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Grassroots movements to promote disaster reduction are continuing 10 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan.

Many civic groups that are working to pass on the experiences and memories of those who lost their homes and loved ones in the March 2011 disaster are facing funding difficulties, and some of them are now looking to crowdfunding to raise money to cover expenses for their activities.

“The water, blackened and shiny with leaked oil, swallowed everything,” Yuko Tanno, who engages in activities to pass on the experiences of the disaster in the Yuriage district of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, said.

Tanno, 52, lost her 13-year-old son, Kota, in the tsunami. She began her activities with the hope that people will not forget the horrors of the disaster. Tanno’s activities are held mainly at Memoire de Yuriage, a facility that shows items related to the disaster and also serves as a memorial site for Kota and 13 other students of a local junior high school who lost their lives.

A nonprofit organization set up the facility in 2012, but it saw subsidies from the Miyagi prefectural government cut off in 2017. The organization decided to move out of the building it had rented for its activities and buy a prefabricated building as its new base.

The group relied on crowdfunding to set up the new facility. According to its website, 421 people from around the country donated a total of ¥5.16 million for the move.

The ceiling of the new prefabricated building is covered in star-shaped pieces of colored paper with the names of the donors.

“I want to meet everyone to express my gratitude,” Tanno said.

Masayoshi Kosai, the 79-year-old manager of the facility, said that the crowdfunding project drew more supporters than he had anticipated.

One such donor is Mari Tomita, a 57-year-old resident of the southwestern Japan city of Saga. “It’s for people to donate,” Tomita said of crowdfunding.

Tokyo-based Readyfor Inc., which operates crowdfunding platforms, saw donations totaling ¥1 billion for projects related to the March 2011 disaster.

Meanwhile, 3.11 Future Support Association, a civic group in the city of Ishinomaki, also in Miyagi Prefecture, will open a new facility this month using donations collected online.

In 2017, the organization launched a fund for aiding groups working to pass on the lessons of the disaster with money collected from businesses.

However, many groups are still struggling to secure funding.

“Groups can’t afford to hire people, and the situation is tough,” Chihiro Fujima, 42, from the association said, noting that what is needed now is to increase the number of people who have understanding toward the activities.

“We must steadily communicate the value of our activities and expand sympathy,” Fujima added.

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