HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Date’s relief effort tribute

One year after a massive quake-induced tsunami devastated north-eastern Japan, a Cook Islands resident has discovered first-hand just how difficult the road has been for the Japanese to travel back to normalcy. Date Hideki, a Japanese national living in Rarotonga is back to the warmth of the island after spending one week in the sub-zero winter temperatures of Miyagi Prefecture – one of the worst areas struck by last year’s March 11 tsunami.
“Very sad,” is how Date reflects on how the many thousands of people must cope with the daily recovery of the 2011 tragedy. It’s a long road back. But having worked alongside teams of volunteers in the town of Ishinomaki, Date is full of encouragement of how much has been achieved over the course of the past year. The experience was clearly a rewarding and emotional highlight.
The local people of Ishinomaki are quite reserved when it comes to talking openly about their experience he says, but the heart-rending stories are more forthcoming once the people get to know you. Many businesses are opening up again, services like electrical power are back on track, and the local fishing industry is resuming activity. The quake that registered 9 on the Richter Scale generated 100 years’ worth of debris but so far, the recovery has managed to clear up 5 years’ worth in just one year. The death toll has risen to 20,000 over the year with about 3,000 people unaccounted for. The remains of those lost in the disaster are still being found as the clean-up progresses.
Date, who is a Network Technician with Te Aponga Uira, signed up for volunteer clean-up duties in Ishinomaki with Peace Boat – a non-government, non-profit organisation that supports disaster relief efforts. For the week-long shift, he was based with the organisation’s relief team of about 50 volunteers, many of whom came from afar, including New Zealand and Germany.
Working in smaller teams of five, the frozen conditions of Ishinomaki provided a stark reality check for Date, who was unaccustomed to the restrictive, minus 7°C temperatures. No running water for toilets or showering. The positive outcomes though included drawing out his creative talents and making pendants from shattered roof tiles as mementos to send off to Europe to raise money. And of course, getting re-acquainted with the delicacies of Japanese food, like miso soup, which was a warm and welcome lunchtime distraction.
Originally from the Tokyo area, Date has lived in Cook Islands for nearly eight years. His family was safe and far from the tsunami-affected region but the volunteer experience with Peace Boat now stands as a life-impacting encounter, bringing a deepened appreciation of the scope of this tragedy in his homeland. The technician was so deeply impacted that he’s already planning to return and help next year.
Peace Boat has been on site at Ishinomaki since shortly after the disaster struck. Well over 53,000 days of individual labour have been racked up by volunteers from 52 countries – pitching in to help with relief and recovery efforts, including meals, housing, debris clean-up, and fishing industry assistance. Date Hideki is now proudly one of them.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.