A group of Japanese organizers yesterday held an event in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) called “Thank you, Taiwan,” to mark the third year since a major earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
After the disaster, Taiwan donated about US$260 million in aid to Japan, the biggest donation made by any country.
Members of the Thank you Taiwan activities executive committee said the event served as a reminder that although three years have passed since the disaster, most of the stricken areas and victims have not yet recovered.
Participants at yesterday’s event wrote blessings on colored paper, folded them into origami cranes and glued them to a paper board bearing the title: “Bonding hearts,” which will be taken to the disaster-stricken areas to give victims moral support, said the committee’s executive director, Kengo Kosaka, who is a freshman at National Taiwan Normal University’s Institute of Management.
Rin Tatsukawa, a Japanese national and senior at the university’s Department of Chinese Literature, said that after the earthquake struck, she and her classmates had raised relief funds by collecting campus donations.
“One person gave two envelopes — each with NT$10,000 inside. I was so touched to see how the Taiwanese were helping my country,” she said.
Manami Ono, from the disaster-stricken Miyagi Prefecture, said she lived only 3m away from the ocean, and when the tsunami hit the area, she saw her senior-high and junior-high school campuses, as well as her friends and relatives’ houses, wash away.
She said she was lucky that her house was not damaged and was able to reunite with her family.
The reason she applied to National Chengchi University’s Department of Journalism was because she wanted to visit Taiwan, which had helped Japan so much.
Kosaka said he and four companions visited the disaster-stricken areas in November last year, and discovered that while many victims outwardly show a positive attitude and perseverance, they are still hurting inside.
After three years, and with limited Japanese government aid, society has forgotten about those left behind, he said, adding that so many places still need long-term reconstruction.
However, the victims will not forget how the Taiwanese lent them a hand in a time of great need.