The three high school student participants were victims of the earthquake and tsunami, suffering great losses such as family members. Despite these traumatic experiences, however, they are determined to stay optimistic and share their experiences with the world. Their itinerary included giving a speech at a concert with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra and visiting Harvard University, Brown University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through these events the students interacted with many others, expanding their global horizons. They also spoke about their own experiences and had the opportunity to reflect on their aspirations for their future roles in society.
- To have Tohoku students act as ambassadors of Tohoku by sharing their stories of the Great East Japan earthquake with American people
- To promote U.S.-Japan exchange in the context of the Great East Japan earthquake/tsunami.
- To provide Tohoku students with opportunities to experience the American culture as part of BEYOND Tomorrow’s global leadership education.
Time and Locations
March 15 – 21, 2012 Boston, Massachusetts; and Providence, Rohde Island
ParticipantsMasahide Chiba Masahide was in Ofunato when the disaster struck. As a result of the tsunami, he lost his mother, grandmother and home, and is now living in rented accommodation with his father and two younger brothers. Masahide believes that it is his mission to plan towns that are safe from natural disasters and contribute to the future recovery because he survived the devastating disaster when so many lives were lost. Masahide would like to set up a company that carries out projects related with the disaster recovery, and would like to participate in the planning of towns along the Sanriku Coast which are resilient to damage from natural disasters.
Ayaka Ogawa Ayaka lost her parents, her grandparents and her older sister to the tsunami, and now lives in temporary housing with extended family members. As only she was saved and the rest of her family lost, Ayaka would like to try to live life to the fullest and has resolved to fulfill her long-standing interest in studying abroad. Following the disaster, Ayaka also had chance to experience a short-term home stay in Australia. Ayaka feels a great deal of gratitude for the opportunities she has been afforded since the disaster, and so in the future she would like to become someone who also helps others to achieve their hopes.
Sayaka Sugawara Sayaka experienced the disaster in Ishinomaki, and lost her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to the tsunami. Currently she is living in temporary housing in Ishinomaki with her grandfather. Six months after the disaster she participated in the Summer Davos Forum held in China, and communicated her experiences to global leaders. In future, Sayaka would like to work for a cause helping children who have had similar traumatic experiences to her own, as well as doing international volunteering to help repay the countries that supported Japan after the disaster. She will start her new life in an international boarding high school in Switzerland this spring.
|Orientation Day 1||Speech preparation Dinner with BEYOND Tomorrow founders|
|Orientation Day 2||American culture and history English conversation Speech preparation “Meet-a-leader” session with Mr. Robert Alan Feldman Lecture by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, President of Japan International Cooperation Agency|
|Day 1||Arrival & Dinner with host family|
|Day 2||MIT visit (Media Lab, Department of Urban Studies and Planning) Newberry Street, Boston Public Library Welcome dinner by the members of Japan Disaster Relief Fund Boston|
|Day 3||Museum of Fine Arts Boston & Chinatown Speech rehearsal Speech at the Longwood Symphony Orchestra concert “HOPE for Tohoku”|
|Day 4||Quincy Market & Brunch at Beacon Hill Cultural exchange program with Boston Boys and Girls Club|
|Day 5||Harvard visit Emerson College visit Farewell dinner with host family|
|Day 6||Train to Providence/Brown University Lunch with Star Fellows at Brown University Campus tour and attend undergraduate courses (political science and physics) Interview by The Brown Daily Herald BEYOND Tomorrow session “Orphaned by the Wave” Reception & Dinner with Brown University students|
Brown Daily HeraldBEYOND Tomorrow was featured in an article of THE BROWN DAILY HERALD on March 21, 2012.
Speech ScriptsMasahide Chiba My name is Masahide Chiba, and I am from Ofunato city in Iwate Prefecture. I am truly grateful to American people for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this occasion. Now I would like to speak about my experience and thoughts through the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. It is strange to think back on the day before the earthquake and tsunami. Even though it was only 4pm, the sky above the school courtyard turned a deep crimson, and a large flock of birds flew overhead. If only I knew at that point that something was different. I still think of that moment often.
March 11th, 2011, 2:46:18pm. When the earthquake hit, I was playing club sports at school. The students were getting agitated because we had never felt the ground shake so much before. We were even smiling a bit — secretly, we were excited that something out of the ordinary was happening. Little did we know then how much grief was actually awaiting us. That day I was not able to get in contact with my family who lived 50m from the ocean, but assuming that they safely evacuated to the back hills, I spent the night at the school without much worry. The next morning I walked home, through Sanriku Railway tunnel for about an hour. When I came out of the other side of the tunnel, I was met by a landscape with no buildings. But based on reports I heard that morning, I had been prepared to see this level of destruction. What I was not prepared for, however, was the reality that lay within this destruction. My mother and my grandmother were dead. When I heard that they died, I did not know what to think. I went to the hill next to my house, and when I saw my mother’s leg in our car, images of her face flooded my mind — memories of her from the day before, of my childhood — and thinking how much she must have struggled, I could not help but cry in agony. Even when I put my hands on her face, the warmth of my hands just dissipated; there was nothing I could do to ever bring back the warmth. The cremation was very painful. I was heartbroken because I knew that we needed to have the cremation, but every fiber within me did not want to have it. I could not bear to have my mother’s body turn into ash in the flames. The days afterwards I struggled to find meaning in life. People would ask me if I was “alright;” I had no idea what being “alright” even meant — so I just smiled and said yes. Everyday I furiously cleaned away the rubble. I heard that my mother was swept away by the tsunami because she was trying to save my brothers’ and my school materials by bringing it to the second floor. I couldn’t sleep at night, blaming myself for my mother’s death. If only something were different about that morning. The reason I am still here, that I am still living, is that I want to contribute something to my hometown and its recovery — for my mother and my grandmother’s sake, for my family’s sake. I now believe that joining the recovery efforts is my life mission; it’s why I survived. My hometown of Ofunato thrived on its fishing business, and as such, I think that it is necessary to improve the traffic network of fish and manufactured goods. With a better network, Ofunato can become not what it used to be, but even better — a town that is better prepared for disaster, a town that is easier to live in. Having this goal in mind, I want to study construction engineering at college. As a survivor, there are many things I feel that I must do. But it is just as important for others to continue to remember the earthquake and tsunami, and to not let it fade away in their memories. Currently it is expected that an even larger earthquake will hit Japan in the near future. This is why it is essential that we learn from this past earthquake and tsunami. By sharing our experiences widely, we may not be able to prevent an earthquake from occurring, but we will be able to ensure measures for quick evacuation, appropriate reactions to earthquakes, and minimized damage. If we are able to accomplish this, we will have truly learned our lessons from the past. With my mother’s memory beating strongly in my heart, I want to create a world where no child has to ever experience the grief that I have. This is my first time to visit the United States. I am very interested in how people overseas perceive my story. I hope people who heard my story will share their feelings and thoughts to the world. I will be more than happy if everyone here could share this story. Thank you very much.
