On March 11, 2012 Dean Frank Gilliam and Professor and Chair of Urban Planning Lois Takahashi attended an event commemorating the one year anniversary of the Great Northern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami at the Forum for International Research Collaboration in Sendai, Japan. The goal was to bring together universities from around the world to discuss possible cooperation on issues of disaster preparedness and disaster science.
We spent the night at a unique Japanese "ryokan" accommodation called San-san-kan, which used be a local elementary school that was reformed as accommodation after it closed. The old wooden building did not get any serious damage by the the consecutive major earthquakes, although it is located in Minami-sanriku city, which is close to the epicenter of the 311 Great East Japan Earthquake. This disaster caused a myriad of tragedies by the huge tsunami, however, it also revealed that buildings in snowy regions are robust and resilient against earthquakes.
After touring two distinctly different parts of Japan, the bustling and modern metropolis of Tokyo and the quiet devastation found in the wild and scenic northern region of Tohoku, we arrived in Kyoto for the final leg of our trip. Once the Imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is largely viewed as the most "traditional" Japanese city with over 2,000 religious places scattered throughout this beautiful city nestled in the valley of the Yamashiro Basin and surrounded by majestic mountains.
After a couple of carefree days in Tokyo, today we headed to the Tohoku region which only one year ago was the site of the most powerful known earthquake to ever hit Japan.
The earthquake began at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2011, and was the first in a chain reaction of disasters that went on to affect this region. By 3:30 p.m. that same day, the tsunami came and tore across the land, taking with it all that stood in its path - buildings toppled, cars crushed and, sadly, many lives lost to the power of the ocean.
I have never met so many people who are so incredibly nice, helpful, and gracious in my life. From the two graduate students - Sean and Yoichi - who showed us around Tokyo for over 8 hours, to our new friend Mitsu, who gave us an all-day guided tour through the incredibly complicated subway system, to the recipients of aid we delivered that wouldn't let us leave withought presenting us with a small gift of appreciation. Everyone was so perfectly genuine and thoughtful that it was truly amazing.
After twelve hours, one express train, and one subway ride later, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs student delegation has made it to Tokyo!