Report on the 5th Day: With Love From WCDRR



The five-day WCDRR has drawn to an end today.

On this last day of the conference, we asked our participants, “Where were you and what were you doing on 11 March 2011 and on 11 March 2015”?


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First, at Tokyo Electron Hall Miyagi, we welcome Marco Staccioli, the president of a sales company dealing with automobile parts. He was born in Italy, has lived in Japan for 26 years an speaks fluent Japanese.



Marco Staccioli, Italy (57). He now manages an academy teaching automobile repairing skills.


“On 11 March 2011, I didn’t want to open my eyes, I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing.”

At 2:46pm, “(I felt) something was wrong”.
Marco was in Shimbashi, Tokyo, having a business meeting when he felt a huge quake.
Marco became busy with his work while confirming the safety of his employees in Tohoku. He only reached back home late at night.
When he turned on the television, he saw something beyond his imagination. “It was like a movie”. He covered his eyes in disbelief. However, on 11 March 2015, he felt the strength and power of Japan and its people.
When he entered Tohoku after the disaster, he established “Italians for Tohoku” and engaged in relief support at the disaster stricken places.
It was then when he felt the power of Tohoku moving towards recovery.
Marco also became influenced to face the realities of the disaster.
“We have to pass these stories on to our children in order not to repeat this tragic history”.


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Next from Sendai Mediatheque.
Chihiro Sato was distributing “Let’s Start from Fukushima” pamphlets on the first floor of the exhibition. She was born in Fukushima City and works for the prefectural office. On 11 March 2011, Sato was in Tokyo. She was in her 3rd year at a university in Tokyo. She was working part-time at a restaurant when the earthquake struck. She was overwhelmed by anxiety on that day.
Aftershocks ensued. News announcers on television had their helmets on. It was only late at night on the day that she managed to contact her family in Fukushima. “I was afraid, experiencing such an earthquake in an unfamiliar place”. She wanted to go back to her hometown after that incident.


“Fukushima is talked about today in a different connotation, but I want to remind everyone that Fukushima used to be and still is a beautiful place with nature and delicious fruits,” Sato described her thoughts on her hometown Fukushima. 


Changing the image of Fukushima. Chihiro Sato (25) praying.


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Reporting from Ricoh’s “Make A Wish Digital Signage” Booth in Sendai Mediatheque. “Make A Wish” is a unique IT system that shares people’s wishes. Take a photo in the booth and write a wish or message. The photo and message will be shared on the monitor. The seedling on the monitor grows with more messages. Let us hear from Miyuki Morita from the Tohoku business division of Ricoh.


On 11 March 2011, Morita was at work. She was in a car with two colleagues in Aoba, Sendai City. The earthquake alert on their mobile phones sounded when they were waiting for the traffic light.

“I was prepared for an earthquake”, but when the earthquake struck, it was stronger than she had imagined. She looked out of the window and saw snow falling from the sky.


Miyuki Morita (30), Ricoh employee. She also did restoration of lost photographs after the disaster.


On 11 March 2015, Morita was at work, busy preparing for “Make A Wish”. At 2:46pm, all the employees stopped work and observed a minute of silence. After the minute of silence, they gazed out of the window of Mediatheque and saw snow falling from the sky, just like four year ago. “Four years flew past in the blink of an eye,” she said. “I pray for the happiness of everyone, especially the children.” Morita is now collecting wishes from everyone.


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Next, we have a couple writing their messages on the photographs they took at “Make A Wish”. Hideo and Kimie Takeda are a couple living in Aoba, Sendai City. They were separated on 11 March 2011. Hideo was at home while Kimie was out, when the earthquake struck. Kimie did not have a mobile phone so she tried to call Hideo from a public phone but to no avail.
Kimie walked back home in the snow, silently hoping that Hideo would be waiting at home. She walked for 4 hours before reaching home. They were both relieved to see each other.

On 11 March 2015, they were together. At 2:46pm, they both observed a minute of silence at home. They looked back and reflected on how tough it had been.
The couple has been together for more than half a century. “We were together during the great earthquake more than 30 years ago,” recalled Kimie. “Value your relationships” was their message. 


Hideo (left) and Kimie (right) Takeda. They were laughing at how ugly their writing was.


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Lastly we have 3 students (3rd Year Junior High School) from the shopping arcade in Aoba, Sendai City.
Rikuto Tadano, Yuki Omori and Yuya Abe.

The three boys go to school in Wakuya. They came to the city for spring vacation. On 11 March 2011, they were all in their 5th year of elementary school. At 2:46pm, when the earthquake struck, they were at school and immediately hid under their desks. They all felt fear and thought death was imminent. After that, their parents came and brought them home. They were relieved to see their parents, but the frequent aftershocks made them sleepless for nights.


