One of the Things I Will Remember about the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan

I still remember the day when I heard Mother crying over the phone for the first time in my life. I was standing at Toronto train station. It was when I had to pass the news that her life-long best friend died of the big tsunami gulp caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

Tohoku is the area where Mother spent her teenage years and some of my family members live. The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and left more than 2,600 people missing. That many is still missing. Even three years from then. Her beloved land completely changed three years ago.

He friend’s body was found a couple of weeks after the tsunami. The sad death news came to me who had been checking her safety on the internet on behave of Mother every single day. I was on the train heading to Toronto when I received the sad email. Right after I got off the station, I delivered the shocking fact to Mother.


It made my eyers water too.

Life is sometimes tough. Not only to you and me, but to all of us. I even thought it’s unfair. Mother had enough not having grown up with her family and having all the unkind gossips around her. She even had to hide about her own mother for personal reasons to me and my older brother until the grandma I’ve never met passed away. I was surprised to know my maternal grandma was still alive because my brother and I was told she died when we were very little. Father told me a bit of true stories several days before my maternal grandma went. Good that I was old enough to understand why they did that to me and my brother.

The deceased lady from tsunami was the only friend for Mother. No. I am not exaggerating. She was the only friend of her in her own words. Mother is not a type of person who socializes with other people. Only friend who she grew up with in times of difficulties without her parents around. 

Three years later from the earthquake in 2011, I am in Japan now. I am back to where I grew up. A bit feeling weird because everything is different from when I left here 13 years ago. But always cool to be around my family and old friends. This is the air I’d missed. 

I started my own social business I’ve longed for in my homeland. It’s a season behind my initial plan, but I wish my work could contribute to Tohoku youngsters whose life has been under tremendous difficulties. I wish our team will give them good opportunities of international education sometime soon. 

I will move forward. All the support you have given me, I will move forward.

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Yasu is the founder and CEO of Good Friends Japan. We aspire to offer opportunities of international education to unprivileged young adults. リベラルアーツ教育研究、英語学習のためにICUを中退。アメリカ、カナダに学部・大学院留学。米の中高の特別講師、サッカーの助監督、カナダで路上生活者と共生。カナダの教会で、異文化教育、カウンセリング、葬儀等を担当。シンガポール勤務を経て、児童養護施設出身者、中退・引きこもりの若者など、社会的に困難な状況でがんばる人たちの国際教育支援チーム創設。教育学修士。@yasukuwahara