MORIOKA, IWATE PREF. – With the start of the new fiscal year Tuesday, schools and companies in the areas hit by the March 2011 disasters welcomed newcomers as a breath of fresh air in the region’s efforts to rebuild.
At Ryori Elementary School in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, which was heavily damaged by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, 15 new first-graders attended an entrance ceremony, with all of them in kimono — a tradition at the school.
The school welcomes new students every April 1. However, in 2011, the ceremony was delayed for three weeks as the first floor of the building was still flooded from the tsunami.
In Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Momonoura LLC, made up of local oyster farmers, welcomed its first new recruits.
Established in 2012, Momonoura is one of several companies in a designated zone for fisheries businesses.
“I want to help rebuild (Tohoku),” said Toshiaki Kato, 19, who had just graduated from a local high school and joined Momonoura. “I want people across the country to enjoy oysters from the region.”
Katsuyuki Oyama, 67, a Momonoura executive, put a black cap bearing the company’s logo on Kato’s head, saying, “Congratulations.”
“I hope you will settle into the job and take a leading role soon,” Oyama said.
An initiation ceremony for new recruits was also held at the Sanriku-no-en special nursing care facility for the elderly in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. The former home was completely destroyed by the massive tsunami and more than 50 residents and staff members lost their lives that day.
The new nursing home has been built on higher ground.
“Through (my) job I will provide support to other people,” said Ayumi Kawahara, 18, a local high school graduate. “I am going to do my best.”
Not all companies in the region searching for new recruits, however, succeeded in hiring new employees as parts of the Tohoku region are facing severe labor shortages.
A seafood processing company in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, that resumed operations last July failed to recruit new graduates, as the company did not receive any applications for the jobs on offer.
The company’s 63-year-old president said he also had to accept a resignation letter from a midcareer employee who had only been working at the company for a few days.
“I want local residents to stay with the company for a long time, but we can’t find people willing to do so,” the president said.
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