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Five years have passed, but we will never forget March 11, 2011

03/11/2016

Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. According to the Reconstruction Agency, 174,000 people were still living away from their own homes as of February this year. However, diligent efforts are ongoing to reconstruct areas affected by the disaster, and during a visit to Rikuzentakata city in January, I noticed that the conveyor belts used for moving huge amounts of soil—to elevate residential and commercial plots of land—were almost totally gone.

I was in Rikuzentakata to sign a partnership agreement between the city, Iwate University and Rikkyo University.

Since 2003, Rikkyo University has operated an extracurricular educational program for students to get first-hand experience of forestry work in the Oide area of Yahagi-cho, Rikuzentakata, with students, faculty and other staff mingling with local residents. Following the earthquake, which struck eight years after the relationship began, we have steadfastly conducted focused support work in Rikuzentakata, and in 2012, we concluded an agreement on cooperation and exchange.

During this process, we have learned how our participation in specific support activities nurtures both our creativity, and our ability to observe ourselves and various world circumstances from the perspective of others.

In the university’s “RIKKYO VISION 2024,” published last year, we outlined plans for a satellite campus in Rikuzentakata, an idea founded on the close ties forged by the university with the people of the city. Hereafter, we will continue to strengthen those ties through collaboration with the city, Iwate University, and others. These activities will include foreign students too.

On the other hand, it was difficult to know what was going on during the five years following the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant—the “center,” if you will. Thanks to the untiring efforts of those working at the site, safety has been established to a certain extent. However, issues with contaminated groundwater continue, and the road to decommissioning is fraught with serious difficulties.

Universities are places for posing questions that beg answers. Against a backdrop in which all domestic nuclear power plants were turned off, but are now gradually coming back online, we must continue earnestly asking, “What was the reality of 3/11, and what does it mean to us now?”

We will not forget the disaster of March, 11, 2011. This is because we are living in a stark new world brought on by the events of that day, and if we sidestep this reality, we cannot truly know ourselves. Those who were affected by the disaster are trekking into the future, heavily burdened by unforgettable pain and sadness. For our part, the simple act of never forgetting allows us to walk side by side with those who have suffered.

Rikkyo University intends to continue clearing a path to the future through its ongoing support activities.

March 11, 2016
Rikkyo University President
Tomoya Yoshioka

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