Consulate-General of Japan in Houston


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Consul General's News Letter From Houston

Remarks by Consul-General Jota Yamamoto
at the Reception in Memory of the Great East
Japan Earthquake held on March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012

Like you all, I was alerted yesterday to the news that a big earthquake hit the part of Mexico, and I conveyed my sympathy to my colleague the Honorable Consul-General of Mexico.  Fortunately, there has been no report on serious damage, though the possible aftershocks will require the continued attention. 

Distinguished Guests and Dear Colleagues,
I appreciate your attendance this evening, as many of you traveled long distances from various places in Texas and Oklahoma to be here.  Seeing your faces now, I am given the necessary courage to talk on this difficult subject.

The challenges in March last year were enormous.  15,854 people lost their lives.  240 children lost both their parents.  33 foreign nationals, including two Americans, lost their lives.  Damages totaled 212 billion dollars.  470,000 people evacuated homes.  51,000 acres of farming lands were underwater.  In Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, many fuel rods melted in the reactor and an 18.75 mile evacuation zone was established.

Now it is one year later.  A 225 billion dollar budget has been appropriated for recovery.  99.84% of the current 344,000 evacuees have been ensured the respective accommodations, with the number of people staying in the shelters having reduced to 578.  90% of inundated farmlands are projected to be revived within three years.  Electricity was, within weeks after the earthquake, fully restored in Tokyo and to 95% in the directly afflicted areas, and revived likewise were the highways and hi-speed train networks.

The troubled nuclear plant has been brought to a state of cold shutdown, following a phased plan towards decommissioning.  The evacuation zone was reduced to 12.5 miles.  Radiation levels in the air are closely monitored and publicly announced every weekday.  In Tokyo, the radiation dose is now 0.049 to 0.050 micro-sieverts per hour, comparable to that in major cities in the States. 

Radioactivity levels in crops and fish are also minutely monitored.  Food cannot be permitted to domestic market nor approved for export if its radioactivity levels exceed the regulatory standard.  Decontamination measures are strengthened to get rid of radioactive materials.  Japan is now open and safe for business, study and tourism. 

They have successfully started on March 18 the “Destination Tohoku Campaign”, one-year project to promote tourism in the stricken prefectures.  Visit us, buy from us.  Watch us too, as we will keep in place the necessary transparency and accountability to assure safety to the general public, media, and foreign nations. 

The earthquake has shaken many things but it failed to shake the vitality of Japan.  Rather, it has sharpened Japan’s determination to secure prosperity on a sounder basis.  We foresee steps to revitalization beyond reconstruction, with a focus on enhancing innovation, cultivating domestic demand, and drawing upon global opportunities.   

Distinguished Guests and Dear Colleagues,
On March 11, at 2:46 pm, we in Japan, along with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, observed the minute of silence to pray for the victims.  We did so also to express our sincere gratitude to all the people who have extended us their enormous support.  At the same moment, which was 11:46 pm on March 10 Houston Time, I observed a minute of silence to thank you all in Texas and Oklahoma.

With your support, we have managed the situation so far.  With your continued support, we can move forward.  And with thanks to your support, we will move forward.  This wrist-band carries three ideas: gratitude, friendship, and human bonds.  You have reminded us of these precious words, and always with these in mind, Japan can move forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege to introduce to you Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, one of the representative figures who have reminded the Japanese people of gratitude, friendship, and human bonds.  Admiral Walsh served as the 59th Commander of the US Pacific Fleet and carried out Operation Tomodachi following 3/11.  Operation Tomodachi, mobilizing 24,500 personnel, rescued us and assured us of the Japan-US alliance and solidarity. 

For his endeavor and achievement, Admiral Walsh was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.  Madam Andy Walsh also gave of herself, using her courageous hands to help caretakers, in particular those taking care of the children who suffered in the aftermath. 

I asked Admiral Walsh, currently staying in North Texas, to join and share his experience with us today, as that will surely let us understand what they did so bravely and why we in Japan appreciate it so deeply.  I now request Admiral Walsh to take the floor.  You have the floor, Sir.