During Tohoku Week, held between 12 and 16 July, the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) shone a spotlight on local businesses and tourism in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. These were the prefectures most acutely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the disaster.
Tohoku Week was launched to help BCCJ members and followers connect with the stories of local people, still working hard to rebuild their local communities, livelihoods and individual situations. Additionally, Tohoku Week—the BCCJ’s first Japan regional deep dive—helped to promote local businesses and tourism in the three prefectures, both remotely and in person.
Lori Henderson, executive director at the BCCJ noted the hard work the BCCJ team had put in to present members and the wider community with “business and community projects that might benefit from future support”.
On the second day, BCCJ members travelled virtually through Miyagi, where Ishinomaki-based BCCJ member Kyoko Sasaki—one of the local leaders of the BCCJ’s Back to Business (B2B) for Tohoku Initiative—gave a virtual tour around spots in Ishinomaki and Onagawa.
On the third day, the focus was on Iwate, highlighting recent developments. The prefecture has seen a massive effort to rebuild livelihoods and local industries. A new city hall was opened earlier this year in Rikuzentakata, while Watami Organic Land, Japan’s largest organic-farming theme park, opened on 29 April.
There was also mention of BCCJ member firm Walk Japan’s nine-day tour of the Michinoku Coastal Trail. This is a 1,025km footpath that starts in the city of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, and ends in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture.
The fourth day focused on Fukushima, Japan’s third-largest prefecture. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the prefecture’s coastal areas, causing a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in the evacuation of thousands of people.
Tohoku Week took a look at some of the local businesses in the area. Suzuki Sake is a brewery that is focusing on producing the drink made from local Fukushima rice, which dropped in value in the aftermath of the disaster. The brewery originally was based in Namie, Fukushima, but it had to relocate to Yamagata Prefecture. The enterprise is in the process of returning to Namie, according to the head of the brewery, Daisuke Suzuki. He said that continuing to make the sake brought hope, adding that, “I hope to be a testament to the lives which have been lost”.
When Tohoku Week came to an end, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Japan, Julia Longbottom CMG, provided some closing words.
“I know there are British people living in Tohoku who are doing their best to forge strong links of friendship and cooperation between our two countries. I hope that we will see British companies also attracted to the region. We can all play our part.
“I look forward to visiting the region as soon as I can and seeing for myself the amazing work that BCCJ members are doing with local enterprises”.