"A Year After 3/11: A Message from Japan to the United States and the World"
at Japan Society of Fairfield County
Yasuhisa KAWAMURA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION
3 March 2012
The earthquake and tsunami posed the starkest crisis my country has faced in a generation. But we, Japanese, feel more united in solidarity for reconstruction than ever. Indeed, we endured, stood up and have stepped further ahead toward recovery.
All of this was possible because we never felt alone. Rather, we were encouraged and supported by the great people of the United States, from all walks of life, including here, our good friends in Fairfield County. We find here the power of Kizuna, the bonds of friendship.
A week after 3/11, an eleven-year-old girl and her father came to the Consulate and left this drawing. It says "We Are With You." This moving picture perfectly sums up the feelings that Japanese and Americans alike share.
My very first message that I want to get across to you, as a Japanese person speaking to Americans like yourelves, is "Arigato or Thank you". (DVD to be shown)
II. Japan bounds back with key messages
Here is another message from Japan. The message is that Japan is determined to make recovery efforts in cooperation with and in gratitude of the United States and the World. Japan has received an outpouring of support from 124 nations/regions and 9 international organizations in the wake of the disaster. In particular the United States offered generous support which massively involved the US forces in Japan. The operation is called "TOMODACHI Operation". Operation TOMODACHI brought over 24,000 personnel, 24 ships and 189 aircraft in service for humanitarian operations. They searched for missing people, transported millions of tons of fresh water by barge ships to the urgently needed Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station after the rods' cooling system was lost. Operation Tomodachi also rebuilt crucial Japanese infrastructure and made substantial contributions to the early recovery of the transportation system which facilitated the delivery of necessary life-saving materials to the needy people. They also worked to restore the devastated Sendai Airport, a mile from the coastline, where a huge tsunami flooded the runway. The restoration of Sendai Airport made it easy to transport materials. According to the New York Times the American Marines used the airport to distribute more than two million tons of food, water and blankets.
We, the Consulate General of Japan, will never forget the goodwill shown by the people of Fairfield County, either. The Japan Society of Fairfield County coordinated the collection of funds in Connecticut and donated lots of money. And more than that, Alice McDonald and her high school friends from Staple conducted a bake sale and collected relief funds. Alice and Jennifer Matrianni along with President Harry Sakamaki and Vice President Yumi McDonald kindly visited our Consulate by bringing sample "Hinomaru (rising sun) cookies" with a check of more than $5,700. The cookies tasted unforgettably sweet and I believe that people's minds were also sweetened with sympathy for the plight of people in Tohoku.
The total amount of the non-governmental American financial help to the Japanese people has exceeded 600 million dollars, the largest amount ever from the United States to a developed nation. The largest assistance only following the cases of the earthquakes in Haiti and Sumatra of Indonesia.
The Japanese people are deeply grateful for such an outpouring of support from the international community. They realize that Japan's past efforts to help needy countries and the people are behind such a substantial global wave of support for Japan after 3/11.
The people in Japan have learned again from this experience and have been even further encouraged to meet global needs in particular to enhance human security as Japan has long promoted.
One of their most recent answers is Japan's decision to dispatch two teams of 540 SDF personnel to the UN PKO mission in South Sudan The SDF teams will engage in infrastructure building such as road construction.
The next is Afghanistan. Japan will play a leading role in formulating a new economic cooperation plan after the US forces leave there. Japan has pledged 6.8 billion dollars as the second largest donating country following the US for security, reintegration and development of Afghanistan. This coming July Japan will host a Ministerial Conference in Tokyo to discuss to prioritize the development programs as well as international assistance for Afghanistan and its neighboring countries.
The Japanese people are now also wishing that they could reciprocate the goodwill and support they have received from the world by making the best use of their own experiences of 3/11 and after for building a calamity resilient society. The figure of annual worldwide casualty amounting to 200million, 90% of whom are the people living in underdeveloped countries, urges our people to act. To realize this Japan will host international conference this coming summer to promote cooperation to prevent natural disaster.
III. Reconstruction and Revitalization
Let me see the macro socio-economic posture of Japan a year after 3/11.
Japan's economy is expected to grow this year by 2.2%. The strong demand for reconstruction is expected to pull the economy upward. The current remaining question is the timing of the upward surge. It depends on how soon the current labor shortage in the region is eased. Other concerns exist, which may adjust the expectation of Japan's economic prospects: the over-appreciation of yen, though currently it is off the peak, rising oil prices and the economic situation in Europe could affect the pace of Japan's economic recovery and we need to monitor it carefully.
(Japanese Industrial Production)
Japanese industrial production rose 4% in December 2011 from the previous month. Japanese unemployment is 4.6%, compared to 8.5%in US, 8.3% in UK and 9.8% for the European Union.
Major Highways, Highspeed Rails and Electricity were quickly brought back to normal.
In particular, the electricity supply of the Tohoku region was recovered by mid-June, three months after 3/11.
One of the most widely reported impacts on the global economy from the 3/11 disaster was supply chain disruptions. Automobile parts were one of the most seriously affected fields. Auto parts makers saw a 30% drop in production after 3/11. But the supply chain problem has now been resolved.
(US Production of Motor Vehicles)
US production of motor vehicles was also badly affected by the disruption of Japanese auto-parts suppliers as shown in the graph.
But the recovery has been quick and the pace of production was restored by September, 2011.
Reconstruction and recovery from the earthquake is Japanese Government's no.1 policy priority. The Government made massive and quick repairs to the devastated Tohoku region. As a result we have witnessed major recovery in infrastructure, lifelines, temporary housing, economic growth, jobs and so on.
