Almost a year on since one of the world’s largest earthquake’s struck the north-east of Japan, and the nation’s people are reporting a strengthening of ‘kizuna’ because of the disaster.
Meaning ‘bonds’ or ‘ties’ in Japanese, disaster-affected communities are referencing a realignment of values, away from previously ‘important’ aspects such as economic values.
“In previous decades, market economy capitalism dominated, but in the year 2011, bonds between people - something that cannot be measured with economic indicators - has been reconsidered and valued more,” reported Mariko Kinai, World Vision Japan’s Relief Director.
World Vision’s relief and rehabilitation response since March 2011 has encompassed material items as well support that cannot be ‘measured’ so easily; such as providing safe, fun places for children to play and study, assisting senior citizens, reuniting people from the Fukushima area, and revitalising local fishing communities.
In the last year, an accumulative total of more than 141,000 people in the most affected Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have been assisted by World Vision.
Children, as always, have been a particular focus, with the provision of school bus transportation for students who have moved into neighbouring areas due to school closures; new equipment for schools, nutritious cooked meals and restoration of school meal centres. Child Friendly Spaces have played a key role in helping children adjust to a new life post-earthquake and tsunami.
Supporting the elderly has been another component of World Vision’s work in Japan. Establishing meeting places within temporary shelter spaces has been one way to keep senior citizens connected to their community. See the ‘Azumare Tea Salon
’ story to read about senior citizen, Mr Abe who has experienced three tsunamis in his lifetime.
Re-establishing livelihoods is an essential component of World Vision’s emergency rehabilitation work in Japan. Supporting families in the fishing industry in affected communities has allowed people to regain a sense of independence again and restore dignity.
The re-establishment and strengthening of ties was also evident in World Vision’s program to support people evacuated from the Fukushima area. Events to reunite people who had relocated to a neighbouring prefecture and lost contact, as well as community events to introduce new neighbours in hosting communities proved successful.
“Right after the tsunami, there was mutual support among the people. The way Japanese people have shared limited food and other resources to survive, and the solidarity has been praised globally. There was a (second) kizuna tie between the affected people and many thousands of volunteers who came to support the affected population from all over Japan has been evident,” said Mariko Kinai.
A third kizuna tie linked people from outside Japan with the affected communities.
“Generally speaking, the people from north-east Japan had no or little interaction with people from abroad. There was a significant amount of compassion and donations poured into the affected areas from all over the world. The affected people who lived in coastal fishery communities probably only heard about the names of the countries where donations came from only through newspapers and TV and had no direct contact prior to the tsunami.
Messages from developing countries where World Vision Japan has assisted had great emotional impact on the affected people. Children from impoverished countries who had much suffering of their own conveyed messages of hope to the affected population in Japan, and their words were indeed powerful,” said Kinai.
Through this response, World Vision hopes to be a ‘knot’ among the three kizuna ties.
For further details on the achievements and challenges of the Japan response, read World Vision Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami One Year Anniversary Report