Organized by the Mie Disaster Volunteer Support Centre, the first half of this seminar reported on efforts and activities to support the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake and evacuees living in Mie Prefecture. There was also a panel discussion on how to both reduce the threat of natural disasters before they strike and improve emergency responses post-disaster.
The second half of the seminar featured a lecture called ‘What we can do now’ by the television talent and American Daniel Kahl. The lecture introduced Kahl’s activities after the March 11th 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku.
Kahl was working in Tokyo when the earthquake hit and as soon as the shaking subsided took to the website Twitter to help disseminate information. First his tweets were in Japanese but after realizing that there were also foreign residents in Japan who needed information Kahl began sharing news articles, locations of evacuation shelters and other information in English. Upon doing this his follower count jumped almost immediately from 2,500 to 25,000 people.
Despite phone lines and systems for emails between phones going down following the earthquake, people with internet access were able to find Kahl’s information via Twitter.
Many non-Japanese living in Japan are limited by their Japanese level and so rely on overseas news sources for information. However, after the earthquake many of these news sources were either over exaggerating or misinforming readers of the dangers. The result was a sense of panic in the foreign community.
“During an emergency you have to be wary of misinformation. Being critical of the information in circulation will help you to take the right actions and stop you from panicking unnecessarily.”
Two years have passed since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami and Tohoku is gradually recovering. Kahl’s lecture emphasized that what we can do to support Tohoku’s recovery now is to either visit the area as a tourist or to buy items produced there. Instead of a simple donation, buying goods from Tohoku increases the number of jobs available and improves the regional economy for the people living there, as well as improves the economy of Japan as a whole. You are working together with the people of Tohoku.
Kahl encouraged the audience to visit the region, “I really would like everyone to visit Tohoku; it has so many wonderful tourist spots and onsen for visitors to enjoy.”
Finally, there was a conversation on stage between Mie Prefecture’s Governor Eikei Suzuki and Kahl. The Governor introduced Mie’s efforts to build links with the Tohoku region and support its recovery through events and other activities. One of these initiatives is the sale of Tohoku’s specialty produce within Mie.
Mie Prefecture is home to many organizations with links to disaster management which are using the experiences of the Great East Japan Earthquake to build better support networks for local citizens in the event of an emergency.
Mie Prefecture itself has plans to implement a Multilingual Support Centre in the case of a large-scale disaster to support non-Japanese residents by providing information in a variety of languages on the internet.
The survivors of major disasters and their experiences have a lot to teach us about how we can improve our own preparations and response plans for the future.