ATTENTIVE: Express Political Editor, Ria Taitt delivers her speech as Japanese Ambassador, Yoshimasa Tezuka, Foreign Affairs Minister, Suruj Rambachan and others guests listen attentively. —Photos: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Japanese Resilience In Motion

One year after tsunami

By Wayne Bowman

The people of Japan on March 17 remembered the triple impact disaster that beset them one year before when the north-east coast of their island nation was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a mega tsunami and a nuclear disaster that placed not only them at further risk, but other parts of the world. One year later the clean-up continues and efforts to return to some measure of normalcy for the people most affected by the disaster.

The Ambassador of Japan, Yoshimasa Tezuka on March 27 hosted a cocktail reception in observance of the disaster, but to also celebrate the resilience of the Japanese people. This event featured photographic displays of the devastation along with the recovery, clean-up and rebuilding efforts of the people. There was also a video display, giving a more detailed look at what took place and how things have progressed since.

Some weeks ago Express Political Editor, Ria Taitt had been invited by the Embassy to visit Japan to see first hand what is taking place on the island nation. She wrote articles on various aspects of her experiences during her short, but hectic visit. Among the things that struck Taitt was the fact that there was no looting immediately after or at any point following the disaster. She was also impressed by the Japanese people's determination to pull themselves up and out of the ruins and rebuild much stronger than before the destruction.

"I had the honour, pleasure and privilege of visiting Japan between January 27 and February 7 on the invitation of the Japanese Government. The purpose of the trip was to enable journalists to see the efforts at reconstruction, in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami which occurred on March 11, last year. The process of reconstruction is expected to continue for many years, though the most intense period would be over the next four years."

"By way of a very well planned, well thought out, and well executed, but hectic and packed programme, I had a first hand view of the economic, psychological and social impact of this horrendous disaster.

"This country—Trinidad and Tobago—has never experienced a natural disaster of similar magnitude, occasioning such widespread and tremendous damage. And so this experience was unique for me from two perspectives— a) in the terms of the extensive damage inflicted and b) the response of the Japanese authorities and people in dealing with it.

"In visiting the affected areas and talking to the people, I was struck by the fortitude, the resilence and the discipline which they exhibited in the face of adversity.

"As I expressed in my article carried in the Express of February 27, and I now quote 'Coming for a country where things tend to turn into ole mass so easily, I sometimes wondered if I was on another planet.'

"Any society that could have experienced such a mind-boggling catastrophe with the resulting death and destruction without even a single incident of looting, no social unrest, no increase in criminal activity whatsoever, has got to be a remarkable country, comprised of unique people. While this traumatic event has scarred on the psyche of the Japanese people, it was impossible not to be impressed by the determined and resolute manner in which they are overcoming their challenges and learning to move on."

"Unlike so many other countries where citizens tend to blame authoriites, and to look to the Government to do everything for them. I found in Japan a self-reliance, a willingness on the part of people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and I found an environment in which the local and community authorities, government institutions, the private sector and civic society organisations were working harmoniously and steadfastly to improve the situation

"Natural disasters can happen anywhere. Tragedies can occur anywhere. And one can never be totally prepared. And while there is no perfect response and perfect behaviour to such episodes, I don't know how many other societies would be able to deal with any major disaster such as 3/11, in such a calm, measured, efficient and patient way. And because of this I believe that Japan can set an example for the rest of the world in the manner in which they have coped and handled this tragedy."

"This has been an eye-opener for me. Ambassador Tenuka, I want to thank you and your government for affording me the opportunity to have this kind of perspective on the event and to witness how a disciplined society treats with its trials and tribulations. It is something which one can only hope this society could emulate," said Taitt.

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