SPECIAL vol.11 Reviewing our activity on the 2nd anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
by Voices from the Field Admin - Friday, 31 May 2013, 08:54 AM


Norio Okada, Team Leader, Voices from the Field


March 11, 2011.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Two years have passed since that day. It seems to me as “two whole years,” and at the same time, “only two years.” The people who actually experienced the disaster must have even more complicated feelings. Each person must be taking the two years differently. Nowadays, we often come across comments along the lines of, “After only two years, people have already started to forget about the disaster,” or “After two whole years, there is still no prospect for recovery,” in newspapers and other mass media. In reality, things cannot be described so generally. Each person and each community must have experienced the 730 days each in their own way, which we cannot encapsulate in one particular notion.

Since the disaster, I suppose many efforts have been made in hopes of informing greater society about the lives of people in the disaster-stricken areas, particularly focusing on small settlements and communities. Naturally, but regretfully, most of those communications were written in Japanese, so they probably did not reach many of the global citizens. Then why don’t we translate them into English and share them with the world? A group of people who shared this idea got together and started this small initiative – Voices from the Field – about two months after the disaster. 

Now, people with diverse backgrounds are voluntarily and actively joining this activity. We have become keenly aware of the difficulty of translating and communicating messages to the world. We also visited the disaster-affected areas in Tohoku, thinking that there is something crucial we would never know about without placing ourselves in the field and actually experiencing the atmosphere. These visits gave us the opportunity to actually meet the individuals who are continuing to live in these areas with strong determination. I think this experience made us realize once again the meaning and significance of experiencing the disaster-affected area in its entirety, as a matter of principle, before we even consider our translation work. At the same time I am thrilled by the prospect that this initiative may lead us to the creation of a completely new type of community that will enable us to learn something from the disaster together even in areas remote from the field. Small as it is, this activity is connected to the world. It might be called an effort to look deeply into our own way of living, and to obtain a new appreciation of the society and of the world. My hope is to share this with many people.    

I would like to express my greatest gratitude to the people who were reported about in the materials we translated. They have taught us a lot of things and have given us strength. Interestingly enough, something is changing inside us as a result: in our way of life, and in our view towards society.

I also extend my cordial appreciation to the Disaster Prevention Research Institute of Kyoto University for providing a grant to support this project as a new type of collaborative study.

Two years have passed since the disaster. The people who were called “disaster victims” have survived and overcome many struggles and seem to be entering the next stage. Now their goal has changed from restoration to reestablishment. They have already started towards this goal as forerunners in establishing the future of Japan and as practitioners of a brand new machizukuri or a form of community development. If that is the case, our small effort may also have to explore new ways to fulfill our role, to the extent possible, as co-runners.

Thank you in advance for your continuous contributions of straightforward opinions and advice.

Originally reported in Japanese in March, 2013

Picture of Sharon Corologos
Re: SPECIAL vol.11 Reviewing our activity on the 2nd anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
by Sharon Corologos - Tuesday, 4 June 2013, 04:28 AM
You are definitely right, that this project is so supportive for the people who lost so much in the tsunami and earthquake. And it is a way to reach those of us across the world who love the Japanese people and culture, to remind us of those who are still in need. Because there are always new disasters in the news around the world, it can be so easy to put the 2011 Tohoku earthquake into the past. But the pain from that disaster is not in the past; it's in the present and future for so many people, still. Those of us in other parts of the world appreciate Voices From the Field as it brings back to our conciousness again the very real struggles of the Tohku victims.