Update: Three Presenters Speak about Real Life in Tohoku
• Seven years after the great earthquake and tsunami
in the Tohoku area, what has being done so far to build a positive future
of Tohoku was reported by Yoshiyuki Takasago, Director General for International
Affairs and others in Miyagi Prefecture government, Yasushi Kotouno, Executive
Officer of Suenaga Kaisan Company, and Toko Shiiki, a freelance photographer.
The event was held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall
on March 12.
Recovery and Business Opportunities in
• Takasago spoke about the recovery and business opportunities
in Miyagi Prefecture. The damage that the disaster brought to Miyagi totaled
$81 billion, but the people in Miyagi are positively working to recover
the damage day by day.
• Sendai Airport was renewed and connects eight cities domestically and
four cities internationally. Japan’s number one strawberry producer Watari
Town has come back to pre-disaster level, Sanriku Expressway has continuously
been rebuilding, and the Shiogama new fish market opened. Construction
of the Synchrotron Light in Tohoku Plan is coming to Miyagi, and its designated
site is Tohoku University campus.
• Miyagi Prefecture has been actively inviting businesses with various
subsidy offers. The business operating costs are low in Miyagi. For example,
cost of residential, commercial and industrial land is only 10 % of Tokyo’s.
The office rent fee is about 55 % and the average wage is about 75 % of
the Tokyo areas.
• The amount of radiation in Miyagi was 0.06 uSv/h measured last February.
Compared with New York states’ 0.046, Paris’ 0.043, and Berlin’s 0.073,
Miyagi’s level is similar to those places. The dose of radiation is much
higher in London (0.108), Singapore (0.1), and Seoul (0.117) than Miyagi.
(The doses were measured last January; only Paris was measured last October.)
• In Miyagi, the number of American visitors is the third biggest, just
after Taiwan and China. The lowest temperature is 33 degrees and highest
is 78 degrees. Takasago said that Miyagi had congenial climate throughout
the year, so Chicagoans could have a comfortable life in Miyagi.
Ishinomaki’s Seafood Business Thrives Abroad
• According to Yasushi Kotouno, about 70 % of the land
in Ishinomaki was flooded by the tsunami in 2011, one of the most hard-hit
areas in Tohoku.
• Ishinomaki’s seafood business had been moving downwards, but lost all
of the domestic sales channels after the disaster. While Kotouno was thinking
about a breakthrough, JETRO suggested participating in a food expo in
Hong Kong in 2012. After the foreign experience, five seafood processing
companies together founded “Hitakami-no-kuni Group” and embarked on export
• The members of the group visited Hong Kong, Taiwan,
Thailand, and Vietnam, and started their business with business card exchanges.
They developed seafood packages for supermarkets and department stores,
but their sales weren’t good because the prices were twice as high as
the domestic ones. They rearranged the seafood packages for supermarkets,
then the sales increased three years later. When they begin a business
with foreign buyers, they invite buyers to Ishinomaki, so they can build
trust with each other.
• A success came from an unexpected area. The fishermen used to remove
oyster shells before they ship to the market; however, all shell removing
facilities were washed away, so they were looking for ways to sell shell-on-oysters.
Fortunately, a Hong Kong dealer was looking for such oysters. Recently,
they sold 50,000 oysters per month.
• They started to sell seafood in the U.S. two and a half years ago. So
far, their products are sold in Chicago and New York. They have promoted
their seafood at food fairs and events.
• Hong Kong’s Japanese restaurant held a Miyagi food fair for two months
that attracted about 100 reporters. About 10 people including fishermen
went to the restaurant and developed a new menu with the restaurant chefs,
such as oyster steamed rice and scallop gratin.
• Beside the seafood business, Kotouno talked about a
hand-made-wood plan. The tsunami-washed coast area spread to 375 miles
long, and nobody is able to live in the area.
• Isinomaki city decided to plant trees in the area and the first nursery
trees were planted last September. Kotouno said that real resurgence meant
seeing children’s smiling faces. “We want to enrich the hearts of the
next generation through making wood by our hands and wish the wood becomes
a place for international exchanges,” he said.
Real Voices of the People in Fukushima
• Toko Shiiki moved to Michigan when she was a child.
After receiving several awards, she became a freelance photographer. After
the disaster, she thought that she had to do something for the people
of the disaster areas.
• She organized a fund-raising project, dragon making tour by using letter-size
papers, and toured from the U.S. to France. The tour destination was Fukushima
where she thought that children were unable to play outside.
• She held a dragon making exhibit in Minamisoma, Fukushima, but few people
came. She learned that the children were playing outside, and the information
she had was wrong.
• With help from the education board in Minamisoma, she collected questionnaires
from 2500 children. The comments in the questionnaires revealed what the
children in Fukushima were really thinking.
• One said, “There is radiation in Fukushima, but we are not irradiated.
It’s not infectious. Don’t discriminate against us.” Another said, “If
you think about the people in Fukushima, why don’t you think about methods
to prevent such an accident from ever happening again.”
• Shiiki revisited Fukushima to directly talk with the people and made
a documentary film. Tomohiro Hayashi, a food writer and journalist, said
in the video, “A lot of negative news is reported, but the people in Fukushima
are spending ordinary lives, not living with grief and anger. I want the
people in the world to see Fukushima where the ordinary people spend ordinary
• After the presentation by the three, sake tasting was
held. The sake was served by Tenzing Wine and Spirits, Joto Sake (Kobrand
Wine and Spirits), and Vine Connections.
• Kotouno served steamed and smoked oysters and scallops from Ishinomaki.
They were delicious.
• The event was organized by JETRO Chicago, Consulate-General
of Japan in Chicago, Japan America Society of Chicago, Japanese Chamber
of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, and Chicago Sister Cities International