Lessons From the Past Help Fukushima Students Rebuild

To encourage Fukushima Prefecture’s younger generation as they recover from the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, International Medical Corps and its local partner, The People, sent 15 junior high and high school students from Iwaki City on a 6-day tour to Minamata City. Known for a mercury poisoning disaster in the 1950s and 1960s in which poisonous wastewater was released into Minamata Bay causing thousands of local inhabitants to fall ill, Minamata is now a leader in Japan’s efforts to become environmentally friendly. Through a wide range of recycling and environmental programs, Minamata has overcome its negative history and now serves as an ideal place to study the process of rebuilding following an environmental disaster.

During their trip to Minamata, the Fukushima students participated in a series of educational tours, met with local educators and junior high school students, and spent time experiencing the natural beauty of the local environment. They also had a meeting with the Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture with whom they shared some of their experiences in Fukushima and learned lessons they could take back with them to Iwaki City.

“I learned that it took many years for Minamata to overcome the effects of their disaster, and to do so it needed the strength of the local people,” said Yuka, one of the students.

Through these educational tours and ongoing partnerships with Japanese organizations, International Medical Corps aims to ease the recovery process for the people of Fukushima so that one day they may serve as an example of overcoming adversity like their counterparts in Minamata.

“We believe Fukushima’s recovery is in our hands,” said Yuka. “And we will continue to volunteer our time to make this happen.”

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