‘Ganbaro’ – the Japanese answer to earthquake tragedy

The buildings in Sendai City were strong enough to withstand the powerful earthquake, but people are still afraid to go back to their homes. Caritas Japan/2011

By Fr Daisuke Narui, Executive Director of Caritas Japan

In Sendai City, there are people sleeping in shelters whose houses didn’t collapse in the  9.0 magnitude earthquake on 11 March. The people come to the shelters because they’re afraid and they don’t want to be alone. They go back to the house sometimes in the daytime, but then they come back to the shelter for dinner and to sleep.

Caritas Japan has been contacting counsellors. At the moment the defence force is providing many things that the survivors need. People will forget about the disaster victims once they have been satisfied materially. As time passes, the survivors will become traumatised and lonely, so we’re seeking to engage counsellors who can start helping them in the next month or so.

Caritas is also working with parishes to provide foods and blankets. The North Sendai parish soup kitchen almost ran out of food today. It’s difficult to buy food here as the shops are closed. We had to send a priest to Yamagata, the next prefecture, to buy beef, potatoes, carrots and stock to make stew for disaster victims.

We’re also bringing in volunteers and there should be between 150-200 helping us out by next week. We ask local people to work with the volunteers as they aren’t all Sendai and they don’t know their way around.

Sendai City is probably around 70-100 miles away from Fukushima nuclear power plant which is in danger following last week’s disaster. A local told me that in this season, the wind blows from north to south and Sendai is to the north of Fukushima. I don’t know if this is true, but today I saw a sign at a shelter that warned people not to go out because it was going to rain.

People in Sendai are so nice to each other and they keep offering each other encouragement at this difficult time. Everyone keeps saying “ganbaro!” Which would mean in English “let’s do our best”.


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