Nobuko Saito Cleary Visits Rikuzentakata

Many thanks to Council Leader Nobuko Saito Cleary for providing this recap!

My husband Dr. Gary Cleary and I have been sending funds and materials to Japan since the Great East Japan Earthquake six years ago. I’ve had many visits to the Tohoku region with family and USJC friends, and as part of the TOMODACHI Initiative

This time, I was invited by Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba to join a historic tree-planting ceremony to honor the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso and Mayor Toba gave remarks to welcome participants to the ceremony.

It began to rain during their speech, but as we planted, the sun came out and seemed to symbolize the happier days ahead. These pine trees will grow bigger and will tell this region’s history of survival to future children. Among all 70,000, only one pine tree survived during the tsunami. This miracle tree left seeds and the people of Rikuzentakata waited six years so that we could plant trees grown from these seeds. 

(L-R) Dr. Cleary, Mayor Toba and the author

Mayor Toba said with a smile, “We learned from the mistakes from the past and rebuilt a town with a dream.” After six years, the city and its schools were rebuilt on the hills, and the newly built bank is much higher than before. I am lucky to have witnessed these changes and feel fortunate to have friends who supported this restoration. 

I looked at the beautiful beach and ocean, prayed for happiness for the children of Rikuzentakata and wished for good luck for the city’s future. I saw that the resilience and positive actions of the residents and forward-thinking improvements have accomplished so much already. Rikuzentakata stands proudly as a rebuilt, safer city and I am humbled and honored to have had a part in helping this wonderful city and its residents.