Speech by Ambassador Suzuki at the Ceremony for the Inauguration of "Youth Ambassador for Tohoku"(12 July, 2011)

  Good afternoon to you all.

I would like to express our deep gratitude to the people and the Government of Singapore for the generous support and demonstration of solidarity.

We felt very encouraged by these acts of goodwill but at the same time, we also felt that we need to repay for the caring gesture by sharing our experience with Singapore.

That is; to show and tell to Singapore you how Japan and its people are coping with the difficulties.

It is particularly worthwhile for the youth to learn from our experience. I am sure it will help them in the future when they will be the ones to take their countries and the society, to which they belong, forward.

That is why I believe the Tohoku Youth Ambassador programme is a very worthy one.

I want to commend JCCI to have taken the initiative to launch the programme. Many leading Japanese companies, through their representatives in Singapore took part in the realization of this programme.

Also, I commend JNTO in taking the lead with JCCI.

The Embassy supports this programme with its JENESIS scheme, a scheme to subsidise youths’ travel to Japan from Singapore under which more than 1000 students have already visited Japan. The Embassy has also worked closely with local governments in the region to organize, for example meetings and encounters with officials and university faculty members dealing with disaster relief and reconstructions.

I am very encouraged to note that so many students from Singapore have applied to the programme. All of us would have liked to give opportunities to all of them. But we had to go through a selection process to limit the number from applicants. For the people of Tohoku, the priority is the reconstruction. We would not want to overburden them with too many visitors even the aim of their visit is laudable. Congratulations on your appointment as Youth Ambassador. I ask you to share what you will experience, see and learn in Japan with wider circles of people when you come back. Otherwise you will not be doing your job as Ambassadors.

Dear Students,

When the day the great Tohoku earthquake struck Japan, immediately followed by huge waves of tsunami, it was snowing. The survivors were shivering from the cold. Today, the region is under scorching heat. People are working for the reconstruction by the sweat of their brows.

You will mingle with Japanese students of your age, receive lectures and explanations from those dealing with the recovery and reconstruction, see for yourself how people are lifting their spirit through the organizations of summer festivals, and have a glimpse of how we are trying to learn from the experience and mitigate the future shocks with application of latest technologies and science.

The Tohoku Shinkansen has resisted the shock. No casualties in spite of the fact that many trains were running at 200 km/h plus at the time of the earthquake. Transportation networks, you will visit the Sendai Airport, are restored. Supply chains for high tech manufacturing, the initial estimate was that it will take until the end of this year to recover, will be 90% recovered by this summer.

On the other hand, tons and tons of debris have not yet been cleared. This is hampering the reconstruction of townships. In some townships, the whole administrative structure has also been washed away with the tsunami including administrative officers. Huge concrete structures which should have protected people from tsunami were also destroyed. You may ask people whether they think the prevention measures put in place were effective or insufficient. You may also ask people how they feel about the Nuclear Power Plant accident, although you are not going to areas directly affected by that. I hope you will be able to observe what worked and what didn’t. But even with what didn’t work, how effective they were to mitigate the shocks.

I hope you will also be able to understand better the fortitude, resilience strong community and civic sense of our people, where these characteristics come from. But also I ask you to be sensitive and compassionate about their sorrow and the deep sense of loss that they feel.

The organizers are paying careful attention to your safety. There is no danger but I ask you to be prepared mentally and physically when you go to the destroyed townships because of the devastation.

I do really hope that the programme will give you valuable opportunities for you to learn many things to take back and that you make a lot of friends in Japan through your contacts.

In Japan, many of us are saying that the best way to help the victims of the disaster, on top of helping them directly, is for all of us to conduct our lives in a normal way. Things are back to normal in many respects. This is another important aspect of Japan after the earthquake that we would like you to observe.

Have a good trip and see you when you are back.