TCU Global Innovator Joins Sakura 311 Relief Efforts
The 2011 tsunami that hit Japan shortly after its record-breaking magnitude 9 earthquake devastated the country. The northeastern coast was hit the hardest, more specifically the city of Rikuzen Takata. Rikuzen Takata lost almost 10 % of its population (about 1,800 people) and suffered millions of dollars in damages.
Tomoko Arakawa, TCU’s Global Innovator from Japan and Director of the Asian Rural Institute (ARI), recently went to Rikuzen Takata with her ARI staff members and joined Sakura 311. Sakura 311 is a program that plants Sakura trees (cherry blossoms) along the line where the 2011 Tsunami reached (170 km). It is to let the future generations remember the disaster and more importantly let them know that they have to evacuate higher than the Sakura line to survive. So far about 10 % of the targeted line is planted.
On their first day, Arakawa and her team observed the reconstruction site guided by a leader of Sakura Line 311, Mr. Okamoto. Mr. Okamoto quit his job in Tokyo to came back to his home town of Rikuzen Takata, has devoted himself to the reconstruction of the city since the tsunami. The group saw a photo exhibition, listened to a victim’s testimony and gathered around the victim memorial statue in prayer.
The second day, Arakawa and her team volunteered with Sakura 311 and planted 9 trees along the Sakura line. Monks from a nearby Buddhist temple and nearby neighbors thanked them from for their work. After the volunteers finished, the monk and neighbors gathered together in a circle for a word of prayer.!
Rikuzen Takata was known for its pine forest that covered the shoreline, however, after the tsunami hit all of the 70,000 pine trees except one. The lone surviving pine tree is known as the “miracle pine” and serves as a symbol of the city’s resilience and perseverance.