Japanese officials express thanks

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate November 04, 2013 02:45 pm

Nobuhiro Watanabe, Japan’s acting consul general in San Francisco, addresses the audience at Del Norte High during an assembly of its entire student body on Tuesday.
Nobuhiro Watanabe, Japan’s acting consul general in San Francisco, addresses the audience at Del Norte High during an assembly of its entire student body on Tuesday. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Diplomats tour city a week after tsunami debris boat returned to source

Lead diplomats from the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco came to Crescent City on Thursday to show their gratitude to the Sheriff’s Office and the high school for returning a boat that washed ashore here to a tsunami-wrecked town where it has become a symbol of hope and recovery.

The visit from acting Consul General Nobuhiro Watanabe and Vice Consul Takeshi Kurashina came a week after the 20-foot boat was taken to the Municipal Museum of Rikuzentakata, the coastal hometown of the boat’s owners: Takata High School’s marine systems department.

Rikuzentakata sustained the second-highest death toll of any Japanese city from the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, with 1,844 people counted dead or still missing.

“The boat has reached the students of Takata High School safely thanks to your help and consideration,” said Watanabe, during an assembly of the entire Del Norte High School student body He thanked the local community for its “good will, kindness and friendship.”

As students and administrators exchanged gifts with the diplomats, the audience matched the Japanese diplomats’ gratitude with loud cheers at every chance.

Since the boat was salvaged by the Sheriff’s Office last April — the first officially verified debris to land on California shores from the Japanese tsunami — eight Del Norte High students raised awareness and funding for the boat’s return. 

After international shipping companies offered to return the boat for free, the students have raised money to visit Rikuzentakata with the goal of forming an ongoing cultural exchange between the two high schools, connected by the Pacific Ocean and its tsunamis. The boat washed ashore less than a mile south of Crescent City Harbor, which sustained more than $20 million in damage from a tsunami tied to the same 2011 earthquake.

“I’m sure that this event connected you and Takata High School, and I strongly hope that the relationship between these two high schools continues to grow into the future,” Watanabe told the students.

After learning that Takata High School had a Future Farmers of Japan program before the tsunami, Del Norte principal Coleen Parker invited three Future Farmers of America students to also go on the trip: Hannah Cox, Kiera Roberts, and Connor Smith.

They will join the students who helped clean and prepare the boat for its return: Joren Adams, Hallie DeArman, Connor Field, Dakota Ford, Karen Marquez, Juan Ramirez, Jon Steven and Griffin Walker.

Busy days for Consulate

Vice consul Kurashina started his diplomatic assignment in San Francisco on March 14, 2011 — three days after the tsunami destroyed many parts of his home country.

In the chaotic days that followed the catastrophe, the consulate created a team staffed 24/7 to address concerns related to the earthquake and tsunami, Kurashina said. Hundreds of Japanese citizens who reside in California contacted the consulate for information about conditions in areas where their families and friends lived.

The consulate also played a significant role in coordinating donations and aid for the affected areas. Kurashina said that California was one of the states that provided the most donations, partially due to the large amount of Japanese citizens and Japanese-Americans.

Tsunami boat film

Also Thursday, representatives of Del Norte County, Crescent City, the Crescent City Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office met with the Japanese diplomats, exchanging gifts of appreciation, including a “key to the city.” 

“We took a great interest in getting this boat home,” said Del Norte Sheriff Dean Wilson. 

During the student assembly, Del Norte High showed a video made by two Los Angeles filmmakers about the connections inspired by the boat that beached in Crescent City. It can be viewed at http://
tinyurl.com/jvws57a
.

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