PROJECT Chiyo-ni Japan

How can we all come together as earthquake affected areas, and connect as human beings. You are not alone! 

PROJECT Chiyo-ni Japan is a unique initiative that seeks to support people in the Tōhoku region centring around Kesennuma in the Miyagi Prefecture in Japan who were directly affected by the East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

PROJECT Chiyo-ni does not provide such things as blankets or food—the time of need for these sorts of items is long past. We focus on the supporting local people and organisations as they rebuild their lives and communities. To this end, PROJECT Chiyo-ni has run a series of intimate initiatives where New Zealanders are able to offer hope and compassion and to form bonds of friendship with the survivors of this tragedy. We in New Zealand are equally vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes—the Canterbury Earthquake from which we are still recovering, was only a few months prior to Tōhoku, and Kaikoura was another NZ region to suffer a catastrophic quake in 2016. 

Our central aim is to express solidarity and understanding; to show the people affected by this disaster that they are not alone or forgotten by the international community.


Background: When natural disasters occur, we act instinctively with aid. In 2011, a region of coastal Japan was laid to waste by a disaster of unthinkable proportions—and the international community mobilised in response. Blankets and food are always needed as a first response, but they do not restore normality after a disaster, especially one on this scale. Long term problems arise that require more considered solutions.

At 2:46pm on Friday 11 March 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake (magnitude 9.0) struck 70km east of coastal Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit Japan—the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900.

This earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights in excess of 40 metres. In the Sendai area, these waves traveled up to 10 km inland. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 2.4m east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm and 25 cm. There were 15,894 confirmed deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,562 people missing.

The tsunami resulted in over 340,000 displaced people in the Tōhoku region, and shortages of food, water, shelter, medicine and fuel for survivors. A 2014 report listed 127,290 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 272,788 buildings "half collapsed", and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged. 230,000 automobiles and trucks were damaged or destroyed. Adding to all this was the meltdown of three nuclear reactors and significant contamination of seawater around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2015 a systematic literature review of quantitative research articles addressing the mental health of survivors and the psychological impact of the disaster found that a substantial proportion of the affected population experienced considerable psychological distress. Mental health outcomes included post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, accompanied by a large spike in the youth suicide rate. Physical health changes, such as sleeping and eating disturbances, were common. Studies concluded that a considerable proportion of the population was mentally affected to a significant degree.