Dealing with Disaster: What’s Really Going on



Editor’s note: Hiroko Tina Tajima is a university professor in Tokyo and a simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations and the Japanese government. This is part of a series of updates to family and friends about relief efforts she has been organizing to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. To get involved, contact her at [email protected] (write “Tina Tajima” in the subject line).

July 27, 2011

It’s been a month since I sent out my last update.  I’m finally out of depression and have resumed the relief work, but in a slower pace.

Matsushima as it appeared on July 22.

Big towns like Sendai and Morioka have been pretty much restored, but I have just found out that there are small islands right off Miyajima, Miyagi Prefecture, which is north of Sendai, that need HELP badly.  One of the islands, Miyato Island, is accessible by car with a bridge that has been restored, but not many people have gone there for help and people have been living in an evacuation center (a high school gym) and they need all kinds of stuff from clothes, utensils and food.

Dorothy Tamashiro came to Japan about two weeks ago and she brought TWO big boxes full of socks and underwear. I sent them off on a truck going to Sendai, but around that time I found out about this island, so I had the boxes sent to the island. I received a phone call from one of the town office people on the island thanking us for all the socks and underwear (I think the underwear came from Iku. Thank you!). I also sent water and food right away. I’ve been helping out this person (Mr. Monma) who opened a volunteer center/warehouse in northern Miyagi who sends out volunteers to the island.

Bikes for high school students.

I’m planning to go there this weekend to see what’s going on and what’s really needed. One of my doctor friends introduced me to a non-profit organization called World Vision Japan. I found out that one of my old acquaintances is on the board. I talked to the secretary general of the WVJ and he’s willing to send a couple of people to go to the island when I go.

With the help of Mr. Monma, I sent bicycles for high school students who used to commute to school by buses/trains that are not operated now.

As for the nuclear “fear,” it’s spreading faster than anyone expected. There still are people living in Fukushima and they know they are heavily affected by radiation, but (1) they don’t want to leave their hometown, (2) they have no other place to go, (3) they are just too scared to move to anywhere, but most of all, they don’t have FACTS.

About 15 people went to Fukushima City a few days ago and had a “talk” with local people. A few people sitting in the first row were committee members in the city and the people sitting in the front were from Kasumigaseki, central Tokyo. They were from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, etc., but you can see how HELPFUL they are:

The tsunami-ravaged town of Minami Soma.

It actually came out in three video clips in Japanese, but someone kindly put them together and put subtitles. (Thank you, Lisa, for forwarding this to me!)  This is what our government is all about, everyone. HELPLESS. The situation is not good at all. I’ve been trying to get journalists to write about it or talk about it on TV/radio. The Wall Street Journal Japan has agreed to publish an article on it and I recommended a couple of experts to be interviewed. TV would not do that so easily, as most of the news on radiation and nuclear power plants are “censored,” I hear. I’m pushing them to do it even for a few minutes. Everyone in Japan has the right to know what’s really going on.

I’ll be in L.A. from Aug. 12th ’til the 28th. There will be a showing of a video called “Stand Up for Justice” on Aug. 18th in East L.A. Reuben Guevara and Steve Nagano are putting it together and Steve kindly asked me to give an update on Tohoku relief there.

We still have aftershocks, four and a half months after the earthquake. It’s HOT and HUMID, but the government has notified all companies and schools to limit the usage of electricity as much as possible. Classrooms are air-conditioned, but the temp is set high, so students are having a hard time concentrating. We have another week of classes and then finals. Ugh…

Thank you, everyone, for your continued support.  We welcome donations. Please write checks payable to Tina Tajima and send it to: Patty Nagano, 267 S. San Pedro St., #609, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Will send another update once I come home from Sendai this weekend.



Leave A Reply