Civil Society

October 19, 2014


What We Must Do before the Tokyo Olympics

Keywords: Disaster Reconstruction 

Copyright Junko Owada All Rights Reserved.

Through the Yui-Yui Project, an initiative to support victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, JKSK Empowering Women Empowering Society, a certified non-profit organization, submits weekly reports on the reconstruction of the quake-hit areas in the Tokyo Shimbun, a regional newspaper covering eastern Japan. Titled Tohoku Fukko Nikki (Tohoku Reconstruction Diary), the article series started in August 2012. The Yui-Yui Project was launched by JKSK, a certified non-profit organization. With consent from JKSK and the Tokyo Shimbun, Japan for Sustainability (JFS) will publish the articles on a monthly basis and introduce stories and updates on the recovery in Tohoku.

This article is written by Mitsu Kimata, Director-CEO, JKSK, published on October 4, 2013 on Tokyo Shimbun.

Following the March 11 earthquake in 2011, ten women in the Tokyo metropolitan area gathered with the thought that all people have to make the most of their abilities to overcome the hardships of the disaster, and took action by forming the Yui-Yui project. A connotation of the kanji character for yui is 'connecting people,' and the group has regularly held sit-in-a-circle-style meetings in the affected areas to exchange opinions and discuss action plans, then commercialized ideas that came up in discussions, and thought every day about what could be done for the rebuilding of Tohoku.

On September 28, 2013, I had a chance to visit the town of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture on a JKSK volunteer bus tour. JKSK had begun operating volunteer bus services in May. After working up a sweat by weeding and harvesting on an organic cotton farm, on which people have placed high hopes to start a new industry in Fukushima in the future, we visited two towns: Naraha and Tomioka. The Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. is located in these towns, while the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is just seven kilometers away. The scene stretching out in front of me was completely different from that in the rest of the nation, where many people were excited about the hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympics. I was speechless.

Copyright Junko Owada All Rights Reserved.

There, clocks are stopped at 14:46, the time of the quake. Houses and schools had been destroyed. There was not a soul in sight. Accumulated black plastic bags packed with soil and plants from decontamination work were piled on farmland. What if I were one of the residents here? Just the thought of it was unbearable, and tearing my heart apart. There must be something that needs to be done here, now, before getting excited about the Olympics.

I sincerely hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as members of the Youth Division of the Liberal Democratic Party who visit the affected areas on the 11th of every month, will put themselves in Naraha and Tomioka, imagine they grew up there, and put measures in place to help rebuild these devastated areas.