Thank you to Ms. Shoko Asei, Intern at Fish Family Foundation, for this article! USJC also thanks Board Member Atsuko Fish and the Fish Family Foundation for organizing this event.
Four Berklee College of Music students (L-R: Takeru Saito, Kumpei Iki, Yuta Yamaguchi,Shun Kumagai) with Atsuko Toko Fish, USJC board member (All photos by Kelly Davidson)
On the evening of March 23, the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) hosted a fifth anniversary commemoration for Tohoku in downtown Boston. Close to 200 participants, including government representatives, scholars and non-profit leaders, gathered to remember Tohoku. The event, which was called "Tohoku, Five Years After," was hosted by USJC in cooperation with the Berklee College of Music, the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, and the Fish Family Foundation. Presentations addressed various ways in which U.S.-Japan cooperation has helped Tohoku’s recovery.
The event featured the Mayor of Ofunato Kimiaki Toda as the keynote speaker, followed by presentations by Andrew Gordon, Professor of History at Harvard University, and Ken Buesseler, Senior Scientist of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Each speaker shared their involvement, strategies and projects in the area of their expertise, and commented on how rebuilding efforts took shape over time.
In his keynote speech, Mayor Toda discussed the achievements made in reconstruction thus far. He showed how, despite the limited municipal budget allocation, his plans were implemented with forward-looking vision. He stressed the importance of entrepreneurial spirit in training, education and sustainable city planning. Images of the city highlighted the great progress made, giving the audience a sense of hope and optimism. Mayor Toda ended his speech by expressing deep gratitude and appreciation to members of the Boston community who have showed unshakable faith and support for Japan in the past five years.
During the panel discussion, moderator David Campbell, the Founder and Chair of All Hands Volunteers, presented questions to the speakers and sought further insights on the topics of their earlier presentations. Laura Winthrop Abbot, Senior Vice President at USJC, shared her experience in leading the TOMODACHI Initiative. Professor Gordon shared his insights on the impact made by the documentation and recording of 3.11 through the Digital Archive of Japan's 2011 Disasters Project, which was launched by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. The audience also asked many questions, particularly to Dr. Buesseler, an expert on radioactive contamination, with regards to concerns about environmental damage and external exposure caused by the nuclear power plant accident.
(L-R) Dr. Buesseler, Professor Gordon, Ms. Winthrop Abbot, Mayor Toda, Mr. Campbell
The evening concluded with a heartwarming performance of "Sukiyaki (Ue wo Muite Arukou)" and "My Hometown (Furusato)" by Berklee students from Tohoku who are currently studying on the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Fund. The audience was touched not only by their music but also their personal stories of hardship and emotional struggle over the past five years. Afterwards, USJC Board Member Atsuko Toko Fish noted that the performance was "deeply touching to the heart and soul" and concluded the event by saying that she hoped the 3.11 earthquake commemoration will be an enduring symbol of U.S.-Japan friendship.
(L-R) Yuta Yamaguchi, Kumpei Iki, and Shun Kumagai, Berklee College of Music students
This evening of remembrance and reflection honored the five-year journey of recovery in the aftermath of 3.11. Attendees were filled with a sense of purpose, hope, gratitude and inspiration, and the meaningful conversations shared among them highlighted the success of the event. The hosts extend their sincere appreciation to the supporting organizations, the event committee, volunteers, and everyone who attended the event.
More photos can be found here.