On today’s podcast, we revisit the events of March 11, 2011, the day a powerful magnitude 9 earthquake struck of the north east coast of Japan triggering a tsunami that flowed up to 6 miles inland killing over 15,000 people and destroying over 125,000 homes. On the anniversary of this devastating event, four survivors of the 2011 Great Tohoku Japan Earthquake share their stories.
Isaac Medina, who was living in Fukushima, was driving to a friend’s house when the earthquake struck. Isaac shares that although he was used to earthquakes, he quickly understood that this one was different. His describes his surreal experience as roads began to buckle and power lines starting popping out of the ground. He details his evacuation to Tokyo, and the panic as the inaccessibility of food and petrol became apparent. Finally, Isaac reflects on life after the disaster – the loss of his house, job and possessions and how he has moved forward.
Twitter played an essential role in connecting people in the wake of the tragedy. Twitter user Our Man in Abiko used the platform to create a crowd-sourced eBook that allowed people to share their stories and express their pain. He shares the story behind his fundraising. This effort emerged as a true example of community and culminated in Quakebook, which included contributions from science-fiction author William Gibson and Yoko Ono.
In the wake of the earthquake, the United States government responded with Operation Tomodachi to provide relief to some of the worst hit areas in North Eastern Japan. Kurt Tongis, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Tokyo, joins the podcast to talk about the response which included a focus on fiscal assistance, the rebuilding of infrastructure and the enlivening of economy. He also discusses the Tomodachi Initiative which brings young Japanese students from the Tohoku region to study in America with the aim of providing hope and a sense of direction.
Finally, I speak to Zak Baney, a filmmaker, whose film ‘Last Message’ was shot in some of the worst hit areas in Sendai. His film is a powerful reminder of what is most important in our lives. His description creates powerful images of the devastation. However, as he goes on to discuss the process he went through to gain permission to film what becomes paramount is his sense of awe in terms of the Japanese spirit.