoku – mainly in eastern Miyagi Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture. 


After meeting and talking with many people at refugee centers, local town offices, centers for volunteer workers from all over Japan and all over the world, it seems pretty clear to me that we’re now at a major transition point:  from the first period when simple survival and rescue were top priorities to a second period of re-construction of all sorts.  In most of the places we visited, the worst of the overwhelming debris that had been swept by the tsunami of March 11 into all coastal towns and villages has been collected into vast mountains of garbage and debris.  Roads have been cleared and traffic is passable almost everywhere.  The debris is slowly being trucked away to be used as landfill in the hills in some places, or landfill for coastal land-reclamation projects.   Left behind is terrible stench in most places, lots of flies and other bugs, and infernal black crows that fly in to pick over the garbage.   But reconstruction is clearly underway: reconstruction of life-styles, reconstruction of homes and shops, reconstruction of industries, reconstruction of an entire economy.  In some places it is moving fairly fast (though life will clearly not seem “normal” for close to a decade…); elsewhere, reconstruction is moving with agonizing slowness.  Government bureaucrats have targeted certain larger towns for high-priority reconstruction efforts, but smaller towns will have to wait for years and years to receive significant government assistance.

Large-scale aid from the Japanese central government is essential and it is being delivered slowly and is making important changes.  But it is often provided coldly, rigidly, and with a high-handed manner by government bureaucrats.  Disaster victims are being made to feel as though they are nothing more than a troublesome temporary inconvenience – a distraction from the “more important” priorities of the central government.   The offensive comments last week by Minister of Reconstruction Matsumoto Ryu brought an outraged response from the people of Tohoku and resulted in his being fired after only 9 days on the job.  That seems typical of the bungling policies of the Kan government, and it is bringing a rising tide of resentment throughout Japan.   There are little or no expressions of consolation and sympathy for the victims from the cold hard faces of government bureaucrats, and their reconstruction efforts are being delivered with rigid insensitivity to local realities.  The several visits by the Emperor and Empress to Tohoku were totally opposite in tone; their genuine compassion was deeply appreciated, and highlighted the contrast with the cold formality of the bureaucrats.

These are photographs taken in Minami-Sanriku, where the Emperor and Empress prayed for the dead and visited several evacuation centers.  They returned one month later, in mid-May, on the 2-month anniversary of the March 11 disasters.

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    Transition: Rescue and Reconstruction - Peter Grilli

Reader Comments (3)

I was moved by the photos of the royal family reaching out in such a loving and respectful way. I am not surprised by the state of affairs of the general reconstruction effort, but am encouraged that our similar efforts to efficiently and effectively raise money for Japan disaster relief in Pittsburgh are well worth it. Thank you for sharing your experiences, which will be passed along to our Board and our community.

Stephen Ceurvorst, Chairman of the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Ceurvorst

Greetings from Sapporo,Japan. Mr. Grilli's reports and comments,together with photos sturck me and the members of "Hokkaido Nichibei Kyokai"-the Japan America Soceity of Hokkaido(AJSG).
Through his efforts, some of the hidden aspects of the Tsunami and earthquake distater, and how the deisaster rescue operations, including ehe dibris issue, and how the polititians and the central govenment had benn(and are) hundling the issues--not fast enoug.

Members of the America-Japan Soceity and Hokkadio-Massachusetts Association appreciate Mr. Grilli's visitations to the earthquake disaster areas and his contributions and moral support.
Mr. Yoshiro Ito of the AJSH visited there, and send his regards to Peter-san. The AJSH is planning to host the 9th Amerca-Japan Associations of the International Sympodium in 2014 during the "Yosakoi Soran Festival" in June. Not only the AJSH and the Hokkaido Massachussts Society and the Sapporo-Portland Sister City Committee--which celebrates it 55th affiliation annuversary is happy to have Mr. Grilli and others.

With Best Wishes,
Shoji Mitarai, on the Bisiness Board of the Hokkaido Nichibei Kyokai

September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShoji Mitarai

I really do appreciate your feedback. I'm still struggling with the technology but I wish everyone all luck with this competition. I've been pinned down with a sick grandchild and today a very sick daughter - both with gastric flu which afflicts us all at this time of year - so this is the first moment I've had to get to the computer fcckao fcckao - suprayouth.

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteruxunjz uxunjz

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