NEW YORK – The governor of Iwate Prefecture — one of the areas hardest hit by the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami — hosted an event in New York on Monday to thank the United States for its help after the devastating disasters.
“You have been there for us since immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami until this very day,” Takuya Tasso told the audience of about 200 at the Japan Society in Manhattan, adding that according to the Japanese Red Cross, total U.S. donations of ¥2.9 billion made it the highest contributing country in the world.
Tasso said that the U.S. military’s Operation Tomodachi, where 24,500 service members, 24 ships and 189 aircraft were deployed to the disaster area, played a key role in relief and reconstruction efforts.
“The quick response from the American government gave great encouragement to many of the Japanese people, myself included,” Tasso said.
Four days after the tsunami devastated the coastal cities of Ofunato and Kamaishi in Iwate, 144 U.S. service members were sent there to help find missing people and undertake other immediate relief efforts.
“We responded not simply as allies and friends, but in a deeper sense as true partners,” said Drew Schufletowski, of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Office. “The United States could not stand by as Japan suffered.”
Tasso told the audience how despite the many difficulties that remain in Iwate — including the 37,000 people living in temporary housing — he is positive about the prefecture’s future.
He noted that Iwate and neighboring Miyagi Prefecture are candidate sites to host an ¥800 billion large-scale particle physics research facility.
“Iwate Prefecture, along with neighboring tsunami-hit prefectures, considers this a symbol of recovery,” he said.
Tasso said that while the road to full recovery is long, Operation Tomodachi (friend), as well as other support from all over the globe, makes rebuilding an “even more vibrant” Iwate possible.
“Showing the world a new, recovered Iwate is a way to repay the generous support we have received,” he said.