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Editorial: 11 years since 3/11 disaster, how does Japan keep the lessons alive?

How do we pass on the lessons of the Great East Japan Earthquake to the next generation?

    The Reconstruction Agency has compiled a collection of lessons and expertise from disaster support workers and town revitalization initiatives in various disaster-hit areas. At the municipal government level, too, work is also going ahead to arrange and record how reconstruction and recovery work was approached.

    The preservation of records is important for the evaluation of policies and preparation for the next major disaster. But by placing emphasis on bringing together a copious amount of information, it is hard to decipher what to study from it.

    Eleven years have passed since the disaster, and amid fears that memories of the time are being dulled, further efforts to ensure they are passed down are sought.

    "To pass this on over 50 to 100 years, there must be close analysis of many examples that then allow for the lessons to be passed down as stories," said Shosuke Sato, an associate professor in the study of disaster culture at Tohoku University.

    The tragedy of Okawa Elementary School in the Miyagi Prefecture city of Ishinomaki, where 84 students and school staff died in the tsunami, is one case of a lesson from the disaster that has gone on to be shared widely.

    The school's crisis management manual offered no specific evacuation locations or routes, and the children could not be led to a safe place. The great responsibility that comes with safeguarding children's lives was reaffirmed at educational institutions across Japan.

    Bereaved families who speak about their experiences have also fulfilled a significant role. At a gathering of the Okawa transmission group held in February, joint representative Noriyuki Suzuki, 57, said, "We want to save the lives of the future by continuing to speak out."

    Activities by private organizations have come to rely primarily on donations from companies and individuals, and are struggling from a poor financial base. People who tell their stories about the disaster are also aging, and the cultivation of people to pass their experiences on is also becoming an issue. To ensure activism is not halted, the support of the national and municipal governments is essential.

    If that happened, groups' approach to activism would need to be respected. To accurately pass down stories, it is important people have an environment that lets them speak without a variety of controls on them.

    The government set the 10-year anniversary of the disaster as the last for memorial services. But the memories cannot be allowed to fade.

    We want public and private organizations to distill their expertise to create a system that ensures the lessons of the disaster are passed on for a long time to come.

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