And although the university worked so hard to set up the Chuo University Volunteer Center in 2014, the truth is that even the center staff sometimes wonder whether their efforts are in vain, since every year they have to start all over again trying to get the new students to connect with and think about the areas affected by the disaster.
(This is not to say that the students are at fault.
Seemingly well-informed people started appearing left and right with feverish proposals for Japanese reconstruction—saying our country needed to change, or calling for a new “Goto Shinpei of the Heisei era” to come on the scene.
Some even went so far as to declare that the event was some sort of punishment from the heavens.
Kesennuma Knitting (which sells hand-knitted luxury sweaters), GANBAARE (which offers canvas products), Tohoku Taberu Tsushin (a platform for promoting community-supported agriculture), and Kesennuma Regional Energy Development (an effort to make use of woody biomass derived from forest thinning) are just a few examples of the non-profit and for-profit organizations that have enjoyed national attention in the wake of the disaster.
And though it is not, strictly speaking, a new business, longstanding Kesennuma seafood processor Abecho Shoten has developed new anchovy and other products under its recently established Mermaid brand, and is actively working to expand its sales channels.But when it comes to the incoming first-year university students—those who were in junior high school when the March 11 disaster hit—their memories of the Great East Japan Earthquake are nothing more than some vague recollection of a passing event.This is a direct result of the fact that the Tokyo-based media no longer says anything about it.In other words, they used the tragedy as a rare opportunity to further their own social agendas—a type of behavior that closely matches what Naomi Klein calls as an attitude whereby people interpret the world according to how they want to see it, giving little or no credence to objectivity and empiricism.There are concerns that the “experts” spouting the above views are taking a very similar approach.The “Accelerate Reconstruction” slogan issued by the Japanese government rings hollow across Tohoku, simply bringing into sharp focus the emptiness and superficiality of Japan’s long-cherished commonality and civic-mindedness.Some three years after the disaster, there was an increasing number of opportunities to be asked whether the Japanese society had really ended up changing as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake.The residents of Hamadori all seem to be falling silent.Meanwhile, the Tokyo-based mainstream media have lost the ability to put out investigative reports and put important topics in the spotlight, and appear to have filed the Great East Japan Earthquake away with the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 as something that happened long ago.My article in the summer of 2013 was titled “Reconstruction Stuck at the Recovery Level,” in which I felt I had no choice but to report on the exhaustion and impoverishment facing disaster-stricken regions.I am writing this article with no more optimism, but with the mainstream media falling apart, I believe the only way to get the word out is for individuals to keep repeatedly speaking up about the issues.