March 20, 2011
This morning’s New York Times has a piece in the Week in Review section by Ian Jared Miller about the earthquake and tsunami damage along Japan’s northeast coast. Ian graduated from Earlham in 1992, and then taught in Miyako in Earlham’s Assistant English Teacher program. He is currently an assistant professor of history at Harvard. It is a very moving account of decades of past tsunamis along that coast and successive efforts, some successful, some not, to prevent damage from the next tsunami. This most recent one did tremendous damage and cost thousands of lives despite extensive preparations. Ian also speaks of the extraordinary beauty of this coast in times between the disasters.
Ian speaks of the people along this coast as friends of his, and indeed they are. Earlham has many friends in Japan throughout the country, but especially in the north, in and around Iwate Prefecture. Our connections with Japan go back into the 19th century, and quickened after World War II as we sought to be part of the work of reconciliation between the peoples of Japan and the peoples of the United States. Earlham’s extensive study abroad program grew out of our efforts to befriend people in Japan.
Each year we send students to Waseda University in Tokyo, a program that we do in oversee for the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). Each fall we send students to Morioka, the capital of Iwate Prefecture, to an Earlham program we call Studies in Cross-Cultural Education (SICE). And over decades, many of our graduates have returned to Japan in many capacities, but especially to teach English in villages in the north scattered around Morioka. Ian speaks out of these connections in today’s article.
At Earlham, we are looking for specific ways to assist our friends in the north of Japan. We know many of them are safe; we know damage was relatively slight in Morioka. But in other towns and villages where we have friends the damage was extensive, the casualties horrifying. We are especially wondering about the situation in Tonohata, a township in Iwate near the coast that includes several seaside villages we believe were hard hit.
We are looking for a way, out of our longstanding friendship, to be of assistance to them.