Ayaka Ogawa My name is Ayaka Ogawa and I come from Kamaishi city in Iwate Prefecture. In the tsunami, I lost my entire family. Not only did I lose my parents, sister and grandparents, I also lost the house that I lived in for 17 years. I lost so much that I could not lose more, and I was left all alone on this planet. On March 11th, immediately after the earthquake, I evacuated uphill with my mother and grandmother. However, the tsunami was right behind us like a huge black wall and my mother shouted “tsunami!”. That was the last time I heard her speak.
I ran up the hills and mountains and finally found myself alive. However, nowhere could I find my dearest mother and grandmother. Next morning, I walked on the debris calling for my mother and grandmother’s names. It was a devastating landscape and my body kept shaking when I saw an old lady pierced by a tree. After a few days, I learned that my sister had been killed and also my father was missing. I had no idea what was going on but I did understand that I was left alone – this cruel fact put me in enormous fear. When I was brought to my sister, I put my hands on her cheeks and repeated thank you. My tears soaked her face. I did not want to let her go but the cremation turned her into ashes. Then I kept looking for the rest of my family. I had to turn the pages of the binder with dead people’s photos. Each page devastated me. The dead body of a small girl. The remains with arms and legs bent in miserable shapes.
- What if the next page had my mother? Or my father?
Sayaka Sugawara My name is Sayaka Sugawara, and I am from Ishinomaki. March 11th was my middle school graduation day. It was the day that my classmates of 10 years were to begin embarking on a new journey, a day that was meant to remain as a happy memory. The earthquake hit when I came home. It was a level of shaking that I had never felt before. The earthquake cut our power, so I was not able to receive information through the television. By the time I heard there was a tsunami coming and started to evacuate, it was already too late — I heard a ground-shaking boom, and in an instant my family and I were swallowed whole by the tsunami, along with my house. As I was being swept away with the rubble and black water, thoughts rushed through my head: “This is it. I’m going to die.” “I wish I had the chance to wear my high school uniform.”
After being swept away for a while with the rubble, I heard my mother calling my name from underneath the debris. When I cleared away the rubble, I found my mother, pierced by nails and tree limbs, and a broken leg. Her right leg was stuck, and even though I tried my best to clear the debris, it was too heavy and too big. I wanted to save my mother, but I knew that staying there I would be swept away again by the tsunami. Do I stay and save my mother? Or do I run to safety? – I chose my own life. It was a decision that makes me cry to this day. When I left my mother I told her many times – Thank you, and I love you. It was the most difficult moment of my life to turn away from my mother who implored to me, “Don’t leave me.” There was so much more I wanted to tell her. But I had to leave; I swam to the lower school and spent the night there. There were many, many more difficult experiences after that moment. There were days that were so difficult that I thought of a suicide. There were days that I wondered why life is so cruel, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times I cried thinking about my family. Through this tsunami, I lost so much of my life. But there are things that I have gained because of this experience. And I believe that the more effort I put into it, the more I can gain. People may look at me and pity me, but that is not how I see myself. I have an aunt and grandfather who support me. I have friends who give me helping hands. I am given opportunities now because I have gone through this tragedy. I am confident that I am able to overcome any challenge life may throw at me. And I am able to empathize with those who have also suffered a great loss. This is why in the future I hope to help other children who went through similar travesties. I would also like to participate in international volunteering organizations to give back to all the countries that helped Japan in this time of need. I know that there will be many more challenges ahead in life. But I want to stay proactive, finding the ways in which I can help others so that I can give back as much as, if not more than, what I have lost. BEYOND Tomorrow gave me a chance to meet with friends in similar situations. I also met a number of leaders from different fields who gave me invaluable encouragement through the program. From this month, I plan to study in Switzerland as a BEYOND Tomorrow student ambassador. One day I hope to be able to say “The unfortunate tagedy shaped the person I am today.” – so I will continue my endeavor. It has been a year since the disaster, and now I am walking down a new path. My hope strongly that more people remember this disaster and think about it. I feel lucky that I have a chance such as today to share my experience with the people in the United States. I will always keep in mind my precious country and home town, and share my experience so that this memory will never fade away. Thank you all the people from the United States. Thank you very much for all your support.