Thursday, March 8, 2012
People in Japan pulled together after last year’s disaster, they helped their neighbors, their fellow citizens. Many were Japanese, but some were foreign residents, and these ex-pats ended up helping a lot, and that’s prompting the government on how it can be more inclusive with its foreign community in the event of another disaster.
International expert Shared ID is in a workshop in Tokyo and NHK World’s Tomoko Kamato takes us there.
Amilia Sasaki has a lot to say about her experience after the March 11 disaster and the Japanese Government is eager for her to tell her story at this workshop.
Sasaki came to Japan from the Philippines in 1979, she married a Japanese man and learned the language. This is her home now. Which is part of the reason why the disaster effected her so much.
“I saw my neighbor waving her hands from inside her house as the tsunami swept it away, there was nothing I could do”
Sasaki also lost her home, but her family was safe. They moved to an evacuation center and soon she volunteered to run the place.
“I helped with translation, I handed out supplies, I was thinking about what I could do for the community rather than what the community could do for me”
Sasaki was one of twenty thousand registered foreign nationals in the 3 hardest hit prefectures, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Many left after March 11, but some like Sasaki, stayed. And they became a great help especially in towns with aging populations.
“Those people start acting with the idea that they are part of Japanese society, they wanted to make the best of their abilities.”
Their stories are helping to change the government’s view of foreign residents. People at this work shop talked about the need to build a system to support the expats so they can get involved in regional anti-disaster and relief activities.
One idea is to invite them to participate in disaster drills. The hope is foreign residents will feel part of a community and want to pitch in when they’re needed.
As Amilia Sasaki proved, help from all members of society can be invaluable.
Tomoko Kamato NHK World, Tokyo