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Operation Tomodachi

Upcoming Event in Washington D.C. with US Navy Admiral Patrick M. Walsh

Friday, July 22nd – 1:30pm

Japan Information and Culture Center, JICC Auditorium

1150 18th Street NW, Suite 100 | Washington, DC 20036-3838

For any of our readers in the greater Washington DC area, there’s an event this Friday that seems like it would be worth attending.  It’s hosted by the Japanese Embassy at their cultural center and will feature Admiral Patrick M. Walsh who will speak about Operation Tomodachi. 

This military operation was – and still is – in direct response to the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck Japan on March 11th of this year.  In March and April of this year, Admiral Walsh was the commander of the US forces during Operation Tomodachi.  This operation is a joint effort by the United States military and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to help rebuild the nation after the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

If I had not just spent a month in Japan and away from the office, I would certainly be putting in a leave slip to request time off to attend this event! 

Here is the website with the full event information, including parking.  It’s free, but requires registration, and you can RSVP here.

An interesting article about some of the language work was also recently published on the Army homepage: Language Institute Fills Communication Gap During Operation Tomodachi.

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I went to Japan for school, and not as an official representative of the Army.  I earned college credits towards my doctorate at UMBC, and completed a required service-learning internship by volunteering at a farm in Sasayama, about an hour away from Osaka and Kyoto. My work and research there was not in the main disaster area, though the effects of the disaster were felt throughout the country.  Everywhere I went, there was something that reminded me the recovery was making progress, but still had a long way to go.

Collection vessels were everywhere, with all monies going to relief groups working in the Tohoku area.  Many escalators in train and subway stations were not running; roped off with a sign, citing energy conservation concerns.  Many indoor public spaces, like building lobbies and trains were not using air conditioning, or only minimally.  Some were “cooling” the humid June air to 80 degrees F only.  A friend and professor at Akita University reported that the entire university is foregoing air conditioning this summer to save energy. No one knows how long this will last, when the recovery will be complete, and what will be discovered in the meantime.  The only sure thing is the level of uncertainty. 

I’d planned to go to Japan long before the earthquake hit; I’ve been going to Japan since 2004, spending a few weeks there whenever time, employment, and funds allowed.  And the earthquake only made me want to go even more.  My goals of this trip were (1) to study the impact of disaster, specifically WWII, on the Japanese culinary landscape,  (2) to do volunteer work on an organic farm, and (3) present research at a conference.   I did these things, and I had an amazing trip.  What I experienced there I could never have learned if I didn’t go.

Was it a risk to go to Japan at all?  Maybe.  I spent time in Sasayama, Osaka, and Kyoto, all far from the epicenter.  But I was in Tokyo for a lot of the trip, too, and rode the Tohoku shinkansen (bullet train) all the way to Akita.  There were a few earthquakes while I was there; and I ate food, drank water, and showered in these places.  But I couldn’t not go. 

We’ll resume our regular-style history blogs tomorrow.  Until then… じゃあまた!

Posted in History Happenings, History Outreach.

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