Ambassador's Blog


My Visit to Fukushima

 

 

09 February 2012

I went back to Japan from 10 to 21 January to participate in the meeting of Japanese Ambassadors in Europe and to carry out related activities. I was in Tokyo for the meeting from 10 to 12 January, and from the 14th onwards I gave several lectures and met the governors of Osaka, Kyoto and Yamaguchi prefectures. However, it was the visit to one of the main areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that made the greatest impression on me.

On 13 January, I visited Fukushima prefecture with about 10 other Japanese Ambassadors stationed in Europe. We toured one of the areas most affected by the disaster such as Haragama-Ohama Beach, observed the decontamination work around Onami primary school in Fukushima city and listened to the people who are leading the recovery efforts, such as Mr Yuhei Sato, Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Mr Hidekiyo Tachiya, Mayor of Soma City, and other local leaders from agriculture and commerce.


Hearing about the current situation from local government officials


Visiting reconstruction sites
I had seen and heard about the devastation caused by the catastrophe and the efforts to bring about recovery from news broadcasts or at second hand a number of times. However, what we learned from the people who were really there on the front line was far more moving and brought home to us the reality of the situation. I was left speechless by the sheer scale of the damage. However, I take my hat off to everyone who became involved in the rescue efforts in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. They worked non-stop to keep the damage to a minimum, to comfort the traumatised citizens, to lay the foundations of recovery and to build hope for the future. I understand that the citizens in the evacuation centres were cooperative and helpful, and I share the view of many observers that the stoical and dignified behaviour of the people in the stricken areas constitutes one of the enduring strengths of Japan and its people.
Now, with the first anniversary of the disaster approaching, the recovery operation at the site continues unabated. In this connection, we visited Onami primary school and the surrounding area to see how the decontamination work is being carried out. The Onami area has been designated as a "special decontamination zone". Efforts are under way to identify the most effective method of decontamination and also to verify the degree of radiation depletion achieved.

At the end of the visit, we viewed Haragama wholesale market and offered silent prayers for the victims at Haragama-Ohama Beach. Although there is still a substantial amount of rubble at the site, having seen the vigour with which the people there are tackling the issue, I have become even more confident that the devastated area and Japan as a whole will recover and be reborn.


Remembering the victims
The people we met in Fukushima expressed deep gratitude for the support received from overseas. Once again I myself would like to express my profound gratitude for the generous support extended by people in the UK and all over the world. In Fukushima I heard that the donations from overseas have been distributed to the victims and have helped them greatly in rebuilding their lives. As well as offering their appreciation, they earnestly look forward to being able to welcome to their region their friends from around the world.

The Governor of Fukushima offered us local strawberries, which were very sweet and tasty. Of course, Japan has far more than strawberries to offer in terms seasonal delicacies and the blessings of nature. Now that spring is on the way, with its promise of our famous cherry blossoms, it is my deepest wish that more and more people from the UK will visit and savour the delights of our beautiful country.

 

 


Keiichi Hayashi
Ambassador


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