On March 11, 2016 – the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake – JETAADC gathered in conjunction with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to reflect on the historic tragedy. We heard from Matthew Fuller (Aichi-ken, Toyota-shi, 1997-99) former Special Assistant to Ambassador John Roos at the US Embassy in Japan, joined by Suzanne Basalla from the US-Japan Council. JETs from DC and chapters across the country came to participate. He spoke about the role JET participants at the time and JET alumni played in the response to the events. He called the JET Program “the single greatest investment Japan has ever made” in terms of generating goodwill between the two countries. JET alumni working at the US Department of State poured back in to Japan as volunteers to help the Embassy deal with the situation. Ambassador Roos was also able to visit the small town Matthew had worked in when he was a JET and able to see the special connection that he made with the community there.
For the second portion of the program, we saw a special screening of Tohoku Tomo. The documentary was produced by Wesley Julian (Miyagi, 2008-10) and focuses on people living in Tohoku and how they responded to the events of 3/11. The film put on display the love and connection that members of JET felt for their local communities and the fact that many not only decided not to leave the area but became actively involved in helping to rebuild the communities. One portion from The 113 Project: Reclaiming Tohoku, a new short film series directed and produced by Wesley, was also shown. This project is also an attempt to show the good that came out of the triple disaster and how the communities there still carry on.
The night concluded with a reception where we where Minister for Public Affairs, Tamaki Tsukada, from the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC spoke of the important role JET alumni and JETAA chapters play in the US-Japan relationship. We also heard moving messages from Andy Anderson, the father of Taylor Anderson, and Shelley Fredrickson, sister of Monty Dickson, who were the two JET participants who passed away during 3/11. They spoke of both Taylor and Monty’s love of Japan, their local communities and the strong bonds that have formed since out of the JETAA community.