Today is the one year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and the tsunami that followed it, destroying many lives.
I was still awake and online the night of the earthquake and tsunami. True to form, Twitter was quickly inundated with news and video of the disaster unfolding before us. It was quite something to behold and I had a lot of trouble going to sleep that night after watching the black water rush through the Japanese coast.
Perhaps because I also live in an earthquake zone and only a half hour’s drive from the beach at any given time, I felt a special kind of sympathy and pain with the victims. A natural disaster can happen to anyone and everyone, after all.
Thus, I was compelled last year, with the help of Mike Huang of Anime Diet, to start Anime and Manga Bloggers For Japan. Along with Mike Olivarez, Linda Yau and hundreds of other bloggers, we raised a total of $4,846.03 for Shelter Box and Doctors Without Borders, all through small donations from fans, bloggers and other people who felt the need to give responsibly to Japan.
The site hasn’t been updating nor has anyone donated money since April 2011, but my goodness, what we managed to do in a month. It was a truly inspiring experience.
After talking to Mike Huang about the situation, however, we’ve decided to close the Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan website when its domain expires soon. While we could keep the effort going, we failed to do so before and I would be afraid of failing to do so again. Sometimes, it’s just best to leave things to the more professional and organized fundraising efforts.
Despite this, it is my fervent hope that everyone is still supporting Japan in its efforts to rebuild. Whether through donations, tourism or continuing to buy Japanese imports.
While all of these are fine ways to help, I would recommend planning a trip to Japan as one of the best ways to help rebuild the country. While many of Japan’s most popular attractions are far from the hardest-hit areas of the country, visiting the disaster areas as a tourist gives the region a long-term goal to accommodate tourists and monetary incentive to rebuild faster.
I’ve been around the travel industry all my life and avoiding a country where disaster has struck (both natural and man-made) only delays the country’s progress. Bali was able to rebuild after two terrorist bombings, but years of tourists avoiding the island meant that many people struggled to make a living until the tourists felt it safe to come back. The same thing has happened in Haiti after their devastating 2010 earthquake. There, in the years since the earthquake, little has been done. The money coming into the country is inadequate and not targeted to their needs. Meanwhile, the country’s industries cannot bring enough money into the country to help.
Japan can count itself lucky that it is not a third-world country without enough infrastructure to rebuild, but their struggle is not over. It is our duty as world citizens to not ignore Japan, or any other country marred by disaster, but to actively support the country and its industries.
Thanks again, one last time, to everyone who donated and helped out. Continue to be the kind souls that you are and never forget that even the smallest of efforts can be of great help to those in need.