Update from Tohoku



Dear members and friends of the Japan Society of Boston,

I would like to express deep gratitude, on behalf of the Society's Board and staff, for your generous response to the disasters that overwhelmed Japan on March 11. A few days after those terrible events, the Society joined with The Boston Foundation and the Fish Family Foundation in forming the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund-Boston, and ever since the JDRFB has been receiving a constant flow of donations, large and small, in support of relief efforts in Japan. Contributions have come from major corporations, from churches and community organizations, and from thousands of individuals all over New England and beyond. I have been especially moved by contributions of small children forgoing birthday presents or breaking open piggy-banks "for the sake of Japan." Overall, the generous response of all Americans has been deeply reassuring.  Please see the link at the bottom of this email to find out about the grants the JDRFB has awarded so far.

I have just returned from a three-week trip to Japan, the last week of which was spent in Tohoku visiting some of the destroyed towns and fishing villages along the northeastern coast. It was a life-changing experience. The scale and extent of the devastation defy description in words.  Until one visits towns like Kesennuma in northern Miyagi Prefecture or Rikuzen-Takada and Kamaishi in Iwate the statistics of destruction are simply abstractions. First-hand experience changes your perspective dramatically. One's  mind cannot really comprehend a flourishing port-town transformed overnight into a wasteland or a 10,000-ton ocean vessel hurled ashore onto the top of buildings until one sees such things with one's own eyes. One cannot absorb the meaning of one thousand dead for a town with a population of only twelve or thirteen thousand until one speaks to the survivors. Similarly, one cannot fathom the strength and determination of Tohoku people until one looks into their eyes or hears their words directly.

My recent trip to Japan culminated last week with an unexpected audience with the Empress of Japan, who shared with me her profound concern for the people of Tohoku as well as her gratitude for all that America has done.  (Read my report from Onagawa here) 

Though the attention of the world's press has Ruinsshifted elsewhere, and though the crisis in Japan has  moved from emergency survival to the stage of reconstruction, the pain and suffering in Tohoku remain enormous. Families may be adequately fed and sheltered for the moment, but they still mourn tens of thousands of relatives who were swept beneath the waves and who will never return. In tradition-bound Tohoku, the loss of a family's ancestors (and the ancestral plaques from domestic butsudan or home altars) is as painful as the loss of living relatives. Families now feel cut off from their past and from ancestral communities, with little to look forward to in the future. The Tohoku coast was always one of Japan's richest fishing areas. Now, with their boats destroyed and their port facilities devastated, with fishing grounds contaminated by radiation, what future can there be for families that lived for generations off the sea? It will take a decade, at least, to restore a once-great industry. Facing only bleakness and uncertainty in the years to come, the suicide rate is rapidly rising along the Tohoku coast, especially among able-bodied young and middle-aged men who are no longer able to support their families.

The suffering in Tohoku remains intense, and much work remains to be done. To that end, we hope that you will continue to support the JDRFB as generously as you can. The Japan Society of Boston and our partners in the JDRFB, The Fish Family Foundation, and the Boston Foundation have demonstrated strong leadership in New England's support for Japan, and will continue to do so. To date, the JDRFB has raised nearly $750,000 toward disaster relief in Japan through individual donations both large and small,  and through large benefit events like the Japan Society's Annual Dinner.

Please help us continue to support disaster relief in Japan by becoming a member of the Japan Society of Boston.  If you have never been a member of the first and oldest Japan Society in the U.S., there is no better time to join than right now! If your membership has lapsed, there is no better time to re-join!

The Japan Society of Boston now manages all membership data as well as program announcements online. Individual membership is still only $45 per year, and it has never been easier to join or renew your membership. If you are currently enrolled as a JSB member, thank you for your continued support. If you are not a member, or if you are uncertain of your membership status, please use the following links.

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  With your help, the Japan Society of Boston can continue to help Japan at this moment of great need!

  

Sincerely,

  

Peter M. Grilli - President

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