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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the coastal region near Sendai on Monday. The area was heavily impacted by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. A boat that was washed 1 km inland is seen in the background.

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It is worth noting that this is very likely is not a photo-op, but rather a concerned world leader getting a first-hand account of the destruction and the lives affected by it. I can tell you personally that seeing pictures and video of the damage and walking amongst it are two very different things. Also, the Sendai area (Ishinomaki specifically, if I recall) is where the only Canadian citizen to die during the disaster lived. It makes sense he would visit there.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

After the earthquake and the tsunami, many people stopped visiting or travelling those area. Many Japanese people know that people in those area are suffered with losing chances to get money from visitor. That's why we try to participate those bus tours or visit there by ourselves and use money for hotels, restaurants, and buying stuff, which help them financially.

It's good to visit there and see directly, and it would make you to consider what you can do for sufferers not only that time, but in the future as well.

You can't sense the real condition there only by media.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I have to respectfully disagree, tmarie. Because I don't see that they are being treated as "zoo animals and as an attraction" at all. How/where do you see that happening?

What do all countries hasten to say after any similar disaster? They always say, Please don't keep away, please come, please visit, please see that we are surviving and need support and encouragement (and money). They want to be remembered, right?

If I shrink this down somewhat - let's say there is a house fire in your neighbourhood, it partly burns down, perhaps someone even dies? and that family is living in temporary housing now... Are you going to ignore them for fear of shaming them? Or will you now say hello as you walk by, ask if they need anything, offer to help out, bring round some useful gifts, a fruit basket or whatever?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Heda_Madness;

They do. They appreciate it a heck of a lot. A lot more than people on here seem to realise. They really appreciate that they haven't been forgotten. That people from Japan and elsewhere have done stuff to help them. They often can't actually put it in words.

100% in agreement - the locals in Tohoku appreciate the visitors and appreciate help. Visits from foreign leaders help remind the world that this was where the real disaster took place, not Fukushima,

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I wonder if the locals appreciate the fact that people - foreign dignitaries, even - are coming to see the devastated regions where they (the locals) live, or would they rather nobody came at all and just ignored them?

Quite honestly, I believe that people are glad that attention of this 'useless' kind is still being paid. Surely anybody coming to the area, instead of just viewing from a screen, is a positive act?

I learnt recently that JTB is doing bus tours of Kesennuma, so that people can come and see for themselves.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@ExportExpert: What are his other reasons?

However nefarious his motives, the end result in the papers and on TV is a good one. We, The People, both here in Japan and overseas, see the ongoing situation up North, are reminded that the region still needs a lot of support, and we are in turn motivated to do something to help. So even if he is, as you say Ex2, there for self-promotion, something good is coming out of it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Japanese Govt. mismanagement of funds /rebuilding is a very important topic, you're right, tmarie, but it is slightly off-topic here.

Nearly every leader from every country that has been to Japan in the last year has flown to the area for a day, walked around and left.

If you think they should pitch tent, roll up their sleeves and grab a shovel and get digging in for a couple of weeks, you have an odd idea of what a country leader's job entails. And if these leaders had just gone to Tokyo and not this area, would you have been any more satisfied?

Has Harper handed over a donation, did his visit bring money to the area? I don't know, so I can't comment. Seriously, what should these representatives of other countries do to show their support, then?

Similarly, I have no details about the JTB tours other than that they exist, and people go on them. Where is the money from the tours going? Again, I don't know. Are the participants getting off the buses and walking around and talking to people, or staying on the bus and eating their bentos? Still don't know. Most importantly, do the locals resent this kind of attention? I would love to know - does anyone?

But I have no reason to bitch about something I have no negative information about.

And finally, tmarie, you seem to have, deliberately or otherwise,misunderstood my house fire analogy! Too bad.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I'd agree with SumoBob.

Secondly

I wonder if the locals appreciate the fact that people - foreign dignitaries, even - are coming to see the devastated regions where they (the locals) live

They do. They appreciate it a heck of a lot. A lot more than people on here seem to realise. They really appreciate that they haven't been forgotten. That people from Japan and elsewhere have done stuff to help them. They often can't actually put it in words.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I fail to see how a foreign dignitary coming is treating the victims like zoo animals. When they come they usually promise aid in one form or another, it would be pretty brainless for them to come, walk around and go back home again, wouldn't it? The town, as someone brought up, is where a Canadian citizen was killed. You don't think maybe he was paying his respects?

You're far too cynical , t-marie.

"Harper also met the mayor of Yuriage and laid flowers at a hilltop shrine to express his condolences.

He told officials in the coastal town about 90 kilometres from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant that Canada stood ready to provide further assistance.

Ottawa provided 25,000 thermal blankets and other relief supplies in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Last November, Ottawa, B.C. and the forestry sector announced $4.5 million in support for the Canada-Tohoku Reconstruction Project, which will assist in the reconstruction of schools and elderly care centres

The Canadian embassy in Tokyo is also running a program that allows school kids in the Sendai region the opportunity to come to Canada to learn either French or English. "

Looks like it isn't only yakuza who are going to help rebuild....

2 ( +4 / -2 )

With its partner organizations in Japan, the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo has done lots of work in the Tohoku region over the past year. The PM going to Sendai is absolutely more than a photo op. He gets to witness the outcome of the relationships forged by the Embassy and report about them when he returns home. Like it or not this is part of the job of a PM.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

And yes, it would be nice for these leaders to roll up their sleeves and help. If they are going to spend tax payer's money on the flight, the security, the cars... the least they could do it actually do something a little more than stand around and look concerned for their photo-op.

What an incredibly ignorant and callous statement by the petty poster.

It's not the PMs job to roll up his sleeves and do something for the 2.5 days he is here. The PM oversee's and leads the government's relief efforts. The Canadian government's representative body in Japan is the Canadian Embassy. They have done tons of things in Tohoku this past year. Embassy staff and volunteers alike spending countless weekends of their personal time in an effort to bring new life to people who are rebuilding form zero.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

SumBob;

It is worth noting that this is very likely is not a photo-op, but rather a concerned world leader getting a first-hand account of the destruction and the lives affected by it. I can tell you personally that seeing pictures and video of the damage and walking amongst it are two very different things. Also, the Sendai area (Ishinomaki specifically, if I recall) is where the only Canadian citizen to die during the disaster lived. It makes sense he would visit there.

Well said - I'm no fan of Harper but I think it's impossible to go up there and see the destruction up close and personal and not be moved by it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

do you offer up JTB tours as a good thing

Where did I write that? Quote me.

So much has gone wrong and there are so many problems already, what look for more? It's a horrible way to live a life - finding fault in everything from the get-go.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Those poor people still stuck in shelter

Do you mean the people in temporary housing? The shelters closed a long time ago. It seems that we need many, many more overseas dignitries to visit and ensure that people know exactly what's going on.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I agree with SumoBob.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thank you for your comment, SumoBob. Though some people maybe be visiting the area like ambulance chasers, that's not the only reason people might choose to visit Tohoku.

There are people are compelled to bear witness and to stand in solidarity with those affected by disaster. No video--however large the screen or sophisticated the sound system--can convey the magnitude of what happened in Tohoku. Some people wish to see for themselves and feel in their bodies and souls a measure of what others have suffered. It is a small way of bearing suffering with others. A world leader who does this in person will be more motivated to do more and create more opportunities to help than one who stays away.

Also, a Canadian died here as another poster pointed out. It's worth remembering something (Beat) Takeshi Kitano stated in the Shukan Post last year, "This is not one incident in which 20,000 people died. It is 20,000 incidents, in each of which one person died." Bearing witness in person to an individual as well as to the other individuals in the region who perished brings it to the personal level. The Prime Minister's visit will likely mean a great deal to the Canadian family. Let's hope there are Japanese families who also understand this gesture.

Universally, laying flowers and offering condolences with silence are small symbolic tributes that represent solidarity, empathy and respect. If it were meaningless, no one would visit shrines or graves or war monuments or Hiroshima or Auschwitz. People all over the world continue to remember 3.11. Many of us who are far away stood in solidarity at the same moment all of Japan paused for a moment of silence this month.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are people are compelled to bear witness and to stand in solidarity with those affected by disaster.

Yes. Internalize it, understand it, and share it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Boo ho,o lets all keep feeling sorry for ourselves and kidding ourselves that everyone else does too

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As a Canadian with friends in Sendai, I'm glad our PM made the trip. He was able to pass along a message for me. And that makes him anything but the 'twit' one poster called him.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Where's his mask? Since here in Japan, every third person is wearing one.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

t-marie, what evidence do you have that the yakuza are getting 'all the contracts'?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All readers back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A preview of the type of debris that will be washing up in Canada very soon.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I could understand if Canadian construction companies and the like were allowed in the area but from my understanding, all contracts have gone to Japanese companies (cough, yakuza) so....

