The Tohoku Earthquake

The Tohoku Earthquake struck northern Japan on the 3rd of March, 2011. Among those affected were JETs living in the area, many of whom witnessed first hand the destruction and subsequent hardship inflicted on survivors.

In the face of such adversity, the JETs did what the locals did: roll their sleeves up and participated in the reconstruction of their community – be it volunteering in refuge shelters, fundraising, or old-fashion labour in clearing out homes and schools. The following are ongoing organisations and grass-roots groups started by enterprising JETs:

  • Smile Kids Japan. Began in 2009 by a former JET, it has provided participants to volunteer at orphanages throughout Japan. After the Tohoku disaster, they began collaborating with other Japanese charities, focusing on children’s needs. Founder Michael Maher King has even been featured in an inspirational TEDxTokyo talk.
  • volunteerAKITA. Founder Jon Hui and his group has been prodigious with their fund-raising projects and volunteering work, with The Fruit Tree Project and Fair Takata.
  • Eyes for Fukushima (E4F). Dedicated to supporting fundraising and events in Fukushima prefecture.

The AJET site contains more information on general volunteering and fundraising in Japan.

Our own JETAA member, Sharon van Etten, in 2011 returned to her community in Iwate on the JET Alumni Visit Tohoku Program (sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Tourism Agency). She blogged about her experience about how the people of Iwate are rebuilding after the earthquake and tsunami. And read more stories as other former JETs from around the world return to Tohoku at jetwit.com.