It is quickly approaching the one year mark of Japan’s Great East Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11th. According to my nifty iPhone earthquake “app”, there have been over 1800 aftershocks since that day, with over 600 of them being a magnitude of 5 or above. There is talk of the “big one” coming in the next 30 years. Really?
The re-building of the Tohoku region is complicated and the progress is slow-moving. The grid-lock of the Japanese government, who spend most of their time changing cabinet administrations, then complaining about the new ones, have not helped in getting things done. Local governments struggle with waiting for the decisions on the National level, while in some areas dealing with generational battles of how to rebuild. The younger generation wants to move towards more modern, safe and consolidated reconstruction, which would likely change the “landscape”, both figuratively and culturally. The older generation want to quickly get back to their same homes, locations and industries as discussed in this New York Times article.
While seemingly large efforts of clean-up have occurred, there still remains the mountainous piles of trash. Many local towns situated closer to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plants cannot find willing recipients of this trash, due to possible radioactive contamination. Although Yamada’s trash will eventually be hauled away to another prefecture, 11 months later the piles have not changed much. Collectively, in all three affected prefectures, only 5 percent of the rubbish has been cleared to date, according to an announcement made by the government last week.
On my recent visit to Yamada, I noticed a few new buildings sprouting up here and there, mostly temporary-style. The waiting still continues for most people and not much has changed. I visited Toshiaki’s Aunt Miya ( see story ) and found she was well prepared for the winter months in her temporary housing (room) with blankets, heated table and warm carpets. This has reportedly not been the case in other less organized areas. Sasaki, Toshiaki’s classmate, seemed to experience a regular flow of custumers at his place of business (mainly from cigarette sales). He still had no idea if or when he would build again, nor what kind of exchange he would get for his property, a half a block from the harbor.
I visited with the principals from two of the elementary schools that were affected by the tsunami. I had some very ambitious ideas that I carried from many of you, to offer to them such as, sister schools partnerships from Las Vegas, visits from big-hearted English teachers, University students and entertainers from Tokyo, as well as funds and love from family and friends abroad. After discussion over tea at both schools, both principals politely informed me that they have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by the presence and help of numerous charity organizations, NPO’s, other Japanese sister schools which, though appreciated, have created disruptions to their already tight school schedules. However, they were very pleased to hear that we would be making direct donations to them.
Funakoshi Elementary School was completely washed away. Fortunately, all of the 150 students were guided to higher ground in time. As the video shows the school, which is on somewhat high elevation was still situated quite close to the shoreline. The students are now being bussed to a location in a much higher elevation and further inland while plans are being made to re-build by 2014 (on higher ground, of course). This school will be receiving aid from various institutions due to the extent of the devastation but will still be in need of materials that are beyond what bureaucracies consider necessary.
Kita Yamada Elementary School, on the other hand, will not receive aid, even though their playground was washed away. Two students died in the tsunami, 24 out of 79 students lost their homes and 3 students lost key family members. The school has added about five feet of land fill to build back up the playground and have hopes for new play equipment hopefully in time for the spring and summer months.
Renew Yamada has raised $4000.00 US dollars so far, thanks to the generous donations of many of you. Emi will be conducting a couple of anniversary events over the next couple of weeks in Las Vegas (watch for details to come). We hope to raise as much money as we can to make our donation big enough to buy at least a couple pieces of schoolyard play equipment(approximately $5000. a piece for swings, monkey bars, etc.), as well as a hefty donation for the Funakoshi student’s future. You can make a donation through PayPal using the link on our website (renewyamada.org) or contact Emi ([email protected]) to donate a certificate from your business or help with the events. Any assistance is appreciated.
We are a 501(c)3 non-profit, therefore all contributions are tax-deductible. Receipts issued upon request.