Ayumi Teraoka is research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Many people across Japan observed a moment of silence at 2:46 P.M. on March 11, 2016—five years after the fourth biggest earthquake in history struck Japan’s Northeast, bringing about the “triple disaster” that included an earthquake, a tsunami, and the nuclear plant meltdown in Fukushima.
The government-sponsored memorial ceremony in Tokyo was attended by Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the chairmen of both Houses of the Parliament, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and families of the victims. Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Abe both stressed the importance of passing the lessons of the tragedy to future Japanese generations and the international community.
The day has also become a moment for the Japanese to reflect upon the international support Japan has received in response to the devastating disaster. In particular, the United States has stood side-by-side with Japan, providing significant military and civilian support for disaster response and the reconstruction of the Tohoku region. Commander of U.S. Forces, Japan Lieutenant General John Dolan, released a statement today saying that, “the unprecedented U.S. and Japanese recovery operation was carried out in the spirit of friendship that animates our alliance.” Furthermore, American donations totaled $746.1 million, making the United States the largest donor. The Embassy of Japan in the United States also released a video to thank the United States for its support.
It is also important to note, however, that reconstruction of the devastated region is far from finished. On the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Sheila Smith, CFR senior fellow for Japan studies, provided her analysis on the developments and implications of the triple disaster. Read here