The Yuriage district of Natori City in Miyagi Prefecture suffered severe damage in the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the more than 10 years since then, the Yuriage district has made a quick recovery thanks to tremendous support from Canada at the time of the disaster. However, according to a survey conducted by students in College of Social Sciences Associate Professor Satoshi Nagano's seminar class, some of the local people said that they were unaware of the support from Canada. “We must not let the memory of the support received from Canada fade away.” With this in mind, Associate Professor Satoshi Nagano and four of his seminar students visited Canada in early November. They delivered a lecture and disaster prevention workshop, conducted interviews with Hon. Bruce Ralston, the Minister of Forests of the Province of British Columbia, and members of the Canada Wood Group, and held a discussion with officials from the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver.
The Earthquake Reconstruction Area Management Research Group in Associate Professor Nagano’s seminar class is involved in reconstruction assistance efforts in the Yuriage district of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, where it is working to create new value for the community. In 2023, students from this group participated in and cooperated with an event hosted by Natori City to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Maple Hall and thank Canada for its support. The group defined two missions for the activities they planned to undertake in Canada: (1) create opportunities for international exchange between the Yuriage and Canada and (2) create a record of disaster reconstruction efforts.
First, after greetings from Sammy Takahashi and Taro Whitred, the President and Vice President of the Japan-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the group gave a lecture and disaster prevention workshop at SELC College in downtown Vancouver, which was attended by 20 participants. Hiroyuki Sakurai, the President of the Yuriage Harbor Morning Market Cooperative, gave a lecture entitled “Using the reconstruction assistance from Canada to consider a new future of international exchange,” in which he discussed how the area was able to recover from the events that occurred in Yuriage on the day of the disaster.
Next, the students acted as moderators to facilitate an evacuation map making workshop entitled “Dealing with disaster prevention.” With the aim of raising awareness of disaster prevention, they explained how to produce a map that simulates evacuation in the event of a hypothetical tsunami. One participant said, “It was good to hear the real stories of someone who actually experienced the disaster.” Another participant remarked, “This was a good opportunity to think about the dangers in the community where I live.” Maiko Katayama (3rd year, College of Social Sciences), who moderated the program, reflected on the experience by saying, “I was able to get an idea of other people’s feelings, which is something you cannot do without seeing them in person. We would like to promote activities that connect the next generation with what the people who actually experienced the disaster know.”
After this, the group visited the Canada Wood Group and conducted an online interview with Hon. Bruce Ralston, the Minister of Forests of the Province of British Columbia. They were also able to engage in a constructive exchange of opinions with Minister Ralston. Then, they conducted interviews with President Bruce St. John and Executive Director Paul Newman of the Canada Wood Group, which made significant contributions to the earthquake reconstruction efforts. This allowed them to further realize the strong connection between Japan and Canada that has been forged by way of disaster reconstruction efforts.
Finally, the group visited the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver and exchanged opinions with Consul Hisada about the activities the seminar class is undertaking and the potential for future exchange between Canada and Yuriage.
Commenting on their interactions with the locals in Canada as part of these activities, Seiya Haraguchi (3rd year, College of Social Sciences) said, “It was rewarding to be able to say thank you to the people of Canada, even 10 years after the disaster.” Meanwhile, Tatsuya Nishida (3rd year, College of Social Sciences) remarked, “I thought that only Japan was grateful to Canada, but I was impressed to see that Canadians also remembered the Yuriage district.”
Next, Associate Professor Satoshi Nagano, who engages in activities in Yuriage alongside his students, said, “The relationship between Canada and the Yuriage district has grown to what it is today, having been passed down from the students in previous seminar classes. I think it is wonderful that this research was made possible with the support of so many people, including our crowdfunding backers."
Going forward, the students in Associate Professor Nagano’s seminar plan to compile a video of the interviews they conducted in Canada and share it with the people of Yuriage and the rest of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. In relation to this, the students are planning to hold an event entitled “Yuriage and Canada's ties that will last 100 years—A record of international reconstruction assistance for the future” on Sunday, March 10, 2024.
The crowdfunding campaign that the seminar students recently ran for these activities has garnered 930,000 yen in support. The seminar students are deeply grateful for the support of so many people, including the faculty and staff of Ritsumeikan University, the Alumni Association members from the Tohoku region led by Miyagi Prefecture Chapter President Senda, and other persons involved with Associate Professor Nagano’s seminar.