By Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD, President of Caritas Japan
Caritas Japan wants to sincerely thank our brothers and sisters throughout the world for the tremendous support you have given to our Great East Japan Earthquake relief activities. We will never forget that when Japan suffered that unprecedented disaster, friends like you reached out to help.
Nearly two years have passed since the earthquake on 11 March, 2011. Unfortunately, many people who were affected by the disaster have yet to find peace and hope. Instead, they worry that the harsh reality is that with the passage of time their suffering is being forgotten both in Japan and elsewhere.
In this situation, Caritas Japan continues to unite with those who have been affected by the disaster, listening to their voices and walking with them as they strive to survive and recover.
Caritas Japan continues to search out and aid those whose needs are […]
By Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
On Sunday March 11 this year, it will be one year since the Great East Japan Earthquake.
This earthquake was the most serious disaster involving the whole area of eastern Japan since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which occurred 17 years ago on January 17, 1995. I request that the Catholic churches across the country hold masses and prayer gatherings in commemoration of victims and for the earliest possible reconstruction of the disaster areas.
What happened on March 11, 2011 will never be forgotten in our lifetime. The earthquake, which was huge in size and long in duration, left us astonished. Immediately after that, tragic news was successively received and even those who were not directly hit by the earthquake were also deeply shocked. Especially, the horrific tsunami killed nearly 20 thousand people and caused immeasurable damage. Moreover, the accident […]
In March 2011, one of the worst earthquakes in recent memory triggered a massive tsunami off the northeast coast of Japan. The tidal wave killed thousands of people and destroyed huge swaths of seaside towns.
Caritas Japan immediately began helping survivors. It mobilized over 2000 volunteers to help clean debris, distribute needed items like heaters, and provide psychosocial care for the traumatized. Learn more about Caritas’ response by exploring the features here.
Message from Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga: Call for prayer one year after Great East Japan Earthquake
After tsunami, Caritas Japan and survivors reach new heights
Thousands of people in Sakuma’s town, Kamaishi, suffered intense trauma while escaping the tsunami. They also lost their homes. In the year since the catastrophe, Caritas Japan has helped them not only with emergency needs like hot water, but also with moral support.
Tsunami Zone: A Day in the Life of a Caritas Japan Volunteer
More than 2500 people […]
Interview with Ms. Seiko Ise
More than 2500 people have volunteered for Caritas Japan programs helping survivors of the March2011 tsunami. Here, a Caritas coordinator describes what the volunteers do–and what motivates them.
How do people get started volunteering for Caritas Japan?
People find out about volunteering with Caritas through the internet or from friends. Staff at our centre in Sendai talk to them and then place them in one of the tsunami-hit areas. They usually stay five days to a week. During summer vacation, we had many students. Now it’s autumn, we have more people in their 30s and 40s, and people over 60.
What do the volunteers do?
We clean up debris, distribute supplies, run soup kitchens, clean salvaged photos, and basically respond to any needs raised by the communities. As their needs change, we do different things. For example, when they lived in evacuation centres like school gyms, we set up […]
“I saw the water rising, and then the huge wave. Then the sea and the land were covered with fire—the whole city was on fire.” The words aren’t out of Revelations. Masato Sakamoto, a resident of Kesennumma on Japan’s east coast, is describing the events of 11 March 2011. “While it was burning, at sunset, the snow started falling.”
In a city dozens of kilometres away, 79-year-old Keiko Kikuchi also saw the coastline burning as she scrambled uphill to escape the tsunami. “There was a path up the mountain,” she remembers. “At the end of the path, I had to climb with my hands. I don’t know how I did it.”
“We saw the water at our backs. I saw my house filling with water and all the cars floating.”
Not far from Keiko’s neighbourhood, Sakae Chida was helping children in her afterschool day care centre flee. They ran up to a […]
The tsunami struck your hometown. Can you talk about how you felt when you saw that?
When on TV I saw the wave hit the town centre of Miyako, where I was born, it was incredible. As children, we were taught that there’s a possibility of tsunamis, and there were often tsunami warnings. When I was a child, we were brought to a place and shown how high a previous tsunami went. But we were also taught that the sea wall built there is so strong. To see the water go right over it was incredible.
Was anyone you know affected?
There’s a woman there now—I went to kindergarten with her. She lost her house.
I went to visit the family. There were shocked, but happy no one in the family was killed. They’re grateful. But they didn’t think this would ever happen in their lifetime. It had a deep impact on them.
