The earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011, left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, including 30 non-Japanese.
Two were from the United States, Taylor Anderson, who was teaching in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and Monty Dickson, who lived in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. Anderson was the first foreigner discovered to have fallen victim to the tsunami.
Mihoko Terada, a translator living in Sendai, published in November a Kindle book about Japanese and Americans who either lost their lives or lived through the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Terada, 42, married to a professor at Tohoku University and the mother of two sons, said she wanted to do something to help the people in the devastated areas of Tohoku.
She says the English-language book, titled “The 3/11 Disaster in Miyagi, Japan: True Stories of Japanese and Americans from the Earthquake and Tsunami,” is targeted toward English teachers in Japan like the late Anderson, especially those who provide English instruction for high school students.
The book delicately places a spotlight on little tales — the kind that may be forgotten as time passes by.
“I want the readers to get to know about the actual people — local heroes — who were involved in the disaster; those who actually witnessed the earthquake and tsunami,” Terada said.
She is donating half the royalties from the e-book to help the people of Ishinomaki and other areas in Miyagi.
Anderson’s body was discovered a week after the twin disasters. Staff at the elementary school where she worked would later say that she was last seen helping students go home. They think she must have been engulfed by the tsunami shortly after.
In addition to Anderson’s story and another about an American who helped out during the disasters, Terada depicts Japanese people such as a carpenter who lost all three of his children in the tsunami and now volunteers to make life easier for people in the Tohoku region.
Terada also writes about Nao Takahashi, a university student and survivor of the tsunami who had been one of Anderson’s students, later became her friend and inherited her indomitable spirit.
“When Anderson’s body was discovered, a letter from Nao was found in her belongings,” Terada said in illustrating how close they were.
Although Terada never met Anderson, she was impressed by her dedication to teaching English and becoming a part of the community, as well as her positive attitude in everyday life — and during the disasters.
Terada is now director of the Japan office of the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, which was founded by Anderson’s parents.
The main aim of the fund is to help raise the spirits of kids in Tohoku, such as by providing Christmas presents to children orphaned by the disasters.
Another project is its Taylor library, with books presented to some of the schools Anderson taught at, including a kindergarten, elementary school and junior high in Ishinomaki.
Anderson’s parents visited Japan this month to look into incorporating the fund and took part in a Tokyo preview of a documentary about Anderson. They also met with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, who recently visited the school where Anderson was teaching when she died.
Anderson is said to have held a love for Japan from a very young age and started learning Japanese in elementary school.
“Taylor’s parents are really looking to the future, and want to do something to carry on Taylor’s soul and intentions,” Terada said. “I hope a lot of English teachers who live in Japan will buy and read the book, and that the book will be a catalyst for them to visit Tohoku. I don’t want them to forget about Tohoku.”
To find out more about Terada’s book, visit www.facebook.com/311DisasterMiyagiJapan.
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