FYI your much hated Gokudo as I would politely refer to them were the first to provide aid for the Hanshin Earthquake victims. They also rely on able bodied underprivileged minorities who are ignored altogether by the legit construction firms. Face it, the Yakuza are not problem, they are the symptom of the persisting bigotry in mainstream Japanese society.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The last shelter closed in December but in other areas they closed much quicker. In Iwate, for instance, they'd closed in September and elsewhere the vast majority of victims had moved to the temporary housing before the shelters closed.

And yes, this could have been handled better but the issue with foreign companies coming in and providing shelter isn't anywhere near as black and white as you've tried to make out.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

A year later and people are still being trucked up there? Why? Harper doesn't need to see the area to know how devastated is was. Save the taxpayers the cost of the trip, stay in Tokyo and get cracking on those meetings. I could understand if Canadian construction companies and the like were allowed in the area but from my understanding, all contracts have gone to Japanese companies (cough, yakuza) so....

-2 ( +7 / -10 )

Yes agree tmarie it is absolutely pointless other than the photo op and a chance to experience the wow factor for his own satisfaction, stick to the business at hand no need for this type of look at me trip.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Like the Indonesia tsunami and Haiti earthquake, it will all be forgotten soon, so why bother?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Agreed EE. I am getting really tired of these photo ops that really don't do anything for Japan or the other country.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

"Eh? What's this junket all abOOT?"

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Maria and Co this twit isnt up there spending money, baring gifts and helping out, he is up there for other reasons. Self Promotion being One of them.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I wonder if he also got some Oyajis doing that "tsk" thing to him when they passed by him on the street?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

GHOULS is the word i was looking for. Like Vultures looking to pick over the carcass.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I don't know maria, perhaps they are tired of being treated like zoo animals and as an attraction from others? JTB sounds disgusting with that. These are people's lives and home that were destroyed, not some Disney event.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Because I don't see that they are being treated as "zoo animals and as an attraction" at all. How/where do you see that happening?

You don't? You don't think that parades of leaders from various countries walking around the area looking at things and getting their photos ops makes it an attraction? I do. Nearly every leader from every country that has been to Japan in the last year has flown to the area for a day, walked around and left. How does that help the community? Japan has pretty much banned international builders to come in and help. People are done with donations since we know they've been poorly managed and the people probably don't know nor care about these leaders. It is purely shelfish of both the Japanese government AND the other governments to do such things now. It has been a year.

No one is saying anything about forgetting these people. You don't open a ticket booth to allow people in to look at a home destroyed by a fire do you? You don't arrange tours do you? JTB only cares about making a profit, not the people who are suffering.

It is very, very similar to people slowing down on the street to look at an accident. How many people actually get out and offer help or do something to deal with the situation? Very, very few.

Minoru, if people want to help, perhaps they could grab a hammer, a mask, some gloves and go help remove things rather than sit in their warm hotel rooms discussing how "kowaiso" it is.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Canada finally has a leader they can be proud of.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

And finding fault is the only way to improve things. I would prefer Japan open up and let other builders in. Those poor people still stuck in shelter might have homes now. If Japan would allow others in, more could be done. As it is, smiling and taking a picture for the public isn't helping anyone but the PM's image.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Sorry, yes, temp housing. And a "long time ago" - I thought the last closed in Dec.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Maria, do you offer up JTB tours as a good thing and now admit you have no idea what the people do, where the money goes...?

And yes, it would be nice for these leaders to roll up their sleeves and help. If they are going to spend tax payer's money on the flight, the security, the cars... the least they could do it actually do something a little more than stand around and look concerned for their photo-op.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Neo, I wasn't complaining about the yaks, I was commenting on the fact that they are getting the contracts and international companies are being left in the cold. I 100% agree with what you're saying with regards to the Hanshin earthquake and have posted the same thing myself a few times.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

***Quite honestly, I believe that people are glad that attention of this 'useless' kind is still being paid. Surely anybody coming to the area, instead of just viewing from a screen, is a positive act?

I learnt recently that JTB is doing bus tours of Kesennuma, so that people can come and see for themselves.*

How is you mention JTB right after talking about how it is a good thing that people are going to the area - calling it a positive act.

Himajin, perhaps I am. Canada has indeed done a lot but I don't think visiting the area is going to get Japan more donations and money. As I said, if Harper was there about business, great. It is a pretty price to pay respect to one poor soul who lost his life. Japan has taken a lot of donations but when it comes to rebuilding, has pretty much left everyone who isn't Japanese out in the cold. I don';t see how these trips help at all.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

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