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The Collective Memories of Disasters in Asia: East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

On 11th March 2020, Japan observed a moment of silence to the people lost during the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. It was nine years ago this day that the mega-earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan, resulting in many secondary disasters including a massive tsunami. The destruction of lives and property was wide-spread, overwhelming the local authorities’ capacities to respond and restore the affected communities. It is a testament to the degree of damage that there are still about 50,000 people who have not been able to return to their hometowns, and about 6,000 people still living in temporary housing units.

SEEDS Asia was actively involved in community recovery and reconstruction from 2011 to 2017, working with the local government, schools, local organizations and residents of Kesennuma city. Initially SEEDS Asia worked with the Kesannuma Reconstruction Association to establish linkages among residents in temporary housing units. Later on, in partnership with Kesennuma City, the Kesennuma City Board of Education, Social Welfare Council, and other networking agencies, SEEDS Asia continued its involvement in response to various expressed needs of the communities for their recovery.
Such initiatives of community strengthening go a long way in helping communities towards long-term recovery. Since the project was concluded, we have heard from our partners that activities that were initiated still continue among the communities. Children who have grown up and are now responsible adults have continued to help their communities over the nine years since the disaster.

Every year on 11 March, we pause, to reflect on the experiences we have had in the region, and the lessons we learnt with our partners. Disasters continue to happen, both natural and man-made, in Japan and in other parts of the world. It deeply inspires us to learn from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, as well as from our work in Asia, to continue to help communities and countries become more resilient and to reduce disaster risk.

On this day, we pray for more peaceful and resilient lives for the affected and vulnerable communities, and reaffirm our commitment to continue to work with them in the future.

[Photo from a workshop on community recovery in a junior high school in Kesennuma City]