The March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami and the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at one point made some 450,000 people, mostly from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, homeless. Now some 170,000 people are staying at temporary evacuation shelters. An encouraging development is taking place among some local governments in areas not affected by the disasters. They are offering to accept evacuees from northeastern Japan.
Not only prefectures near the devastated areas, such as Akita, Yamagata and Niigata, but also more distant prefectures, such as Okinawa and Saga, are inviting evacuees to stay in their areas. Katashina village in Gunma Prefecture, with a population of about 5,000, has accepted some 920 people from Minami Soma city in Fukushima Prefecture, who were forced to evacuate their homes due to the nuclear power plant crisis.
The regional federation of Kyoto, Osaka and seven other prefectures in the Kansai region is ready to accept tens of thousands of evacuees. It says that it will make efforts to enable them to maintain communities in their new environment.
It is hoped that local governments that accept evacuees will make adequate preparations, such as offering employment and providing public services including education so that evacuees can stay in their areas for as long as necessary. These local governments should also involve residents and enterprises in their projects. Their support would help evacuees more quickly adapt to their new environment.
While it is understandable that some evacuees might be reluctant to move so far away from their home regions, they should not hesitate to accept invitations to move to other areas of Japan. Doing so will make it much easier to provide them with food, shelter, employment, education and other essentials.
In the areas devastated by the disasters, it is necessary to get local administrations up and running. In some areas municipal offices were obliterated and in some cases municipal staff, including mayors, were killed. The associations of prefectural governors and city mayors should consider dispatching public servants under their jurisdiction to devastated municipalities. National public servants also should be loaned to such municipalities.