On 11 March 2015, the 3 boys were again together. At 2:46pm, they observed a minute of silence after a siren signaling the fateful moment. They were in a shopping mall in Ishinomaki.
Omori closed his eyes and wondered.
“Did the tsunami come here?”
“The tsunami never reached Wakuya, so I guess the people here who suffered have a different experience from ours. It was scary nonetheless. 


From left: Rikuto Tadano (15), Yuki Omori (15), Yuya Abe (15)


The 3 of them were at the same place twice, on 11 March. They will be entering different high schools from April.

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Where were you and what were you doing on that day? What were you thinking?


Nozomi Ozaki (1st Year Masters at Tohoku University)
Ai Tanabe (4th Year Waseda University)
Mirei Okuma (3rd Year at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University)



Report on the 5th Day: Recovery Through Tourism



 “Challenges and Future of Tohoku Tourism” was held on 18th at AER departmental store in Sendai, as part of the public forum, focusing on the recovery strategies of the disaster-stricken places from the tourism point of view. Despite being a weekday on the last day of the conference, approximately 300 people turned up. The audiences were seen taking down notes enthusiastically as the speakers shared novel ideas to revitalize Tohoku.


Approximately 300 people turned up at the frontier of Tohoku tourism. 


Shuichi Shiga, director of the Research Center for Tohoku Regional Environment, which gives advice to tourism revitalization across the country, was invited as a speaker. During the panel discussion, three people involved in Tohoku’s tourism had an engaging discussion on the future of the disaster- stricken areas in Tohoku.

Ikuko Miyahara, a professor at Miyagi University, was the facilitator of the session. She spoke at length on how they could transform the disaster- stricken areas into tourist spots. Makoto Kato, manager of travel agency JTB’s tourism strategy department, suggested maximizing transportation through land, sea and air, in order to gather more visitors. He emphasized on the importance of collaboration among the six Tohoku prefectures.

Jun Matsumoto, director of Michinori Holdings in charge of managing hotels and buses in Tohoku, introduced some of his company’s work in organizing tours for companies in Tohoku, focusing on learning from the disaster- stricken areas. He hopes to stress the value of the disaster- affected areas as places to learn, and not just places for leisure.

Noriko Abe, the owner of Hotel Kanyo in Minami- Sanriku, asserted the significance of welcoming foreigners into the disaster- affected areas so as not to let the disaster memories fade away.



The guest speakers spoke at length about their thoughts on disaster recovery.


No matter how much damage the disaster has incurred, tourism will always be the first line of recovery that bounces back on the painful memories and experiences. It is not just the recovery of the companies or the local cities, but the revitalization of the whole of Tohoku.


Shiori Otaka, 4th Year at Tohoku University
Kazuma Kon, 3rd Year at Tohoku Gakuin University



Report on the 5th Day: The Backstage Members (6) The Operations Team Supporting the Thematic Pavilions



 The United Nations World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction began on 14th March. There were altogether 34 public forum events held between 14th and 17th March, at the Sendai Civil Activity Support Center, as part of the “Civil Society Collaboration and DRR” Thematic Pavilion.

The Operations team consists of staff from the NPO Sendai Miyagi NPO Center. They are not only in charge of the arrangements of the exhibitors at the public forum, but are also responsible for the coordination of more than 100 volunteers including interpreters, reports and so on.

More than 3000 people turned up at the Support Center over the four days. “I’m glad that more people came to the Support Center than we had expected, even though there are so many events taking place in so many venues over this period,” Hiroko Ito (51), the executive director of NPO Center, described her excitement. We started preparations for this event since May last year. It has been a long year of preparation and we are finally seeing the fruit of our labor.

Many of the exhibitors at the Support Center are NPOs working in the region. “It was great that this event has led to young people, leaders of the next generation, thinking about how they can take over this region. Also, we managed to highlight problems faced by people with disabilities during the disaster, as we look to incorporate these issues into the future agenda.” The young volunteers were also grateful that they got the chance to meet different people, widening their horizons.

The NPO Center usually supports other NPOs working mainly in Sendai, Tagajo, Natori and Iwanuma. Ito said, “The cooperation between NPO and civil society is something that I have felt, during my daily work supporting NPOs”. “I hope this conference can spark greater connection between NPO and the community”.

Through this conference, we have disseminated information relating to DRR from Tohoku to the world. Our target is not just the local governments, companies or organizations.

We hope to influence every single citizen in his or her perspective toward DRR, and hope this would lead to an action. We believe we have at least engraved this message in the visitors to the Support Center.



Mika Okamoto and Ito from the Operations Team supporting “Civil Society Collaboration and DRR” Thematic Pavilion


Katsuharu Yumoto, 3rd Year at Meiji University
Takumi Wakai, 3rd Year at Meiji University