Japan one year later – a first hand report from Rikuzentakata by Kiyoshi Murakami

Mr. Murakami gave a sad account of the losses and the disaster in Rikuzentakata, the town he once lived in.  There is the only one pine tree left standing of the 70,000 pines in the city.  It may not survive as the color is changing on the land that is now saturated with salt water.  The city called it the miracle tree.

Following the earthquake and the tsunami that hit his hometown, Mr. Murakami worked tirelessly to bring relief and rebuilding efforts.  The whole town was flattened after the disaster.  People remain missing. 

Mr. Murakami set up an organization called Aid Takata to coordinate help for the town. Countries over the world, and the USA, have come to their aid with donations and gifts of rebuilding and constructions. The town has an eight year plan to build a new city on the mountain and with a new infrastructure. Mr. Murakami has experience with non government organizations having served at the UN refugee agency, and experience in business management and human resources having worked at multinational financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Citibank.  He is currently serving at the Bank of New York Mellon as head of Human Resources for its Asset Management business in Asia Pacific Region.  During the weekend he would spend his time in his hometown working with the mayor, Mr. Toba with building and relief efforts and leading the town in its recovery efforts. He works with community leaders, with government officials and his organization to get immediate and efficient aid from Japan and the world for his town. One ingenious way was to gather the craftsmen to make crafts from the wood of the thousands of pines that were down during the tsunami and to sell them.

The town decided to have a mascot and the winning design is called City Of Hope.  High school students voted for the design. The city will  certainly soon be a new gleaming city of hope for the people with dedicated people like Mr. Murakami  and all peace loving nations in the world who have contributed so much.

Peng Leong serves as a volunteer with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

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