Nakanishi is a professor of urban and regional planning at University of Canberra, and she recently worked with the Junposha Co. to translate the book Surviving the 2011 Tsunami: 100 Testimonies of Ishinomaki Area Survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
She wanted to translate the book into English to tell as many people around the world what can be learned from natural disasters like the Miyagi prefecture earthquake and tsunami.
“We have to care about catching earthquakes, tsunami, or other disasters ahead of time,” Nakanishi says. “Japan has a lot of disasters, which can happen anywhere and everyday, big or small.”
On March 11th, 2011, an earthquake struck Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. It caused damage on an unparalleled scale and the resulting tsunami killed many.
Even only a few years after the disaster, Nakanishi noticed how short peoples’ memories could be and how few remember the lessons learned from these disasters. In an interview with Nikkei Voice, she told us about the importance of being prepared for the next disaster.
“We hold an anniversary for the ‘Hansin Awaji earthquake in 1995 in Hyogo prefecture’ every year; however, peoples’ memories get smaller in every life cycle,” she tells us.
“It is the worst problem, because when disasters happen suddenly people soon forget it,” Nakanishi said over Skype from Japan.
For her, being prepared for an earthquake begins by looking far into the past.
The 1946 Nankai earthquake rocked Japan at a magnitude of 8.1, and experts say they can predict another will hit the Kansai and Kanto region in the next 30 years.
Many people believe that a natural disaster will never hit them in person. Everyone seems to think they will just see it on the television, but that’s not true and it is certainly an inevitability for many Japanese citizens.
During the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami one of the other disasters that occurred, was at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, one of two plants in the area.
As someone from Japan, I have been asked many times by my friends whether Fukushima is ok or if Japan’s fish is ok to eat. According to the media, the situation there is getting better. However, the Western media always seems to focus only on the nuclear disaster and not the tsunami.
“In Australia, people think the nuclear disaster will take a long time to improve,” Nakanishi says.
“Australian mass media can report only what the Japanese media says, so many people don’t think for themselves and believe that Fukushima is already ok. It still has a long way to go much like Chernobyl,” she says.
We should be aware of all sides of disasters daily, and for Nakanishi this is of the utmost importance.
“First of all, be prepared with useful things such as a flashlight, food, water, clothes, and so on,” she says. “It’s the easiest safety measure, besides the most important thing: talking to your neighbours. Everyone should know how they can help each other when disasters happen, know whether they are taking care of their health and make sure how they escape to safe place as Japan has many older people who often live alone. We have to care about small things eventually,” Nakanishi says.
Previous earthquakes in the Tohoku region built awareness of pending disasters, but even with the preparations the area was devastated nonetheless.
However, by cooperating with local governments and helping each other, the death toll seen in the disaster could have been much higher than it was.
As for future earthquakes in urban regions like Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Aichi, Nakanishi says people should escape to higher places such as hills or mountains.
As well, Japanese citizens shouldn’t use cars and make sure to have an evacuation route and to cooperate with other citizens and the local government.
A disaster can happen anytime, anywhere, and people often forget about the lessons learned from the last big earthquake or tsunami.
If we don’t prepare for them, something bad could happen and we should do at least the minimum to protect ourselves. These are really small things we can do, but they can have a big impact when disaster strikes.
For more be sure to take a look at the translated version of Surviving the 2011 Tsunami: 100 Testimonies of Ishinomaki Area Survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. You can find it online and purchase it through Amazon at this link: http://amzn.to/1i6MLrw