Reviving Local Industries and Communicating Information to Bring People Back to Odaka in Minamisoma City.

Worrying About Family as the Tremors Struck.
Realizing the Importance of Family as a Result of the Disaster.

Following the nuclear accident, all residents in the Odaka area of Minamisoma City were ordered to evacuate. The evacuation order was lifted in 2016, and residents slowly began to return. Odaka Kobo, in the center of Odaka to the west of Odaka Station, is the center of Hirohata’s activities. Following her own life as an evacuee, she spoke about her experiences through numerous media outlets. She also gave talks to students and corporations. Hirohata speaks about everything she has experienced since the disaster, from the damage caused by the tsunami and her resignation following her evacuation, to her cultivation of flowers at her temporary housing, her launch of the Odaka Kobo upon the lifting of the evacuation order, and her development of chili products. As the earthquake shook the ground, Hirohata’s thoughts were on her family. Work was everything to Hirohata, but she says, “When the earthquake occurred, the first thing that crossed my mind was the safety of my son in high school.” The disaster made her realize the importance of family. The tsunami struck at around the same time Hirohata’s son would normally return home from school, walking along the coast. When she returned home, ready for her son not being there, thankfully he had returned home early from his club activities to repair his bicycle.

Odaka will sometimes visit others to share her experiences, while on other occasions she will speak at her Odaka Kobo.

Catering to Around 60 Requests for Talks and Interviews Each Year.
Hopes That Continued Communication Will Transform the Future.

Hirohata receives around 60 requests a year for interviews and talks. Hirohata carefully responds to each request, but smiles and says, “For me, it’s completely normal now.” When we ask her why she caters to these requests, she says, “Through events from the disaster, including my son’s safety, we discovered that it is difficult to understand how things that have happened will shape our future. It is because I have experienced this that I am happy to respond to requests for interviews and talks.” These words convinced us that her activities will lead to a better future for all. That said, speaking about her experiences and thinking back to that time is not easy for Hirohata. Hirohata says, “I’ve made sure to carefully arrange my thoughts so that I don’t miss out anything important.” Although she could not speak about the tsunami for three to four years after the disaster, eventually speaking about it gave her the time to arrange her memories and feelings from the time. Around 80% of her communication activities are part of training programs for high schools, universities, and companies in disaster-affected areas. Through these programs, Hirohata speaks about how she felt when the disaster occurred.

Hirohata works to ensure that her activities in the Odaka area are visible. She works outside where possible, aiming to show others that people are working in the area.

The Importance of Communicating the State of Affairs in the Hamadori Area.
Going About Everyday Tasks in a Calm and Collected Manner.

When looking back on her activities, up until 2015 Hirohata says she would often speak about when she could return to Odaka, whether she would be able to live there again, and how she would take her family home with her. But since building a space for interaction among locals in 2015, her mindset changed. Hirohata says that even when the evacuation order was lifted, “former residents were not obliged to return.” She continues, “Each person should make their own decision based on their own circumstances, be it childcare, nursing care, or other family matters.” Although she works in Odaka, Hirohata and her son live outside the area. Talking about the future, however, by increasing the number of new residents, Hirohata says, “It will be important to create a town that is more desirable than others for people to live in.” Moving forward, Hirohata says, “We must continue to communicate the state of affairs in the Hamadori area alongside information that will help people avoid disaster. I’ll do everything I can to help.” She also says that “perhaps the best thing to do is go about our work and daily lives in a calm and collected manner,” showing us her approach to going about her duties.

Hirohata’s chili products. Despite reports that 20% of consumers still avoid purchasing from the prefecture, Hirohata says positively, “This means that 80% are buying our products.”

Odaka Kobo

1-53 Motomachi, Odaku-ku, Minamisoma-shi, Fukushima Prefecture