One year after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami stroke the northeastern coast of Japan, last March 11th, bringing with it immense damage to the people, properties and hearts of so many, I would like to pay tribute to the victims and at the same time convey a message to the people of Florida, from whom we have received invaluable support.
First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude, on behalf of my country, for the support we have received from the international community, and especially from Florida. As Consul General of Japan in Miami, I highly appreciate the goodwill of each person who sent a check to our Consulate, regardless the amount, or organized a charity event for Japan, or dropped a coin in a charity collection box, or institutions like the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute that sent its medical staff with the “Vision Van” to attend the ophthalmological needs of the victims in collaboration with the Keio University, Japan. Your support confirms the special bond of friendship and solidarity, which in Japanese is translated to “KIZUNA, and became the “Word of the Year 2011.” We highly appreciate this Kizuna!
Japan realizes that the massive assistance it has received from the international community is due to the trust and appreciation it has earned through its active role and international aid to other countries in need. To reciprocate such support, Japan vows to continue its active role of support and international contributions. For example, Japan’s Self Defense Force is still present in Haiti under Operation MINUSTAH towards its reconstruction and also JSDF has sent an engineering unit to the U.N. Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. Japan is determined to faithfully implement its international commitments it has made thus far.
A year after the disaster, Japan's reconstruction has made steady progress, because recovery and reconstruction have been the top priority on the Government of Japan's policy agenda. The infrastructure and the economy of the affected areas are firmly on their way to recovery using a system of “special zones for reconstruction” instituted to provide a five-year reduction or exemption from corporate tax on companies locating new facilities in the areas.
When it comes to travel restriction measures taken by foreign countries, the U.S., for example, has revised its measures and relaxed the evacuation recommended area from an initial radius of 80 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to a radius of 20 kilometers. I would like to emphasize that the reactors have reached a condition equivalent to cold shutdown, as announced on December 16, 2011. Of course, we continue to work towards the decontamination and rehabilitation of the affected areas, to ensure the public health, restore food safety and decommission the reactors. As its responsibility, Japan will share with the international community the experiences and lessons learned from the accident.
All that said, my simple but most important message a year after the disaster is “Please visit Japan.” Visit Japan as tourists and enjoy the foods, culture, hot springs and shopping in the Tohoku (northeastern) area; or visit Japan as entrepreneurs to invest in Japan taking advantage of the “special zones”, or as experts, sharing the experience and lessons learned from the accident to enhance international nuclear safety with Japan. Your visit will be the biggest assistance and support to our reconstruction process. We are inviting everyone to participate in this process and that is what we call Japan’s “Open Reconstruction”.
Read Consul General Kawahara's remarks in the Miami Herald here.