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Jun 5, 2013

Monthly Report vol.24

Two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake.

As we continue our support activities in wide-ranging areas, we asked our supporters to send their messages, so that we can convey the thoughts and feelings of the people in the affected areas and in all other areas, in both directions.

Here are some of the many messages we have received:

Male in his 50’s, living in Tokyo:

Some time has passed since I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work in Kesennuma Oshima, but I feel that reconstruction is steadily moving forward, based on the information from volunteers in the area. I imagine that you are still having inconveniences, but I am always thinking of Kesennuma Oshima. I am trying to be of some help through advertising goods and events related to Oshima on Facebook.

Male in his 30’s, living in Miyagi:

I have hardly rested since the disaster. I have been frantically tackling whatever problem was in the way, and the going has been tough at times. But just when I am about to give up, I am always helped by the casual words of encouragement from the people who have come from other areas.

Female in her 30’s, living in Osaka:

Two years have passed since I saw those scenes through the TV screen on March 11. Ever since then, I have been searching every day for what I can do. I’ll never forget “3-11.” I can only do the little things, since I am so powerless. But I’ll continue to do whatever I can. I’m sure you are still living in hard and inconvenient conditions that we cannot even imagine, but I will always pray for your good fortunes and early recovery of Tohoku.

Two years since the Great East Japan Earthquake

Two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

In the disaster areas which suffered unprecedented damages, some regions are making steady progress towards recovery, as buildings such as public facilities and corporate buildings and infrastructures such as roads are being reconstructed. On the other hand, most individual victims are still living with dark shadows in their hearts, which are cast by the sorrow of losing their loved ones, homes and property or by the pain of having to live far away from their hometowns.

During these two years, we at Civic Force have provided on-site support in the disaster areas and heard the voices of many people: people who are working to create new industries in order to bring people back to their home lands, where industries have declined and depopulation is progressing; people who devote themselves to developing and promoting renewable energy; people who have committed themselves to living together with the evacuees from Fukushima who arrived immediately after the disaster; and people who regularly visit temporary housing to cheer up the elderly people by selling daily goods and holding tea parties. Witnessing the painstaking effort of these people, Civic Force has shared their spirits and supported their activities. Their words and sense of mission for reconstruction have sometimes significantly changed the views or even the life of our staff members.

Civic Force’s support activities for the Tohoku region are sustained by approximately 50,000 individuals and almost 600 corporations and organizations. A person who has been remitting 500 yen every day since the disaster; people who have supported us by utilizing their specialties such as music, art and IT skills; celebrities who have asked their fans and colleagues to make donations; people who have sent us messages because they wanted to at least convey their feelings, as they are unable to travel to the affected areas… We have been encouraged and supported by all these people and their messages, which also included critical comments at times.

Jun 5, 2013

Monthly Report vol.25

Disaster areas, tourism and reconstruction

“I would like to visit disaster areas but there is nothing I can do now. Is it alright to go there just for sightseeing?” asked one of the supporters living in Tokyo the other day.

More than two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011. In the disaster areas, some say that it is hard to think about Tourism because there still are many serious problems to be solved, such as group relocation from the areas devastated by earthquake and tsunami, reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure, construction of coastal levees and windbreaks, preservation of architectural remains from the disaster, disposal of disaster waste and so on.

Many of the disaster areas were not tourist spots but residential areas or fishing villages, so the local residents are still puzzled to see many people from other areas visiting there.

On the other hand, one of the remarkable challenges for reconstruction is to prevent depopulation of the area, which had been progressing even before the disaster, by rediscovering the fascination of the area and attracting as many people as possible   from inside and outside of the area. For this purpose, a far-sighted tourism revitalization plan is being developed and implemented now, so that the vitality of the local communities can be maintained into the future; 5 years, 10 years and beyond. The plan is a joint effort between public and private sectors and combines various resources such as the beautiful scenery and delicacies that are peculiar to the Sanriku region, geographical connection with famous tourist sites, and relationship with volunteers, which started after the disaster.

Many shops and restaurants that were lost in the tsunami are already reopening in temporary shopping malls one after another, and towns are becoming busy again. Moreover, various efforts are being made, which include attempts to keep the memories of the disaster from fading, such as volunteer-guided tours and Kataribe Taxi, and development and sales of products using local produces and materials. [Kataribe taxi drivers take tourists to places where the scars of disaster still remain and describe what actually happened there.]

These attempts represent the feelings of the people, such as: “Please don’t forget the memories of the disaster” and “Let’s reconstruct our beautiful town once again. 

Whether or not you have visited the disaster areas before, please come and feel the air of reconstruction in progress.

In this monthly report, we will report the outcome of the Kesennuma City Strategic Meeting for Tourism, which was launched in March 2012, and the activities of Civic Force, which have been supporting the management of meetings and formulation of the strategies. [Kesennuma City in Miyagi prefecture was severely damaged by the earthquake disaster.]

Jun 5, 2013

Monthly Report vol.26

Renewable Energy and Reconstruction of the Disaster Stricken Area

Two years and two months have passed since the March 11 earthquake in the northeast area of Japan or Tohoku. Simply “restoring” the area back to its former state before disaster struck is not sufficient. Reconstruction efforts need to be comprehensive and aim to tackle problems that beset the area even before the disaster, such as aging population and declining industry activities. The nuclear disaster after the earthquake offered an opportunity to also review at the energy policy of Japan, which has consistently increased its dependency on nuclear power after the World War II.

Under these circumstances, it is hoped that tapping onto renewable energy sources in the region, such as solar power, wind power and hydraulic power, could lead to increased energy self-sufficiency, prevent global warming, and perhaps even promote local industries.

Tohoku region with its abundant nature has high potential in renewable energy development. Aomori prefecture and Akita prefecture come in first and fifth respectively for having the most numbers of windmills in the whole country, evidence that they there are the forerunners in wind power generation. In addition, northeastern Japan is also an important rice-producing area in the country. Drawing on its agricultural heritage, Akita prefecture is starting to develop small hydraulic power generation systems along their irrigation channels used in farming.

More than 70 percent of the Tohoku region, an equivalent of 4.7 million hectares, is occupied by forest. The local lumbering and timber industry produces about 530 thousand tons of timber off cuts annually which could be a potential source of raw materials for woody biomass. In fact, some think tanks have proposed that forestry should be positioned as a key industry in the reconstruction efforts as it can create many jobs.

The feed-in tariff system started in July in 2012 aims to increase the use of renewable energy in Japan. Feed-in tariff refers to the amount paid by government to businesses, individual households and other organizations to generate renewable energy and the system includes other requirements such as the obligatory purchase of renewable electricity by electric power companies. Also, Special Reconstruction Act enforced in December in 2011 aims to accelerate reconstruction in the disaster-stricken areas by encouraging the local governments to develop their own plans to suit the needs and characteristics of the local communities. The act thus opens a window of opportunity for the local administrations to consider their energy security needs.

With the support from new policies and reconstruction assistance given, the private sector has begun to take on the new challenges to develop renewable energy systems. In this monthly report, we will include an article on “Green Cycle Project – Developing a sustainable forest industry and effective utilization of woody biomass”, a project Miyagi prefecture implemented as part of the Mid–to Long–Term Reconstruction Support Projects, which started in the summer of 2012.

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