Kumamoto One Year Later: America and Japan Unite for An Unique Region's Recovery
by Michelle "Ms. Geek" Klein-Hass
Commemorations happened recently for the 6th Anniversary of the 3/11/2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. However, a year ago it was the Japanese island of Kyushu's turn to feel the wrath of the hot heart of the Earth, as a series of quakes devastated Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures in Southern Japan. The main shock of the "earthquake swarm" was 7.0 magnitude, there were 44 fatalities and 3,000 injuries. 180,000 people were displaced. A large foreshock and 140 aftershocks were recorded.
Just as it's still not over for the Tohoku region that bore the brunt of the 3/11 quake, for those affected by the Kumamoto swarm, it's still not over.
Like the initial effort in Tohoku, the US Armed Forces came over to help, in an effort reminiscent of Operation Tomodachi. On April 10th, the US Air Force Band of the Pacific and Asia released a bouncy, upbeat video covering the Japanese Ska band Bombo Fuji's song Kumamoto Surprise, featuring messages from both the US and Japan supporting the recovery effort.
The bean-like character with the stars-and-stripes hat is TOM, the official tourism and economic cooperation mascot created for the US Embassy in Japan.
One of the cultural landmarks hit the hardest by the swarm was Kumamoto Castle. The effort to rebuild this 600+ year old historic castle, built in classic Japanese style, is in need of funds. To raise some money, the castle's preservation society is selling paper models that people can put together at home. These paper crafts are trendy now, and the resulting tiny castle is cute indeed. Here's a promo video:
Even the internationally famous Japanese beer company Sapporo is getting into the act, with special commemorative cans that honor both the region and cherry blossom time.
As we mentioned a little while ago, this is Hanami season, and hearty food and drink are a traditional part of the cherry blossom viewing parties. They are only sold in the Kyushu Region, so you have to travel to Southern Japan to buy them. They are hoping to spur tourism to the region to bring money for recovery.
If you can't go visit the region, you can help JEN Emergency NGO as they care for the survivors of the quake swarm who are still displaced. Here in the United States, the best way to donate is through the American clearinghouse Global Giving. Currently they will double any donation you make to mark the 1st anniversary of the events. Here's the link: