Tohoku citizens react to minister's gaffe on social media, launching positive campaign

By Sabria Meghraoui

While Japan still remains enraged about former disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura’s saying it was "a good thing" the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan (Tohoku) rather than the Tokyo area, the citizens of the disaster-affected areas took to social media to have their say — and change a highly controversial statement into a very positive one.

Shortly after the news of the gaffe broke, citizens living in the three Tohoku prefectures that were most severely affected by the disaster — Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima — began posting photos of beautiful scenery and unique sights of their region on social media with a hashtag  #東北でよかった (Tohoku de yokatta). The phrase is word for word of what  Imamura used in his speech, meaning "it's good (that this happened) in Tohoku," though in this context it is used to remind people of everything beautiful, delicious and unique the region has to offer.

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The hashtag has been used nearly 10,000 times on Instagram in several variations and is being retweeted over 1,000 times per hour, quickly becoming an unexpected positive campaign for the still struggling region.

The trend was quickly picked up by Japanese media, with news programs reporting on it. The Tohoku scenery, food and warmth among people quickly turned a negative situation into a positive campaign that sheds light on the resilience of the people living in the regions, rather than on their negativity and anger toward the infamous former minister.

Imamura resigned Wednesday after facing serious criticism from the Parliament and the public. He was replaced by Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and the chairman of a special lower house committee on disaster reconstruction.

Below is a selection of photos posted with the #TohokuDeYokatta hashtag. You can see more here and here.

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Nice to see the folks of Tohoku putting a positive spin on this mess!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If the earthquake had taken place in Tokyo, more people would have died....would this okay, without the its a good thing?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

When life gives you lemons, better get good quickly at making lemonade... It seems Tohoku did just that. Tohoku de yokatta...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love this! Out of disaster and insult, people are reaffirming their commitment to community and place. It's heartwarming to say the least.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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