2 Years After the Tsunami: Rikuzentakata Lions Club

It took minutes for the tsunami and earthquake on March 11, 2011, to devastate Japan. Two years later, communities remain in tatters. Three Lions clubs were particularly devastated. This is the story of the Rikuzentakata Lions Club in Iwate, which lost 11 of its 70 members to the tsunami.

On the 11th of every month, Lion Seiichiro Kanno and his wife bring a can of Coke and flowers to what remains of the Rikuzentakata Post Office, where their only son, Hiroyuki, worked. To his father’s delight, Hiroyuki took after him in many ways. For Kanno, all of that seems more than a lifetime ago.

The city finally is tearing down the post office, which only had its exterior walls left. Seeing the building come down makes Kanno reflect on his son’s final moments. For Kanno, remembering his lost son is the one thing he can do for him.

As the city moves forward, all public buildings are slated for teardown soon. The construction company owned by Lion Shu Kinno, which resumed its operation sooner than any other company after the disaster, is heavily involved in debris removal. “We need to hurry. We have to clear up the land soon and move on.  Otherwise, recovery will be forever out of our reach,” says Kinno, club president.

Initially, members of other Lions clubs visited Rikuzentakata to help. After about a year, Rikuzentakata Lions realized that it was impossible to continue hosting Lions eager to help. They needed to focus on reviving their businesses and politely told other Lions financial help was most appreciated.

Lion Satoru Sugawara opened a makeshift gas station just a month after the tsunami. He called it “Ganbaro,” which means “Let’s Hang Tough.” Last November he began construction on a permanent building. Sugawara is anxious to move ahead so his employees can return to work.

As time moves forward, so does recovery efforts in Japan and Lions’ efforts to aid their communities. Read the full story of all three Lions clubs online and in the upcoming May LION Magazine.

Editor’s Note

Adapted from a story from the Japanese LION.

Lions Clubs International Foundation mobilized more than US$21 million for Japan relief efforts thanks to LCIF grants and donations from Lions worldwide. Among other projects, LCIF helped Lions provide equipment and supplies to support victims who were relocated to transitional housing; provide major medical equipment for hospitals, including a full-body radiation detection unit, ophthalmology equipment and an x-ray machine; and assistance for an economic revival project.


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