As part of our contribution to recovery efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) started the initiative known as the “Genki Mail” Project: Connecting the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster Area and the U.S. Five U.S. journalists representing young children in the U.S. stayed in Japan from June 26 to July 4, 2011, and visited three disaster stricken areas—Kesennuma City and Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture and Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture—as well as Tokyo and Kobe.
“Let’s deliver ‘Genki Mail’ to disaster victims from the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
Young U.S. journalists and the U.S.-Japan Council put out a call to school children across the U.S., and received as many as 7,000 messages of support (“Genki Mail”). These “Genki Mail” contained messages of support for the disaster victims such as “Don’t worry. We are with you. You are not alone” and “Cheer up. It will get better,” together with numerous thoughtfully drawn pictures, such as hearts.
During the program, the five journalists delivered “Genki Mail” to elementary school students and evacuation shelters. At Kesennuma Elementary School and Minami Kesennuma Elementary School, which the journalists visited, the journalists were greeted in rooms decorated with both the U.S. and Japanese flags, as well as singing and dancing, and they were given the opportunity to mingle with the children. The journalists also visited the Ishinomaki City Hall, organizations such as Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital, and disaster areas, and received information on the situation regarding the disaster and future recovery.
After visiting disaster areas, the journalists visited Tokyo and Kobe. In Kobe, they learned about the preservation of culture and disaster prevention gained from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and met the volunteer group responsible for translating the “Genki Mail.”
After participating in the program, the journalists gave their impressions of the experience.
“We went to encourage the children, but we were instead encouraged by the children’s smiling faces.”
“We hope to continue exchanges with the disaster areas.”
“Coverage in the U.S. media about the disaster focuses on the nuclear crisis, but we have learned a lot of new things by talking directly with the disaster victims.”
“We want to tell people in the U.S. about what we learned through this program.”
The program was a success.