An Englishwoman’s story of disaster relief

By James Clark

"One Month in Tohoku: An Englishwoman’s memoir on life after the Japanese tsunami” is Caroline Pover’s inspiring story, of life in Oshika on the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, after the 2011 earthquake and following tsunami.

It’s difficult not to feel emotion when I'm sitting here recalling memories of the devastation unfolding, due to the attention it got from the media, but a month or so after, the media packed their bags, new stories engaged us, we forgot, and we moved on. Even in Tokyo, life returned to pretty much normal very quickly. This is when Pover (living in Tokyo at the time) stepped in.

Screenshot 2020-10-07 at 20.20.57.png
Caroline Pover

Feeling lost and a little helpless, she headed to the UK and embarked on a fundraising campaign which involved spending time touring schools and other clubs while talking to people about what had happened in the Tohoku region in Japan.

And it didn’t end there. She sorted the goods and even drove them for six and a half hours along pitch black earthquake damaged roads, from Narita Airport to the Tohoku region to be delivered to people living on the streets and a local distribution point.

Pover drove to the Oshika peninsula, as she’d become aware that emergency aid wasn’t getting there. She met people with the clothes on their backs, their only possessions. The book's mention of a woman excited by a new pair of socks filled my heart with gratitude for everything that I have.

In Oshika, people's houses and businesses were gone. They were attempting to shelter wherever they could, in tents, in the community center or behind a wall if they were fortunate enough to have one from their former homes still standing.

But community in Oshika was not lost.

Now most of us would have driven away from Oshika with a feeling of accomplishment and returned to our everyday lives, but Pover wasn’t giving up that easily. She has returned to the Oshika peninsula every year since 2011, apart from 2020 due to the pandemic. As friendships began to form, she was able to establish exactly what residents needed and ensure that they got it. All the money and sponsorship went directly to the community. Travel expenses she paid herself.

This is a story about people, resilience, their communities and how they rebuilt their lives one step at a time. "One Month in Tohoku" is written from the heart and although it’s heartbreaking, it isn’t just sad. There’s lots of moments that made me burst out laughing. I was unable to get beyond the prologue without a smirk and the curiosity to continue the story to see what Pover gets up to next.

"One Month in Tohoku" is for anyone who has ever considered giving up some of their time to voluntary work and people with the capacity to think about the lives of others.

Read it and allow your heart to open. You’ll realize that the kids not behaving at school or losing your job due to the pandemic isn’t quite the big drama that you’ve allowed it to be.

"One Month in Tohoku: An Englishwoman’s memoir on life after the Japanese tsunami” is available on Amazon, in bookstores (Maruzen and Kinokuniya in Japan), and from the author directly via Kindle and paperback editions are available.

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The work that Ms Pover - and those who supported her and whom she supported - is remarkable. I recommend this book.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Thank you for that, Ma-Hu. I am now even more interested in reading it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Curse my early-morning brain.

*has done

The work that she has done is remarkable. :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Is Japan not a rich nation?

It might be but compassion is extremely limited.

Aid collected by the Red Cross was leaked into other areas of the country completely unrelated to the earthquake.

I know of several foreign volunteers that have given their time and risked their health for the victims of the 2011 quake.

However, the aid that should have been supplied by the state, in this and other previous disasters is not amd has not been enough.

I will never give a single yen to groups collecting money in the street as they are not trustworthy.

The only way is to put money into a victim's hand directly!

How good is the state in Jpan?

Well, in Kobe, 26 years after the massive quake, there are people STILL living in damaged houses and prefabs-why?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@kurisupisu, 100% agree. I’ve been always amazed at how Japan doles out foreign aid to other countries, yet their own citizens live in temporary shacks or damaged houses for many years.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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