Tohoku Gambate Kudasai
-2012 IIST Industrial Tour in Tohoku-
-2012 IIST Industrial Tour in Tohoku-
Syed Ali Asad Gillani
Deputy Chief of Mission
Embassy of Pakistan
With the cooperation of the Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) held an industrial tour in September 2012 in Miyagi and Iwate for foreign diplomats stationed in Tokyo. Here is a contribution by Mr. Syed Ali Asad Gillani, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Pakistan, who had visited Tohoku region several times after the disaster to help people in the affected area. Three other participants of the mission have also joined to extend their words on this industrial tour.
Since my arrival in Japan in November 2009, the serenity and beauty of Tohoku region always attracted me to visit there, however, I was never able to visit it. However, since the unfortunate Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, I have visited Tohoku region six times in three months to deliver numerous relief goods to Sendai, Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate. First time on 14 March, along with Ambassador and other members of Pakistan Embassy, carrying basic necessarily items to different relief camps in Sendai. Travelling in Embassy cars, we never faced any security hindrances on our way. My most frequent destination was Ishinomaki School no 1 where two Pakistani volunteers had established a relief camp and were providing hot cooked food for around 800 victims every day.
Travelling to Tohoku region during my six visits was always an emotionally charged experience. Lopsided houses, smell of dead, broken roads, scattered children toys and shoes all told the untold stories of the tragedy that befell on the region. But it was the tearful hugs of the elders; smiles on faces of children after receiving gifts sent from mothers in Pakistan; and the patience, resilience and determination in the eyes of survivors that always forced us to return to the region.
In September 2012, I was fortunate to be part of the IIST Industrial Tour to Tohoku. The Tohoku that I saw in March 2011 and the Tohoku that I visited in September 2012 were very different. Life in September was back to normal, loved ones were remembered but with a zeal to rebuild, there still are challenges but there is also a strong resolve and planning to overcome them. This quick comeback speaks volumes about strength and resilience of the people in Tohoku.
Our 3-day IIST Industrial Tour included visits to Tokyo Electron Miyagi Limited, IRIS Ohyama, Matsushima, Ichinokura Co. Ltd, Oigen Foundry Co. Ltd, and Chuson-ji Temple. Our Group included diplomats (including Ambassadors) from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Germany, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand the USA and the EU. We all were deeply impressed by what all we saw. An extensive briefing provided by Tohoku Bureau of METI greatly helped all the participants in developing a deeper understanding of the strengths, opportunities and challenges faced by the region. The state-of-the art technologies used by Tokyo Electron, the variety of products offered by IRIS Ohyama, the traditions of Ichinokura brewery, the high standard craftsmanship at Oigen and the beauty and serenity of Matsushima and Chuson-ji Temple. All showcase the strengths and potential of the Tohoku region. Visit to Miyagi Prefectural Govt Office and courtesy call on the Vice Governor helped us to better understand regional government’s plans for the region.
While Tohoku’s name is now well known internationally, but it is due to the tragedy that befell on March 11, and not because of the numerous opportunities that it offers. IIST Tour was an excellent effort to exhibit Tohoku’s strengths. Similar efforts need to be made to project what Tohoku offers. This would not only be beneficial for Tohoku region but for the entire world to benefit from the vast opportunities offered by the region. I am confident that with continued persistence and efforts, Tohoku will be back on its feet even stronger. Tohoku, Gambate Kudasai!
Commercial Attache, Deputy Chief of Commercial Section
Embassy of the Republic of Austria
From 12 to 14 September 2012 I had the opportunity to participate in the IIST Industrial Tour in Tohoku. This was my first visit to the Tohoku region and I was deeply impressed by the scenic beauty of the landscape and the friendliness and hospitality of the people there. It was amazing to see that the huge reconstruction- and repair efforts after the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit the Tohoku coastline on 11 March 2011 have advanced so rapidly and effectively.
Together with a group made up of 10 diplomats from different countries I had the chance to get an overview of a variety of industrial sectors of Tohoku region. Amongst others, our tour provided us with visits to the factories of Tokyo Electron, a leading producer of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry, and Iris Ohyama, a major manufacturer of household items. At the Oigen foundry our group learned about the traditional manufacturing process of cast ironware; at the Ichinokura sake brewery we enjoyed a tour through the different steps of the sake producing process.
Definitely one of the highlights of the IIST Industrial Tour was sightseeing in Matsushima, one of the three most scenic sites in Japan and the visit of Chuson-ji, a historical temple compound in Hiraizumi which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I would like to thank the organizers of the IIST Industrial tour for coordinating, organizing and hosting this insightful and interesting trip to Tohoku region. The tour gave me a very useful overview of the opportunities this region of Japan has to offer. I am sure that I will come back soon for another visit.
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
I had only been in Japan for a week when I had the great opportunity to join the IIST/METI tour of the Tohoku region. It could not have offered a better opportunity to understand and appreciate the efforts regional government together with private companies have undertaken to put the province back on its feet. I was particularly surprised to see so few signs of the disaster after just 1 1/2 years of rebuilding. IIST, the organizers of the tour, did a splendid job in guiding and educating diplomats from around the world about the history, culture as well as opportunities for tourism and business in Miyagi and Iwate. I look forward to my next study program with IIST.
Albrecht Rothacher, Ph.D.
Minister Counsellor (Economic and Political)
Delegation of the European Union to Japan
I found it a very moving experience to visit and to learn about the miraculous escape of the beautiful coastal town of Matsushima with its rich cultural treasures from the horrors of the tsunami (few people abroad know about it) and to hear first hand about the resourcefulness and speedy initiatives which local businesses, their owners and workers, have undertaken to supply the stricken families quickly with water, daily necessities and household goods. Yet it was also reassuring to learn about the many protective measures undertaken since to minimize further the devastations and disruptions of future possible disasters. In the meantime we were all glad to hear that 99% of Tohoku is back in business, we witnessed Sendai and the other provincial towns as thriving lively places, many of which, like Matsushima and the area around Chuson-ji, are absolutely worth to visit again."
(original article : English)