Rebuilding Japan, One Year After the Earthquake and Tsunami

“The earthquake and its aftermath sharpened Japan’s determination to move revitalization forward, going beyond post-disaster reconstruction,” said Tomoko Dodo, senior consul with the Japanese Consulate in Seattle. “Despite the tragedy of March 11, Japan’s economic parameters for 2011 are inline/above average OECD economic indicators.”

The routine of their daily lives has resumed for those in Tokyo, about 237 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. Paul Mori, 41, a Japanese American living in Tokyo and working for Heinz Japan, was visiting a customer when the earthquake struck.

“It’s amazing to see the resilience of the Japanese. Outside of the Tohoku area, I would say life is pretty much back to normal for most Japanese. It will take years to see full recovery in the Tohoku area, but progress is being made,” he said. “Emotionally, there will always be a fear as to when the next ‘big one’ will come.”

From what she sees on TV in her home in Tokyo, Kumi Mendoza, 35, says the destruction left in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last year in Sendai has been cleared. The Japanese American has gone back to work at her hotel job as a housekeeping supervisor. No one at her work talks about the quake, but Mendoza says she wished they did.

“Every so often, we feel quakes in Tokyo. It brings me flashbacks as how big the shake was,” said Mendoza. “They say within 35 years, a big quake — a 7 magnitude — will hit Tokyo. If and when that happens, the house that I live in will not hold. I worry about my four dogs and family.”

For those that worked with the recovery efforts immediately after the earthquake and tsunami, the one-year anniversary is a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

“Survivors who lost their jobs cannot purchase despite that there are abundant products everywhere in shops,” said Nahoko Harada, New England JACLer and a registered nurse with Japan Primary Care Association Post Disaster Aid Team. “This is crucial for their mental health, too.”

One year after the earthquake and tsunami hit, the Yoshidas are still on a waiting list to repair the clay roof tiles that fell from their home.

Minor damage caused by the disaster are still visible on some streets in the neighborhood where the Yoshidas live. Others in their family are still working to rebuild their lives.

“Now my hometown Namie-machi is one of the restricted areas and my brother can’t return home,” Shizuka Yoshida said, of the town located in Fukushima. “He recently moved out from the shelter and found a small apartment in Nihonmatsu City. His cat is still missing. He already lost his wife in a car accident many years ago. We want him to return to his home.”

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