By Laura Sheahen in Kesennumma
If you’d worked all your life to build up a business, only to see it swept away in minutes by a gargantuan wave, you’d be forgiven for wanting to give up. The aging residents of Japan’s east coast lost decades of labour when a tsunami struck in March 2011.
“There were many shopkeepers who thought about quitting,” says Masato Sakamoto, who lives in a coastal city called Kesennumma. The city wasn’t just swallowed by water, it was burned by massive fires that the disaster sparked.
In the town centre, the streets are silent. Debris dangles crazily from burned-out rafters. But where others see a ghost town, Masato sees possibilities. Standing in an empty lot, he describes his plans for a two-story shopping plaza that will house dozens of small shops here.
In poor countries, Caritas helps people help themselves by providing basic income-earning items like sewing machines or […]
By Laura Sheahen in Kamaishi
When you’re in a tsunami-hit zone, there are no ground floors. At my six-story hotel in Kamaishi, a town on the east coast of Japan, signs point the way to a staircase surrounded by what I assume are “under construction” signs. From the top of the stairs, the third stories of nearby buildings look OK. But at street level, the buildings are just broken frames. Shattered glass, jumbled furniture, and mud-stained scraps of cloth stretch as far as I can see.
Thanks to Japanese engineering, many buildings on the coast withstood the earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011. Even with the ground floor gutted, Japanese engineering is holding up my hotel. But nothing could keep the tsunami water from crashing in.
Cruel geographical accidents determined what the wave destroyed and what was saved. I walk three blocks on flat land, peering into ruined shops and homes. […]
By Laura Sheahen in Sendai
“The missing.” It’s been almost ten years to the day since I first heard this phrase uttered with the same quiet, charged intensity. The first time was in Manhattan, the week of September 11, 2001. Today I’m in the tsunami zone of eastern Japan.
I’m with a group looking at the work Caritas Japan has done to comfort and help thousands of people struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami six months ago, on 11 March 2011. As we travel along the devastated coastline, past tilting wrecks of houses and mammoth piles of debris, my Japanese colleagues describe how badly hit each area was: how many people died and how many are missing.
I remember how, as the first shell-shocked days dragged by in New York, photos of the missing papered the city’s subway stations and tree trunks. Here, walls of photos went up in evacuation centres […]
By Laura Sheahen
Sakuma Kaname has taken the word “treehugger” to a whole new level. A high level.
When a mammoth tsunami struck his town in Japan in March 2011, Sakuma “was on a hill near a bay,” he says. “I saw the water rising so fast—not just coming in, but rising up.” In minutes, Sakuma was swimming—in a forest.
“There was a big tree,” he remembers. “I grabbed on to it. I was eight metres high.” Hanging on to the trunk, almost near the crown of the tall tree, Sakuma held on for several minutes.
“Slowly the water went down. As the water went down, I sunk down,” Sakuma says.
Sakuma could let go of the tree—noting a nearby stone so he’d remember it—but he couldn’t go home. Water was still engulfing the lowlands near his hill. “On that hill there was a house,” he says. “I broke the window and went in.” […]
When you’re knocked down by a massive wave that robs you of everything you have, it doesn’t end there. The second wave is stronger.
Tsunami survivors know this. On the east coast of Japan, people who lived through the country’s worst natural disaster in centuries talk about the strength of that wave. It lifted and scattered buildings, cars, and enormous ships far inland. Boats and oddly-tilted houses now lie in the grass.
The psychological damage is similar—the first shock, then the lingering trauma that can often go deeper. There is the same disorientation and displacement. There are questions about what you’re meant to do now, with your home, livelihood, or even a family member lost.
“I kept running uphill. I was so exhausted,” says an elderly lady in a peach-colored shirt. She’s sitting in a church basement that Caritas Japan has transformed into a ‘healing centre’ for people in Kamaishi, an old […]
Caritas has launched a new emergency programme for Japan to provide earthquake survivors food and other aid items, counselling and help in getting back to work.
Over 15,000 people died in the 9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami which hit north-eastern Japan on 11 March this year.
Millions of households were affected with over 370,000 houses and buildings destroyed. People were either evacuated or faced life at home without electricity and sometimes water.
The government of Japan has responded effectively to the needs, but some gaps still exist which Caritas proposes to fill.
“Life is not easy for people evacuated from their houses,” says Fr. Daisuke Narui, Secretary General of Caritas Japan. “Our first priority is to make sure our activities last and we are there for the earthquake survivors for many years to come.”
The new Caritas confederation emergency programme aims to reach 19,000 people through its national member Caritas Japan.
The programme will run […]