A message from Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu of Japan to Bhutan on the occasion of the five-year commemoration of the great east Japan earthquake

Five years have passed since the Great East Japan earthquake hit the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. I, as the Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Bhutan, take this opportunity to express my deep condolences for the victims and their bereaved families. I would also like to once again express our heartfelt gratitude to the Kingdom of Bhutan and all over the world who very kindly extended their assistance and warm encouragement in our hour of need.

We received a series of precious assistance from Bhutan. His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley (at that time) delivered heartwarming condolence letters. A donation from His Majesty the King amounting to USD1 million was truly appreciated by the affected people living under severe circumstances. On March 12, 2011, a memorial ceremony was hosted by His Majesty the King, and on the following March 13, another memorial ceremony was held with the attendance of Prime Minister Thinley, all Ministers, and Chairs of the National Assembly of Bhutan. I deeply appreciate these warm gestures of solidarity towards Japan and we will never forget the grateful assistance rendered to us by Bhutan.

When Their Majesties the King and Queen visited Japan as state guests in November 2011, the same year that the disaster took place, His Majesty the King delivered a speech in the National Diet. His Majesty expressed in the speech condolences for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and expressed encouragement for reconstruction. During Their Majesties’ visit to an elementary school in Fukushima, which is located near the nuclear plant, His Majesty gave a message to the school children, referring to a dragon, which gave them courage to live through strongly even under difficult situations. To return their gesture for the visit of Their Majesties to Fukushima, the people in Miharu-town, which is famous for “Taki zakura” (outstanding large cherry blossoms), planted young cherry trees in Bhutan.  This has resulted in a grass-roots technical assistance project in Bhutan for Urban Greenery Re-Vitalization by Enhancing Capacity on Floriculture and Amenity Landscaping.

During the last five years, all the people in the affected region have dedicated themselves, working hand in hand, for the recovery and reconstruction of Tohoku despite the harsh conditions. The government of Japan has executed the recovery and reconstruction measures in the past five years as an “Intensive Reconstruction Period”. There has been much visible progress in infrastructure improvement, reconstruction of school and hospital facilities and removal and disposal of disaster waste. At the peak the number of evacuees amounted to 470,000; however this has now been reduced to 174,000.

In Fukushima Prefecture, there has been step-by-step, steady progress of reconstruction work. The situation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has steadily progressed on decommissioning and contaminated water management.

We recognize the importance of preparedness for disaster risk reduction as a vital lesson learnt from the Great East Japan earthquake. We sincerely hope that people of all countries have been able to deepen their knowledge about disaster risk reduction through discussions such as the third UN World Conference of Disaster Risk Reduction held at Miyagi Prefecture.

This year commemorates the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bhutan. I hope that many mutual visits by Japanese and Bhutanese people to each country will take place in order to deepen the understanding with each other, resulting in further enhancement of our bilateral friendly relationship. I look forward to many Bhutanese people will visit Japan and witness the revival of Tohoku.