Ten years ago today, the unthinkable happened when a magnitude nine earthquake generated an over 100-foot wall of water that overwhelmed the coastline of the Tohoku region of Japan. More than 15,000 people were confirmed dead, with at least 2,500 more missing. The World Bank estimated the cost to the country as $235 billion. Further, and what the tragedy is most remembered for, is the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents.
JACL joined the world in sending support to Japan during this time of crisis. For many JACL members and other Japanese Americans, this disaster awakened and strengthened connections to our Japanese ancestry. That desire to strengthen the connection between the United States and Japan has been met by the Japanese government and we are pleased to see the forging of new transnational partnerships in the wake of an event that caused so much hardship and loss. JACL is one of many organizations to participate in the Kakehashi program, a cultural exchange that brings people from around the world to Japan. The Japanese embassy and consulates in the United States have been very active in our communities participating in relationship building, cross-cultural events, and helping to share the wartime incarceration experience of Japanese Americans with Japan.
As we face a global pandemic, international partnerships are proving to be especially relevant. Japanese Americans value the strong ties forged with our country of ancestry while recognizing our unique diasporic identities. We place these connections in the context of the need for the United States to re-establish ourselves as international leaders and partners in addressing the current pandemic and other challenges we all face such as global climate change and the desperate disparities that drive our border crisis.
The lesson, 10 years later, from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, is that we can overcome tremendous challenges when we work together as individuals, organizations and nations. We must continue to build these relationships so that we can work together to create a better world. (See related story here.)