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Rebuilding Japan, One Year After the Earthquake and Tsunami

Photo: AP/Kyodo News
These two photos taken over a six-month period shows aftermath of the March 11, 2011, tsunami and its cleanup progress in Wakabayashi-ward in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, in northeastern Japan.

As the one-year anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami nears, the people of Japan reflect on their journey to recovery.

By Nalea J. Ko, Pacific Citizen Reporter
March 2, 2012

Fuku-suke survived last year’s massive earthquake that struck Japan, but today he still nervously jumps when his paws feel the ground tremble from the smaller quakes that have hit the country in the aftermath.

A two-year-old Pomeranian, Fuku-suke, was named in honor of the people in Fukushima, where he used to reside. His breeder was located in Iwate city, a coastal region in Fukushima, when on March 11 of last year a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan.

Before fleeing her home, Fuku-suke’s breeder loaded as many dogs as she could in her SUV after the earthquake struck. Unable to continue caring for the dogs she rescued, the breeder placed the pooches up for adoption online.

It was the picture of the cream-colored, puffy-furred Fuku-suke on a blog that caught the attention of married couple Shizuka and Kazuko Yoshida, residents of Chofu City in Tokyo.

“When we went to pick up the dog, we also wanted to drive a bit further to visit my hometown,” said 75-year-old Shizuka Yoshida, with his daughter, Junko Yates translating. “Roads to my hometown were closed and only authorized persons were allowed to go through. Approximately 200 are still missing on the shore where I used to go play as a child.”

A total of 15,853 people were confirmed dead according to the Japan’s National Police Agency as of Feb. 23. The missing persons count reached 3,283 and the injured count 6,013.

Like Fuku-suke, the Yoshidas safely escaped the earthquake and tsunami, but it was a close call. On March 11, the Yoshidas were visiting the Oharai Fish Market on the Pacific Coast, which was later severely damaged by the tsunami.

“Initially we planned to visit the park nearby and have lunch,” said Kazuko Yoshida, 67. “But when I got into the car, I had this bad feeling and I wanted to go home straight.”

“Within an hour or two, the earthquake hit Japan. Later on, we heard that the fish market was damaged badly by the tsunami,” Shizuka Yoshida said.

Nationwide the estimated damages soared in the months after the earthquake and tsunami. Japan’s government on July 29 estimated that the damages would cost $23 trillion yen ($309 billion) in the next 10 years and $19 trillion yen ($250 billion) in the first five years.

To help Japan rebuild, organizations around the world gathered financial aid. JACL partnered with Direct Relief International on March 15. To date the organizations have raised a total of $6 million. Sixty percent of the funds have been allocated, according to JACL National Director Floyd Mori.

“We have identified some very good NGOs that are doing great work and able to shift their work as a new phase of recovery is reached,” Mori said. “Our intent is to continue to support these NGO groups who are doing direct work in the Tohoku region and help to maintain their long term service to the people there.”

March 11 marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly earthquake and tsunami, which is also referred to as the Great East Japan Earthquake or 311.

In observance of the one-year anniversary, the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle and SeattleJapanRelief.org will hold the Great East Japan Earthquake Memorial. It is one of many memorial events planned nationwide and in Japan. The March 11 memorial event will focus on remembrance, preparedness and rebuilding.

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