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A famous Taiwanese actress revisits a children’s theater troupe that she supported after the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011. After the quake, the children in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas, banded together to re-enact their version of the disaster. Taiwanese actress Lin Chiling coached them on how to express their feelings. Almost four years since the disaster, some troupe members now worry that memories of their experiences are fading, and may soon be forgotten. We go back with Lin to visit and talk with them.
Mar 8 (Sun) 0:10/6:10/12:10/18:10 (UTC)
Children’s physical strength tests conducted in 2013 by Iwate Prefecture have showed poor results compared with those for 2010, the year before the 3.11 disaster, especially in the coastal areas. The reasons include the fact that many temporary housing complexes were erected in parks and school playgrounds, an increase in the number of students going to school by bus because of the closing and mergers of schools, and self-restraint regarding outdoor activities due to radioactive contamination. Only 0.6% of the temporary housing units built in school playgrounds have so far been removed. Since the disaster in the Tohoku region, which is filled with the bounties of nature, the number of outdoor playgrounds where children can freely move their bodies has decreased. Various efforts to solve this issue are underway, including the ‘Two-minute jump exercise’ (Kamaishi, Iwate Pref.), ‘athletic play’ that can also be done at home (Koriyama, Fukushima Pref.), and the large-scale indoor playground called ‘Pep Kids Koriyama’ which is attracting many family groups. The reporter is Bobby Ologun, a TV personality popular with children.
When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, no passengers lost their lives while riding on trains. Thanks to the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System, in which seismometers automatically halt trains when they sense abnormal vibrations, all the Shinkansen bullet trains came to a halt 12 seconds before the quake struck. We look at the ongoing reinforcement of the elevated tracks and improvements to the cars and verify the legendary safety of the Shinkansen by observing simulations of how safety is ensured at the time of an earthquake for the latest ‘Hayabusa’ trains and the planned Linear Chuo Shinkansen, travelling at speeds of 300 kph and 500 kph respectively. The program also reports on the local Tohoku coastal lines that were directly hit by the tsunami. Nobiru Station on the Senseki Line connecting Sendai and Ishinomaki was badly damaged. Two trains that left the station just before the quake experienced very different fortunes. The ‘Down’ train stopped on a hillside; following the advice of local residents, the conductor instructed the passengers to stay on the train and they were safe. However, as the 50 passengers and railway staff on the ‘Up’ train headed toward an evacuation site, they were engulfed by the tsunami and several of them died. The program covers the preparations and countermeasures being implemented to ensure railway safety in the event of future natural disasters.
Many items imbued with personal memories that were carried out to sea by the tsunami in 2011 have been found on the west coast of North America and returned to their owners. In previous TOMORROW programs, we have reported on the memories evoked by the return of nostalgic items, and how their owners have made a new step forward driven by them. Through those programs, a Japanese NPO called ‘Kids Now’ and Kevin Easley, an American dentist living in Alaska, got connected and the owner search movement has been steadily expanding. Encouraged by the return of his football, 13-year-old Rin Goto in Minamisanriki, Miyagi Prefecture, wrote in an essay:
"Whenever I get discouraged, I will hold this football and remember the many people who have supported me. I’m sure that will give me the courage to move on..."
His essay won the top award among 22,000 entries at a junior high school essay contest in the Tohoku region.
The local ‘idol group’ SCK Girls was formed in 2011 to back up the recovery of the disaster-stricken town of Kesennuma. The way they enthusiastically practice their dancing and singing in the community space at Minamimachi Murasaki Market, a temporary shopping district, has provided great mental support to local people. The girls became messengers for Kesennuma’s recovery, Japan Agriculture Group (JA) image characters, regular local radio presenters, and achieved their dream of performing in Akihabara in Tokyo. Many fans began visiting Murasaki Market. But as they enhanced their name recognition holding concerts in various cities including Tokyo, Aichi and Oita, they felt their bonding with their hometown was weakening. Now the girls’ desire to deepen the bonds with local people is strengthening again. Led by Marika Suzuki, the 2nd generation leader, they are planning to hold a ‘Thanking Local People’ 4th anniversary concert in the area. They’re producing invitations for all the people in the Market as their love of Kesennuma is transformed into an engine supporting its recovery.
About 450,000 Japanese schoolchildren at all three levels (elementary, junior high and high schools) suffer from some kind of food allergy. However, local government disaster prevention plans pay insufficient consideration to the needs of allergy sufferers. The program introduces various efforts to provide countermeasures for allergy sufferers during a disaster, based on lessons learned in 2011. In Higashi-matsushima, children who had escaped to an evacuation site were given a bar of chocolate, and then had to be taken to hospital because they were allergic to milk. The town had to reconsider its disaster prevention manual. In Sendai, one woman is working hard to improve the situation for allergy sufferers at the time of disasters. Allergy sufferers have also fully realized the importance of reporting that they are allergic to certain items. A group of mothers has developed “Cards to prevent food allergy” which can be carried even by babies and small children. There is now a nationwide movement going on to familiarize people with food allergy problems and gain a full understanding of them.
More than 700 schoolchildren perished in the 3.11 disaster. As new types of disaster education are being considered nationwide, the “Disaster moral education” developed by students of Shizuoka University Faculty of Education is drawing attention. The students conducted a survey on the behavior of children during the disaster in Kesennuma, where many schoolchildren lost their lives. Everyone was faced with a crucial decision before the tsunami arrived: to escape or to check out the safety of their family? In consultation with experts on the science of disaster prevention, the students presented “disaster moral education” lessons using images and illustrations at more than 10 elementary and junior high schools. The initiative has been highly evaluated. The program covers an actual “disaster moral education” lesson for 6th graders at an elementary school near Suruga Bay. It clearly shows how the children’s disaster prevention awareness changes: “Every man for himself”.
At an unusual evacuation site in the Sanjo district of Sendai, more than half of the 1,000 evacuees were foreigners. This happened because many overseas students lived in the area and widely circulated e-mails reported that the Sanjo evacuation site was safe. However, the foreigners who escaped there were soon at a loss. Few of the Japanese evacuees could speak English and they were unable to explain the rules of the site well. Cultural and behavior differences stood out in relief and led to friction. Since then, the Sanjo district has been trying to make improvements in various ways based on the lessons learned. It has produced a disaster prevention manual in 10 languages and established a disaster prevention leader system so that foreigners who are fluent in Japanese can become evacuation guidance leaders. They’re also trying to share disaster awareness and cross-cultural understanding by holding regular discussion sessions on how local residents and foreigners can cooperate. There will be more and more foreign residents in Japan in the future. The program presents hints on surviving disasters through mutual assistance.
Movies have provided great support to people in the Tohoku region. From two months after the disaster, the “Cinema Yell Tohoku” project has held more than 500 free-of-charge screenings of popular movies in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. With the help of people in the movie industry, screenings have been held at elementary schools and temporary housing complexes. People are once again enjoying watching movies together with others, and movies are starting to become a new focus for community-building. The program investigates the spirit of people connected by movies and the regeneration of communities.