Photo Courtesy: Amy Yamashiro
Amy Yamashiro, a data coodinator in Arlington's Partnership for Children Youth & Families, traveled to Japan in March as part of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation, a contingent of 10 Japanese-American, education, business and government leaders. Our story on that is here. JALD is part of the U.S.-Japan Council, a nonprofit group aimed at strengthening relations between the two countries.
The following is an excerpt from her reflections on a trip to visit refugees of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on the second anniversary of that event. --Editor.
On March 11, 2013, the Japanese American Leadership Delegation visited a school that housed three separate elementary schools from Iidate Village. They are housed at the Odagaisama Center for evacuees of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. We shared a deeply moving and unforgettable experience as we commemorated the second anniversary of the triple disasters with the evacuees.
At the school, I was touched by the Principals’ description of their efforts to hire storytellers to document the folktales of their village and to recreate the festivals and other traditions for the children.
This resonated with my experience growing up in Gardena, Calif., where the Issei, the first generation of Japanese to immigrate to the U.S., meticulously recreated the festivals, field days, and other traditions from their respective villages and prefectures. The overall impression of the school reminded me of photos of Nisei, or second generation children, playing happily in World War II internment camps. The most vivid image for me was of Iidate Village children laughing and playing battle robot soccer during science class.
By amazing coincidence, the "Art of Gaman," a collection of work created by Japanese-Americans during World War II internment, was on display in Fukushima on the day of the JALD 2013 Symposium “Toward Common Ground: Connecting Diverse Voices for the Future.” Gaman is a Japanese term which means enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.
At the Odagaisama Center, the Director, Kazuhiko Amano, recounted a paradoxical increase in rates of dying by evacuees of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 who had moved from living in emergency shelters separated by cardboard partition to temporary housing (like that at the Odagaisama Center).
He wanted to highlight how the Odagaisama Center made use of the lessons learned to help the evacuees overcome the isolation, loneliness, and depression and create ways for folks to connect and create community.