In November 2011, eight months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Naoko Tanesaka joined Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project as a Fellow to revitalize local shopping street completely destroyed by the tsunami. Rikuzentakata is a seaside town of 24,000 people that lost 48 percent of its homes. More than 1,500 people died.
Local shop owners who lost their premises wanted to restart their business, as a step toward economic and community revitalization. However, when Naoko started to work for the project, utilities such as electricity and water supply had not yet recovered. The local government administrative functions didn’t work effectively and they could not receive subsidies.
Before joining the project, Naoko worked for many store development and renovation projects. Fully utilizing her expertise, she made a large contribution to the restart of the shopping street in February 2012, while building trusting relationships with shop owners and residents. She also supported sales promotion campaigns to attract people both inside and outside of the town.
More than one year has passed since the earthquake. Now, local people can purchase foods and necessities. However, there are a few entertainment opportunities and some people, especially those who are living in temporary housing, have been feeling very depressed. So, Naoko promoted various events where local people can gather and interact with others to revitalize the local community.
Naoko said, “I believe that the most important thing for local people is that they can stand on their own feet again toward sustainable recovery. I will continue to support local shop owners who want to continue their business in this town.”
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