Posts Tagged ‘Peace Winds Japan’

Sharing Strength in Japan

Takashi Lee is the Country Manager for Timberland Japan.  Below, he shares with us his recent experience traveling to and serving survivors in parts of Japan that were devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March.

On the early morning of June 29th, I was on the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) heading for Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, which is in the northern part of Japan about 400km away from Tokyo. It’s been more than four months since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, but even now, I am sometimes struck by the false sensation that the earth is shaking.

When the huge earthquake hit Japan on the afternoon of March 11th, I was on the 3rd floor of the building in Tokyo where TBL Japan office is located. Slow but forceful shaking continued for some time, and the magnitude was never a sort of what I had experienced in my life, and I thought then that “the time” was finally approaching to us. All the people in Japan are aware that a fatal earthquake will never fail to happen sometime, but we had been doing wishful thinking that it wouldn’t take place during our lifetime. Unfortunately, it did happen four months ago.

Months later, there’re still a really large number of sufferers who are in desperate need of any kind of support. So, we, TBL Japan employees as a team, decided to turn all the resources to disaster-related activities this year, in place of engaging in usual CSR activities. We have also given up participating in the tree-planting tour to the Horqin Desert this year so that we can send as many employees as possible to the disaster-stricken areas, because we think that the most socially-significant CSR activities we can do now is to help those affected by the quake. This time, as the first step, 12 TBL Japan employees including myself, decided to participate in volunteer work in a stricken area, working together with an NGO Peace Winds Japan.

It was a three-hour ride from Tokyo to Ichinoseki by Shinkansen. When I got off the train, I felt the scenery around the station looked just normal, as Ichinoseki is located inland and far away from coastal areas that were heavily devastated by the tsunami. Tens of thousands of people died or are still missing mostly in those coastal areas.

From the station, we then got on a chartered microbus for Ofunato where we were going to do the volunteer work at a temporary housing site. On our way to Ofunato, we passed through a beautiful coastal town Rikuzentakata, one of the most heavily hit areas by the tsunami. The town is located on the northeastern coast of Japan, along the Pacific Ocean, and was famous for a scenic area with around 70,000 pine trees, but they were completely destroyed by the tsunami. Only one of the trees survived. Local residents see it as a symbol of reconstruction.

Only one pine tree survived, which people see as a symbol of reconstruction

The quake at Rikuzentakata registered a magnitude of 6, and the tsunami that followed 30-40 minutes after the quake reached a height of 16 meters. About 1,800 people died out of the total population of 24,000, with 3,600 houses being totally destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »