TOMODACHI US-JAPAN PARTNERSHIP
In the aftermath of 3/11, the United States and Japan have a renewed commitment to their longstanding friendship in the form of the new Tomodachi initiative. You may have read recently about Lady Gaga’s auctioning of the teacup from which she drank during her visit just ten weeks after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The final bid raised 6 million yen ($75,000) to support Japan’s recovery in educational and cultural programs, especially for young people from the Honshu region. The tea cup includes LG’s autograph and, of course, a lipstick kiss. Last month, The Japan Times (April 20, 2012) reported the following:
Five Japanese firms have contributed about ¥320 million to set up a fund for students hit by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March 2011 and promote Japan-U.S. cultural exchanges, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The Tomodachi Fund for Exchanges, a U.S.-led initiative to provide aid to quake-hit high school students seeking to study in the United States, is launched at a ceremony Wednesday in Tokyo. The Tomodachi Fund for Exchanges, launched as part of a U.S.-led public-private initiative called Tomodachi (Friends), will provide aid to quake-hit high school students seeking to study in the United States and to support bilateral exchanges through music and sports. Toyota Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. contributed to the fund.
I am really thankful for the US military for their quick response to 3/11. I remember that the US military brought us a large amount of aid supplies and helped us reopen Sendai Airport. They supported us not only physically, but also mentally. Moreover, I am impressed that the US still cares about us and offer us great opportunities for the Japanese mentioned in this article. If it is possible, we should continue to have this type of project since our US-Japan partnership will get stronger.
However, I believe that it would be better if the targets of these projects would be not only people in Tohoku, but also people in other areas in Japan. Actually, I went to the US as a part of the Tomodachi operation project with subsidy from the US Embassy this spring. I had a great experience that I will never forget. It is true that especially people in Tohoku have more things to say or experienced a great damage, but I noticed that all the Japanese have their own opinions towards 3/11. Everyone in Japan has something that we want to tell about 3/11. We Japanese are all united. There is no Tohoku people or Kanto people. Therefore, I believe that the opportunities should be given to all the Japanese.
Hana, your comment is very thoughtful and illustrates the regional differences in perception about the US military presence in Japan. Obviously Okinawans feel strongly and differently about the US military than many mainland Japanese because the military is so prevalent in their prefecture and they feel that their burden is heavier. “Sixty-nine percent of Okinawans say the heavy concentration of U.S. military facilities in their prefecture is ‘unfair,’ while only 33 percent of people in Japan as a whole echo that view, according to surveys conducted by the Mainichi and the Ryukyu Shimpo newspapers.” (The Mainichi, 9 May 2012)
How People in Okinawa reacted
Tomodachi was very impressive for me at the time, but at the same time, I thought that it was very difficult for people in Okinawa to understand the good image of the US military. In Japan, the US military was praised very much when they sent by airplane many things that people in Tohoku needed desperately. At the time, the Self-Defense Forces of Japan were unable to enter into the place and many Japanese people felt irritated with the helpless behavior of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan. The scene of people in Tohoku giving words of thanks to the US military between sobs was presented in the media on a large scale. Many Japanese people dealt with the US military as a hero. However, at the same time, people in Okinawa got angry with the friendly reaction that Japanese people had to the US military. As people in Okinawa were very nervous about the relationship between them and the US military, they were uncomfortable with the good image of US military. I thought that it was very difficult for me to thank the US military for its generous help openly in public in Japan at that time.