Forever in my heart Fukushima
by former JET, Hannah Sumpter (Fukushima ALT, 2010 - 2013)

Three years ago I was in Fukushima when the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster occurred and wrote an article then about my experiences. Now I want to reflect on the progress that has been made.
There have been vast developments and improvements in business, farming and agriculture in the affected regions. This is a great sign, but it is easy to forget that it takes many years to recover from a disaster. So there is still work to be done. I remain in awe of the volunteers who continue to give up their time to help others and create safe places to live, work and play. They have inspired me to help and to volunteer. In the UK, we can support the people of Tohoku, and Fukushima in particular, by buying their produce.

Although there are still people in evacuated accommodation, families have built new lives and are more settled. Communities remain close and supportive of each other.

As one of my friends said, for the first year after the disasters, people were exhausted. But three years later, they have moved on. They respect the past and won’t forget it, but have hope for the future.

On a personal level, I regard my time in Fukushima as full of many unique opportunities. As a consequence of the nuclear incident, I lived in three different places in three years. In each place, I was always treated like a neighbour, not a foreigner. I was often thanked for remaining in Japan and being in Fukushima. My response was always the same: “This is my home.” I never once regretted my decision to stay. I have grown so much mentally, too.



Indeed, it is true that something like that stays with you forever. So, although I am back in the UK, I maintain a strong link with Japan and the people I met there, both Japanese and foreign. I want to remember Fukushima as a place I love, not as one of disaster and sadness. And I want others to do the same. The people there are strong and full of optimism that this should not be overshadowed by the events of the past.

With that in mind, on the third anniversary of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami, I was invited to give a speech at the Japanese Embassy’s ceremony in London. It was a great honour. I really wanted to express my experiences, feelings and passion for Japan.
There is no denying it was very emotional, but it was important to focus on the positives. I tried to pass on a simple message. That is one of courage, hope and friendship.

This, of course, is not the end of my relationship with Japan. I am planning to return soon and once again see the beauty of the land and of the people. I am always thinking of you Japan. You are forever in my heart, Fukushima.