July 23, 2012

Immediately after the 3/11 disaster, 340,000 people evacuated their homes in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the hardest hit prefectures. About one in five of those people, or more than 70,000 residents, have still not returned to their native prefectures. In a July 2012 survey conducted by the Osaka Bar Association, half of the evacuees in Osaka expressed a desire to remain in their new home, citing as reasons the dangers of radioactive contamination, lack of job opportunities, and absence of a “home” to which they can return. NGOs based in prefectures that are now home to these evacuees are working to help Tohoku residents adjust to their lives in their new communities. However, the challenge is to bridge the divide existing between the evacuees and the local residents. This divide most likely stems from the exclusivity of Japanese communities and differences in the distinct and institutionalized community practices. To address this issue, NGOs such as the “Welcome, Attakai-Do” in Hokkaido prefecture are organizing events for evacuees that offer advice on employment and life in Hokkaido, as well as dialogue opportunities with local residents.