Kumamoto/Miyagi (Japan): Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan suffered from earthquake in April which destroyed much of its infrastructure.
But, the disaster fails to destroy its citizens’ determination to recover.
Repair work on the iconic Kumamoto Castle was accelerated by not only dedicated staff and citizens but also an outpouring of support from abroad.
Today, the castle is well on the way to full restoration.
Hideo Kawade of the Kumamoto castle general office said, “Many citizens wanted the castle tower to be restored first. When we created a shared ownership system, tens of thousands of citizens donated more than one hundred thousand yen each for castle reconstruction. After the 21st of April we started requesting donations to restore the castle. Inquiries came from all over the country, as well as overseas, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and New York. Some donors outside Japan wanted to send their donations directly.”
After restoration, the tourists are back to witness grandeur of the castle.
In June, night illumination of Kumamoto Castle was started again, making the castle a beacon of hope for Kumamoto’s citizens.
A Taiwanese tourist said, “Castle is very beautiful. So much damage we see. It’s so sad. Taiwan has also suffered many earthquakes. It always makes big damage. We see earthquake makes big damage here too. We hope it will be fully repaired soon, much beautiful just like before.”
Kumamoto is its historical significance.
It boasts many churches which are ready to join as World Heritage sites. Already recovered from the effects of the earthquake, the churches are once again a popular tourist attraction.
Kumamoto enjoys not only cultural riches but also natural ones. The Kuma River offers not only rafting but also sightseeing boats from which to watch the scenery go by, making it a popular destination for all ages.
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, which is located in Beppu City, also suffered from the April earthquake.
Among the 5,700 students attending this campus are, 2,600 international students from 80 countries.
Despite directly experiencing the earthquake in April, these students continue to enjoy life in Oita and their eagerness to study has not flagged.
An Indonesian student said, “We have some earthquake before in Indonesia. But it is my first time experience of big earthquake. I feel APU is safe. APU guides us where to go. So my parents say that’s OK. You can just stay there. It is safe. I think.”
Another Indonesian student said, “I think Oita we can enjoy so peacefully. We can study hard here. Environment makes us really encourage to study hard.”
A third Indonesian student said, “There is the place Shidakarei or Jigokumeguri. My parents really love it. When they came I took them there. That’s beautiful, Over there mountain top is very beautiful.”
Oita Prefecture has the largest number of hot springs in Japan.
Beppu in particular is one of Japan’s best known hot spring towns, drawing many tourists from abroad who seek to enjoy the uniqueness of Japan.
A family from Thailand said, “It’s very hot. Hot, hot.”
Tourists from The Netherlands said, “We don’t have this kind of thing in Netherland. It’s unique.”
A family from Poland said, “My name is Hanya, Susanna. This choice is of my wife. She manages this visit to Japan. She decided to see this place. That is the reason why we are here.”
Oita offers rich and uniquely Japanese cultural experiences outside of hot springs as well.
In the south of the prefecture, the castle town of Kitsuki preserves the atmosphere of the Edo period.
Visitors can borrow a kimono for four hours and stroll around the town. This both helps enhance the Edo atmosphere and allow visitors to enjoy Japanese tradition.
Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture was also hit hard by the major earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Most of the town was swept away by tsunami. But the people here today are trying to reconstruct their daily lives of coexistence with seas.
Yasuhiro Abe, CEO, AbechoCompan, said, “The tsunami reached the second floor of the Kesennuma fish market building. It swept away everything. Distribution of fresh fish has been restored. But, we still lack facilities for processed fish or frozen fish.”
Some companies are progressing actively toward reconstruction by exporting.
Abe added, “Here we’re processing fillet salmon for export to Southeast Asia. Each fish is inspected and confirmed safe for shipping. They’re exported to Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.”
The people living here value not only the sea but all of nature. It is this very attitude that allows them to live in harmony with the ocean.
Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, an oyster farmer, said, “I was in that business for about 20 years before the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. I supposed that the sea was dead. But then I was told that if you collected a plankton sample and examined it with a microscope you could confirm that in fact there was even more plankton than oysters could eat. Apparently keeping the rivers that flow into the sea in good health accelerated the sea’s recovery.”
The people living here were greatly affected by the tsunami, but they are overcoming a range of difficulties as they progress toward reconstruction. (ANI)