Jul 2011


UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne visits Ishinomaki

Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and British Ambassador to Japan David Warren visited Ishinomaki on July 10.

After meeting with officials at the City Hall, Mr Browne then visited Peace Boat’s Central Kitchen in Ishinomaki together with Mayor Kameyama Hiroshi and Ito Shuki, Chair of the Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery  Assistance Council (IDRAC) in order to see the actual activities to support survivors and the recovery of the affected areas.

The establishment and operations of the Central Kitchen has been generously supported by the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ). Peace Boat has also received support by many individuals and corporations from the UK.

Peace Boat’s director of relief operations Yamamoto Takashi explained to the visitors the overall situation of international aid in Ishinomaki, as well as volunteer activities including providing meals, kitchen and delivery services, and mud clearance activities.

During this explanation, the area was struck by an earthquake of 7.3 on the Richter scale (M4 on the Japanese scale). As there were tsunami warnings issued for coastal areas of Miyagi prefecture, the group evacuated to high ground and Hiyoriyama.

(All volunteers in Ishinomaki at this time were also evacuated to Hiyoriyama, Ishinomaki Senshu University and other pre-designated locations upon directions by Peace Boat staff and leaders.)

The park at Hiyoriyama was also a gathering and evacuation place for many of the local population on the day of the disaster, March 11. Many people witnessed from this vantage point as the tsunami took over their town. Looking below, the devastation caused to the districts of Kadowaki and Minamihama is clear.

It was planned for the delegation to also visit volunteer “mudbusters” also, however as volunteer work was ceased due to the earthquake, the group instead waited for the tsunami warning to be cancelled and then moved to the Minamihama district.

For many reasons, the debris removal heavily affected areas such as Minamihama and Kadowaki, and coastal towns such as Onagawa and Ogatsu, has not yet progressed much. While walking through the area, one is witness to many destroyed houses, remnant personal belongings such as shoes and clothing, reminding one of the many lives that were taking place here until March 11.

The Minister laid flowers at the “Gambarou! Ishinomaki” sign (We can do it! Ishinomaki), and repeatedly commented on the significance of directly visiting the affected areas, saying that he learned many things which would have been impossible through only briefings in Tokyo.

Finally, Mr Browne and the delegation met with international volunteers from the UK, hearing their reasons for volunteering and the contents of their activities, and giving them strong words of encouragement.

We are deeply grateful for Mr Browne taking the time to personally visit the affected areas, and meet with individual volunteers and give them each such words of encouragement and support, particularly during such a busy schedule.

Further details of Foreign Office Minister Browne’s visit to Ishinomaki, including video, can be seen on the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office site here.