By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
Los Angeles and Nagoya renewed their sister-city friendship during Nisei Week, but another city was there this year in spirit — the devastated northern Japan city of Rikuzentakata.
The coastal city located in Iwate Prefecture was among the hardest-hit areas in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Nagoya has established a domestic sister-city relationship, the first of its kind in Japan, to provide much-needed relief and technical support.
During a banquet held on Aug. 12, Ernest Hida, president of the Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation (LANSCA), presented 1,000 origami cranes and a banner created by students from University High School to visiting Nagoya officials. Chizuko Ikeda, leader of the 11-member Nagoya delegation, said they would be presenting the gifts to a school in Rikuzentakata on behalf of LANSCA and University High School.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support from LANSCA,” said Ikeda, who is vice chair of the City Assembly.
Associated Student Body leaders Clara Fu, Angela Cho and Sue Lim proposed a joint fundraising project to help the Tohoku region. The high school students, assisted by counselor Lynn Harvey, a former LANSCA exchange teacher to Nagoya, organized a school-wide fundraiser. The Associated Student Body leadership, Japanese Club and Kiwanis Club raised $1,200 and collected 32 boxes of clothing, which were presented to LANSCA. Students also created a banner and wrote messages of encouragement to the students in Rikuzentakata. On June 10, the student leaders presented these collections to Hida and Ken Furuya, LANSCA board member.
While Nagoya was unaffected by the disaster, the city and its citizens felt a strong need to help in the recovery. Many of the most horrific images of the tsunami were of Rikuzentakata, a city of 24,000, which lost 75 percent of its homes. As explained by Teruo Shinkai, director-general of the Nagoya mayor’s office, the city immediately dispatched workers to Tohoku to assess which area needed the most help. A 10-member team went to Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures before deciding that Rikuzentakata was the area with the most need.
Since then, Nagoya has sent 63 city workers who have expertise in areas such as construction and tax experts to help survivors apply for benefits. Nagoya has also hosted junior high students from Rikuzentakata, who were unable to go on a school trip due to the disaster.
“Our hearts now belong to the city of Rikuzentakata,” said Shinkai, who noted that the city intends to keep the program going for several years until the area recovers. “We would like you (in Los Angeles) to watch as we support the affected areas.”