Total damage is estimated at 16-25 trillion yen(=between 200 to 300 billion dollars). Governments, both Central and Regional, have decided to bear the budget of at least 287 billion dollars for the 10-year long reconstruction period. And the first 5 years have been designated as the period to intensify reconstruction programs. The government enacted a supplementary budget to lay out tools for reconstruction, including the establishment of the Reconstruction Agency, a system of special zones for reconstruction to stimulate investment from both from Japan and from oversees.
Japan is not simply seeking to "rebuild "the facilities, but rather to unleash significant potential to foster leading growth industries and to demonstrate to the world a new growth model to address disaster management, ageing population and environmental preservation.
Take Miyagi Prefecture for example. The government will designate 389 reconstruction industrial complex districts where 8 future promising industries including clean energy creation, aero space, automobile and food enjoy no taxation for the first 5 years.
(Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant)
Japan has achieved a number of key steps:
A condition equivalent to Cold shutdown where water can circulate within the plants in a stable manner and successfully cool off both the bottom of the reactors and the shelter under 100℃=212 Farenheit. Even when a surprise troublesome situation arose, the level of radiation outside of the nuclear power plant site could be kept substantially low.
TEPCO created a roadmap for decommissioning the reactors. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants have finished Step 2, which aims to control the emission of radiation materials and maintain substantially low levels of radiation.
The Government has started decontamination in the affected areas in Tohoku so that community members may regain confidence in safety in their living spaces. The number of personnel engaged in decontamination operations will significantly increase. As for the decontamination programs the IAEA assessed last November the current decontamination operations by Japan and they gave the green light by saying that it was an "A lot of good work, done at all levels, is going in Japan in the area of environmental remediation". The IAEA gave Japan useful advice that Japan should not overly decontaminate the regions by focusing on the real priority areas. So IAEA basically supports Japan's decontamination efforts.
（Japan's future energy policy)
Japan's nuclear reactors are undergoing a safety stress test to evaluate the extent to which key installations might be able to withstand extreme natural events. The IAEA has said that those tests are consistent with IAEA standards. The result of the test should be confirmed by Japanese Nuclear Energy Safety Committee. Another key element is the understanding and support of host towns. The Japanese government is making the best effort to explain its policy including the test result to the local residents.
Japan is now thoroughly reviewing the existing national energy strategy and it plans to decide new strategies called "Revolutionary Energy/Environment Strategy" and "Green Growth Strategy" by this summer. The new strategies will address the challenges of (1) Strengthening of energy conservation, (2) maximum acceleration of renewable energy use and development, (3) Clean usage of fossil fuel and (4) maximum reduction of weight of nuclear power in the total electricity supply.
The main pillars of the new energy strategy of renewable and conservation technology are (1) Energy Creation, (2) Energy Storage and (3) Energy Saving, which will in unity form the new energy system. Japan hopes to design cutting-edge technology in this regard and introduce this to the world in the coming years.
Japan hopes strongly to share its experiences of crisis management and new energy strategies with the international community. I am pleased to inform you that just yesterday Fukushima City hosted an international energy seminar to formulate a "Smart Community toward Reconstruction".
You may ask whether Japan needs further help from you. My answer is Yes, definitely. One the one hand, as I described, the Japanese economy, energy system and infrastructure are all doing fine. You have seen constant new technological breakthroughs in the area of energy conservation and architecture even immediately after the earthquake. And such a wave of innovation is a constant movement, which reassures our people and the world that Japan will come back, and even much stronger than before.
However, this is the macro picture of Japan, the second or third largest economy in the world. But in my view, now we need to look into the micro picture of Japan, in particular, the regions, villages, towns and yes, the individual people there. And more importantly, the minds of those individuals.
My friend told me about a portrait artist's experience in Tohoku, the region hit by the tsunami. Having lived in NY for years, the artist wanted to do something which would be helpful to the people there but did not know what would be the best answer and what he could do. But he visited refugee houses one by one and started to draw portraits of the people who stayed there. It took him 5 minutes to finish each person's portrait. He just drew and drew for hundreds of people and gave them the portraits. From the viewpoint of the early implementation of the regional reconstruction and recovery plans such drawing may not be appealing or at the same level of urgency as the rebuilding of the seawalls in the gulf.
But most of those people who saw the pictures were extremely happy having their own portrait pictures in their hands, and tearfully thanked the artist saying "Thank you so much. I am very grateful because you shared a few minutes out of your busy time with me by making face-to-face contact. You are the first and only person who has done so since 3/11. I lost everything including photos of myself. Now I am relieved to have this portrait because I am smiling and look nice in the portrait. I could even show this to my friends as a substitute memorial photograph at my funeral in the future. Thank you. This will be my treasure."
This story eloquently reveals that what the people really want is not easily imagined. But at the same time it tells us we need a lot more personal contacts, speaking to them, listening to them, sharing time with them, thinking with them, and probably singing, drawing, dancing, working, studying, teaching English, and so on. Personal and humane communication will be much appreciated.
There are already many volunteers such as current and former JETs, who are government-sponsored foreign teachers of English in Japan by joining the efforts in those local villages.
Yes, I would ask you to GO to Japan on a business, trip to see the cherry blossoms, and meet people, give them encouragement and words of support.
Even if you do not get the chance to go to Japan, please keep your souls with us. We are confident about our future, but please understand that we have just wiped our tears away.