Consul General Okada’s Web Message for April 2013
April brought full blossoms to the cherry trees in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has started and the streets are signaling the arrival of spring.
The past March 11 marked the 2nd anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. After this unprecedented disaster, the Kizuna (Bond of Friendship) Project was started as a part of Japanese reconstruction plans. Under this project, a group of students from West Vancouver Secondary School visited Japan from March 1 to 13. Their itineraries included various activities in Miyagi Prefecture, such as touring Yuriage, the most devastated neighbourhood in Natori City; visiting temporary housing for the tsunami evacuees while staying in a minshuku (bed-and-breakfast) in the Oku Matsushima area; and participating in exchanges with students from Seiwa Gakuen High Schools in Sendai City.
Prior to the visit, the students of West Vancouver Secondary came to my official residence and eagerly listened to my talks on the damage from the calamity and the current recovery status. During their stay in Japan, the students sent us e-mails to report the conditions in the affected communities. After visiting the disaster-struck areas in person, they have begun sharing their first-hand experiences with other Canadians by making documentary films, raising funds for the recovery and so forth.
From March 16 to 26, a group of students from Ryugasaki Daiichi High School of Ibaraki Prefecture came to Vancouver and visited West Vancouver Secondary School for exchange activities. The Japanese participants were accommodated at the family homes of the Canadian students who had just returned from their trip to Japan. During the school visit, the Ryugasaki Daiichi students shared their experiences of the disaster and the West Vancouver Secondary students presented their own action plans to support the cause. Also, through their ‘home stay’, each Japanese student seemed to have a taste of Canadian family life; for example, for one student, going to a movie after dinner with the family was a new experience because family outings after dinner are uncommon in Japan, and another student ate a Middle Eastern dish for the first time while staying with a family from the Middle East. Their Canadian experiences certainly reflect the multi-cultural aspect of the country as a nation of immigrants.
Before the group of Ryugasaki Daiichi School students went back to Japan, I hosted a farewell party inviting both groups to my official residence. At the party, a student representative from each group made a speech on their experiences in Japan and Canada respectively. Their trips were short, however, their speeches were impressive, thoroughly summing up their experiences in each respective destination. At the end of the party, both the Canadian and Japanese groups sang together “Hana wa saku”, a symbolic theme song for Japan’s recovery from the Earthquake. After the party, they bid a reluctant farewell by hugging each other and shedding tears. It was indeed a moving evening of departure.
The Kizuna between Canada and Japan has sprouted and is thriving here.