As we rebuild, will people remember us?

Port underwater — A familiar scene in Miyagi Prefecture, land had sunk in Onagawa Town bringing about another obstacle of raising the land. photo by Takeno (Chiyo) Suzuki

In a few days, Miyagi Prefecture and all of Japan will mark the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. During this past year, we have had a number of foreign visitors to Miyagi, who have all expressed their surprise at how fast the area has cleaned up. My family and I visit my husband’s aunt, who is living in the temporary housing in Onagawa Town, and it is amazing to see the cleanup progress every month.

“Auntie, the town has really cleaned up since last time,” I said to my husband’s aunt. “It has. But now what?” was her response, which opened my eyes to reality. Yes, the region has cleaned up. Yes, there are still areas that still need to be cleaned up. There are issues with how to dispose of all the debris. But after all the debris is gone, where do you begin in the rebuilding process of entire towns and cities? When all the debris is cleaned up, will people still remember us?

While there are so many issues, so many obstacles to face with, one thing is for certain — “tomo ni mae e,” or “together moving ahead.”

Rebuilding the entire region brings about opportunities — opportunities to develop and revitalize the area, creating a prosperous prefecture for our future. As the days go by, the needs of the region change. After the earthquake, it was about survival. Now, it’s about getting back to everyday life.
I often get the question “what can people overseas do for Miyagi now?”

There are still many ways for people to support Miyagi in various spheres — business: investing in Miyagi, bringing companies to establish an office here or engage in business exchange; daily life: eating Miyagi products that are sold back home in America; or financial: continue donating to various funds or directly to the prefecture.

However, I hope people will support Miyagi by coming here to enjoy the tourism spots, the delicious foods offered and engage in exchange with the locals. While the coastline was damaged by the tsunami, Miyagi was not completely destroyed. Many tourism spots — even along the coast, including the famous Matsushima Town — have reopened for business.

And the timing now is perfect, as Miyagi will once again welcome visitors with the upcoming Sendai-Miyagi Spring Tourism Campaign (April 1 to June 30, 2012) and the Sendai-Miyagi Destination Campaign to be held from April 1 to June 30, 2013. There are sure to be special events and attractions for tourists from all over the world to enjoy.

Most importantly, I ask for the people back home to continue sharing the stories of our region. Continue to promote Miyagi as a land of opportunity and a land of attractions for all to enjoy. Never forget the people who are here, working as diligently as ever to rebuild our home — MIYAGI.

Takeno (Chiyo) Suzuki, a former Nichi Bei Times intern, previously served as a co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. She is currently a coordinator for international relations (CIR) for the Miyagi Prefectural Government. In addition to translating and interpreting, Suzuki has worked on various projects to attract overseas investment, promote Miyagi products in the U.S. and corresponding with Delaware, Miyagi’s sister-state. A San Francisco native, she currently lives in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture with her husband Yukimasa and children Kota and Yuta.

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