Civil Society

June 7, 2017


Earthquake Disaster an Opportunity for Global Empathy

Keywords: Disaster Reconstruction Resilience Well-Being 

Copyright 2017 Miwako Hosoda All Rights Reserved.

Tohoku Fukko Nikki (Tohoku Reconstruction Diary), a weekly column in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, delivers news and stories on reconstruction efforts in the communities devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The articles are submitted by the JKSK Yui-Yui Project, an initiative to support victims of the 2011 disaster by the non-profit organization JKSK Empowering Women Empowering Society. This month, we introduce an article published on November 8, 2016, about having empathy for the challenges and concerns of disaster-struck communities of different ethnicities and nationalities.

He called this spreading concern and empathy and the recognition of having community consciousness our "global identity," and also predicted that the earthquake might move our societies toward global citizenship.

I have seen this prediction come true many times in the Soma area of Fukushima Prefecture. A friend of mine from Boston who visited temporary housing in Minami-Soma City in April 2012 was impressed with the "wonderful artworks" of origami and kusudama (ornamental balls), beautifully and elaborately made by grandmothers. A month later, those origami were displayed at the Japan Festival in Boston and sold out to people who cared about the disaster.

A graduate student studying public health at Edinburgh, England, was surprised to learn at a lecture by a Japanese doctor that there was much less health damage from the radiation in Fukushima than he had expected. The student moved to Minami-Soma City in September 2015 and did a year of research there. He concluded that the biggest problem in Fukushima was not the radiation but the negative image people had of the area, which was having a deleterious effect on local people's health. Since returning to England, he has been working to communicate what he learned there with the world.

These can be considered acts of global citizenship--having empathy and seeking solutions to the problems and concerns of Soma across borders. The grandmothers in a knitting circle hosted by the Veteran-mamas Group, a citizen group in Minami Soma City, are making crafts for next year's Japan Festival in Boston. I plan to continue writing so they can receive well wishes from abroad and those who sent them can hear their responses.

Miwako Hosoda
Vice President, Seisa University