Civil Society

February 4, 2015


What High School Students Can Do

Keywords: Disaster Reconstruction 

Photo: Tohoku High School Students Future Meeting
Copyright RE:VISION JAPAN All Rights Reserved.

Tohoku Fukko Nikki (Tohoku Reconstruction Diary) is a weekly article in an eastern Japan newspaper called the Tokyo Shimbun. The weekly article delivers news and stories on reconstruction efforts in the areas devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The series of articles is submitted by JKSK Empowering Women Empowering Society, a certified non-profit organization, about an initiative dubbed the "Yui-Yui Project," which supports victims of the earthquake.

JFS introduces an article published on May 2, 2014, featuring an initiative by high school students, "Tohoku High School Students Future Meeting." This article is written by Yohei Saiki, Director of RE:VISION JAPAN.

On April 4, 2014, one hundred high school students from across Japan gathered at the Members' Office Building of the House of Councillors (of Japan's parliament) to attend the Tohoku High School Students Future Meeting. I supported the high school students from Tokyo who organized the meeting. The meeting started with words by a high school student whom I taught at my private preparatory school.

"There are still many problems to solve, but people around me are indifferent to them," the student said. "I find it frustrating." He has frequently visited the Tohoku Region by joining tours aiming to help reconstruction efforts in Tohoku since soon after the earthquake.

I advised the student to create an opportunity to directly listen to people in the disaster-hit areas, instead of just lamenting the current situation. Together with his friends, he used Facebook to call for cooperation of high school students in the affected areas In response, more than 40 high school students from three disaster-hit prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) turned out for the meeting.

At the meeting, students from the affected areas and across Japan mingled with each other in ten groups, each of which discussed a specific issue, such as revitalization of the affected areas, seawall and energy. Experts who joined the students included Mayor Yutaka Ikarigawa of Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, and Mrs. Akie Abe, the wife of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

After discussing a topic in the morning, each of the ten groups made a presentation of the discussion results as a policy recommendation at the venue in the afternoon. The highest award went to a recommendation that young people should be offered home-stays with families in temporary housing, to experience the lives and food in the affected areas, so that they can be a trigger to attract people from across Japan. As the recommendation corresponded to the objective of the meeting, that is, letting as many people as possible experience "firsthand issues" on-site in the affected areas, the entire audience burst into applause.

On the second Tohoku High School Students Future Meeting, which will be held next spring, progress of the policy recommendations will be reported. High school students will continue to make determined efforts to provide opportunities to listen to victims face-to-face as opinions from the affected areas.