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Illust by Junko Suzuki
Prop Station, a Nonprofit Social Welfare
Organization Supporting the Challenged.

Prop Station Home


My Heartfelt Sympathy and Condolence
to the Victims of Massive Earthquake in Northern Japan

March 12, 2011

Shortly before 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11th, I was struck with a feeling of sea-sickness as our PropStation Kobe office in the Rokko Island Fashion Mart building began (for what seemed like an eternity) rocking back and forth.

Sixteen years ago, my house was completely destroyed in The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. I believe that I was not alone as flashbacks of that horrible experience rushed into my mind.

As soon as we turned on the TV we were flooded with reports of what had just occurred and of the coming tsunami warnings for the Kanto and Tohoku regions. As I stared in disbelief, hopes welled up inside me that the damage would be minimal. Those hopes would soon be snuffed out as images of chaos dominated every channel with live footage of waves wreaking havoc.

The massive tsunami mercilessly crushed towns, villages, ports and all of their inhabitants. I could only watch in horror as the scenes of destruction intensified. I was reminded again that even with all of societies advancements, the godlike power of Mother Nature can render anyone helpless.

Disappointed for letting the memories of my experiences during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake fade over time, I could only stand embarrassed and once again humbled by the power of such natural disasters.

According to schedule, on the 12th of March, the Hyogo-Prefectural Gender Equality Promotion Center (an incorporated nonprofit organization for working mothers) along with Radio Kansai were set to co-host a live talk event at which I was supposed to perform my songs.  However given the circumstances of events, anxiety prompted me to call Mr. Yokoyama (director of the Hyogo-Prefectural Gender Equality Promotion Center) and question whether or not we should go ahead as planned.

“How can we proceed during a situation such as this?” The difficulty of determining what to do next weighed heavy on the minds of all relevant parties for quite some time, but finally a solution was reached. “As survivors ourselves from a similar catastrophe we will hold this event and show from our hearts our support to all of those affected by the recent disaster.” Hoping that we might be able to lift up the spirits of those in need, even if it be just a few, we forged ahead.

Today the event, “Women of Courage, Hyogo”, took place at the DUO KOBE underground shopping complex near the JR Kobe Station. Various non-profit organizations that were established after the Great Hanshin Earthquake had come out of consideration and sympathy to the victims of yesterday’s catastrophes. Each had booths set up promoting awareness to the crowds of people that had attended, and of the necessity and power of joining together for a cause.

Performers and exhibitionists expressed their heartfelt sympathy to the victims struggling in the aftermath and dedicated the money collected through sales during the event and through donations collected from well-wishers to those affected by the ‘northeastern Pacific Ocean earthquake’. As people who have undergone similar experiences and hardships, the phrase “people helping people” became a familiar motto that summed up the kindhearted attitude of all who participated throughout the successful event.

During the live talk portion of the event, Mr Kurokawa (director of Radio Kansai) and I shared our experiences of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Although the broadcasting station of Radio Kansai in Suma-ku, Kobe was heavily damaged, the entire staff along with Mr. Kurokawa continued to broadcast information in the collapsed building out of consideration to those affected keeping survivors informed and up to date about the situation. Cell phone use was not nearly as common in Japan during those days and his story stirred recollections in my mind of people gathered around torchlight listening intently to the radio for any sliver of information about areas containing loved ones.

As people had rushed in from all parts of the country to support those in need, 1995 came to be known as Japan’s first “Year of the Volunteer” or “Year of the NPO”. When various crisis-management systems including the police, firefighters, and emergency services no longer function due to disasters, it is our duty to go beyond the borders of government bureaucrats and the norm that is expected of the general public. All citizens assumed roles we were able to perform no matter how big or small and supported each other at the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. I remembered that it was these experiences that gave us the power and energy to regenerate our communities. That was the year that opened our eyes and taught us of the importance of mutual support in the community.

Severely disabled members of Prop Station were able to contribute by releasing up to date information concerning the well-being of disaster victims and of the provision of relief supplies. Although these members were bed ridden, by utilizing ICT they were able to extend a helping hand to other survivors despite their physical complications. These selfless, courageous and unified actions performed during The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake prompted us to adopt the slogan “Not disabled, but the Challenged (people who take adversity head on to overcome)”

“The lives of those 6,400 lost during Hanshin-Awaji earthquake will not be wasted” It is up to the survivors to continue on in their memory and help each other to better society.

Although we are weak in comparison to the awesome power of nature, we need to put preparations in place to reduce the amount of quake damages as much as possible. We must never give up when faced with difficulties and hardships such as this “unprecedented earthquake” even though I admit that news about continued aftershocks in the Tohoku area continue to instill me with fear.

I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the victims of the earthquake in northern Japan and my gratitude to all of those involved in rescue efforts during such terrible conditions. I pray with all my heart that their search produces the highest successful rate possible and for the safety of those still in the disaster area.

It is frustrating to only be able to express my deepest sympathy through writing when there are so many in need but please know that my heart goes out to you all and I will continue to pray for your safety and well being.

<By Nami>

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