On 16 March 2012, a reception was held to commemorate one year since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Below is an abridged version of Consul-General Kohara’s remarks that evening.
Your Excellency the Governor of New South Wales,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure and honour to welcome you to this reception to commemorate the Great East Japan Earthquake. On that terrible day, many people lost their lives, lost loved ones and friends, their homes and livelihoods.
It was very sad and a time of sorrow, but we have been very encouraged by the support from friends around the world, including Australia.
Her Excellency the Governor of New South Wales was among those who came to sign the condolence book.
The NSW Fire and Rescue team was one of the first search and rescue teams on the ground. It went to one of the most heavily devastated towns, Minami Sanriku, where Prime Minister Gillard visited and gave out koala soft toys, bringing the first smiles to the town after the disaster. Thank you for your support.
I would like to share with you two instances that show the spirit of friendship between us.
Students at a junior high school in Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture received messages of support written by Australians. The Japanese students wrote back to them.
One fourteen-year-old girl from Iwaki wrote – and I quote:
“I owe it all to everyone in the world that I am as happy as I am now. We will revive someday not fail to do! We won’t give up. Thank you very much.”
Above her cartoon self-portrait, she wrote, “I love Australia.”
My family also felt this friendship firsthand. My daughter goes to high school in Sydney. After the earthquake, all her classmates came up to her, expressing their sympathy, asking her if she was okay and giving her hugs.
To all those who helped Japan in our time of need, I say thank you – from the bottom of my heart, ありがとう。We will never forget your kindness.
[Japan is] on track to re-emerge stronger than before.
Many Japanese companies have recovered at astonishing speed with their supply chains fully restored.
In Fukushima, cold shutdown of the plant has been achieved and the exclusion zone has been reduced to 20 km. The level of radiation in the air in Tokyo is comparable to major cities in the US or France.
To mention further positive signs: in 2012, Tokyo has retained the title of the world’s top gourmet city, as the Michelin guide awarded it more stars than any other city for the fifth year in a row. Also, the occupancy rate for major Tokyo hotels rose in December last year, while foreign workers in Japan were up 5.6% from a year earlier.
A new Japan will emerge. This disaster has dramatically increased the sense of urgency and forced all Japanese people to think about real change. With hard work, Japan will strengthen its energy and environment technologies, creating a cutting-edge model for the world.
Finally, as we all know, Australia and Japan already share a strong relationship. Japan is still the largest export destination for NSW and the Northern Territory, which are my jurisdiction. In January, I attended the signing of the final investment decision for an LNG project in the Northern Territory, which is the biggest Japanese investment ever anywhere in the world. NSW has more sister-city relationships with Japan than any other country.
In fact, what most impressed me after that unforgettable day were people-to-people ties (kizuna as we say in Japanese) - ties which gave so much encouragement to the people of Japan.
We are very happy to have such strong kizuna with Australia.
The people suffering in Tohoku have persevered and are trying their best, or gambaru in Japanese. People can gambaru for a long time if it is necessary for their survival, but they need help and support. They need to see their situation is improving. The people in Tohoku are resilient, but they need our ongoing support in order to gambaru.
I’m sure all our thoughts will continue to be with them as they gambaru.
Let me conclude by saying once again to our Australian friends: Thank you so much!