More than five years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami devastated much of eastern Japan in March 2011. Looking back on the past half-decade, we are listening to some stories and recollections from those we have been “walking together with,” one by one, since the devastation.
Following is a story from our fourth speaker in this series, Mr. Masayuki Ogawa, who has been leading “Driving Tours to Stay Aware of Fukushima”—pilgrimages to the areas devastated by the 2011 disaster. The automobile pilgrimages have taken participants to hard-hit areas like Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, and Namie and they learned how things are now, following the disaster. In addition, they have joined in tea parties at Gangoya Temporary Housing, located at Shinchi, Minamisoma, Fukushima, to have fellowship with the housing’s residents. While in society at large the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, which is still in progress, is becoming “an incident to remember” in the minds of many, Mr. Ogawa’s automobile pilgrimages and kind visits to the hard-hit areas provide people there with great comfort and joy. Also, those pilgrimages help society in general to be aware of a tragedy still in progress.
“Driving Tours to Stay Aware of Fukushima”
Tsukishima Anglican Church, Tokyo Diocese
Ever since the March 2011 disaster, I have been organizing a pilgrimage titled “Driving Tours to Stay Aware of Fukushima” twice each month. It is a two-day driving tour over some 800km (500 miles) in a van. Each participant is asked to pay JPY20,000.
We visit the support centers in Koriyama, Shinchi, and Onahama, and listen to their staffers. Also, we join in tea parties at temporary housing facilities to have fellowship with the residents. We also visit hard-hit areas to see how terrible the devastation was and how much rebuilding is in progress, hoping to learn what the earthquake and the (Fukushima Daiichi) meltdown truly were/are. In Soma and Futaba, two districts neighboring Fukushima Daiichi, we take measurements of radiation as well.
So far, some people from the Tokyo, Yokohama, and Chubu Dioceses of the Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan have joined me on the pilgrimages. I found exchanges of information with them in the van, across churches and Dioceses, quite meaningful.
Some say, “What sense is there for those affected in you visiting the hard-hit places? Nothing more than complacency.” Still, our pilgrimages have been going on. Maybe, the criticism of complacency describes part of the truth. Still, my “complacency” thinks of others as well, not just myself.
Now, when someone in Fukushima who I’m visiting says to me, “Please come again. Show us your warm smile again,” I find a 500-mile drive to be no problem at all. As long as my health stands, and God’s blessings abide with us, I will continue as the voluntary driver of the “Driving Tours to Stay Aware of Fukushima.”