Passing on the experience and lessons learned from the disaster to the young employees of Naraha Town Hall who now make up almost half its workforce.

In the Town Hall Storytelling session held in February 2023,
he recounted the conditions of the disaster and his work in assisting the townspeople.

Mr. Tomoyuki Matsumoto is an employee of Naraha Town Hall who works as the Director of the Citizen Tax Division. In February 2023, as a “Town Hall Kataribe Storyteller,” he told the younger staff members about the state of the aftermath and his duties at the time. Town Hall Kataribe Storytelling is an initiative that was started in 2022 to share the lessons and experience of that time in light of the current circumstance where almost half of the town hall staff comprise of young people who were hired after the disaster. Veteran staff members have been taking turns to share their stories of the disaster and their response at the time. When Mr. Matsumoto told his story, he shared his experience of managing the evacuation centers and caring for the evacuees as a member of the Resident Welfare Division. He also touched on the chaos in the town hall, the tsunami, the state of the evacuation centers and their operation. One of the points he emphasized was “it is precisely in times of emergency when you don't know what will happen next that split-second decisions become crucial.” This is based on the many tough experiences he had at the time. Mr. Matsumoto and other staff members worked hard for the townspeople despite being badly affected by the disaster themselves.

In his town hall storytelling of 2023, Mr. Matsumoto emphasized the importance of instant decision-making and human connection in times of emergency.

Although he lost his home in the tsunami and was himself a victim of the disaster,
he gave every effort to assist the residents and manage the evacuation centers.

When the earthquake struck, Mr. Matsumoto was working at the town hall. In response to reports that a massive tsunami was coming, the Resident Welfare Division formed four teams of two staff members each to encourage the evacuation of townspeople from the seaside. Mr. Matsumoto volunteered to be in the team that went to Yamadahama because he was familiar with the area. When they arrived in Yamadahama, there were people missing and many houses, including Mr. Matsumoto's, had been washed away by the tsunami. Some staff members in another team were even chased by the tsunami. At that time, there was a lack of awareness on the dangers of tsunami and calling on people to evacuate was a dangerous task. Mr. Matsumoto next gave his all to manage the evacuation centers and help the townspeople. He was finally able to meet his entire family around 9:00 p.m. when he dropped his child off at J-Village. The next day, however, he left his family to manage the operation of an evacuation center in an elementary school in Iwaki City. Mr. Matsumoto recalls, “When I knew my family was safe, I was resolved to go back to work.” Later, while continuing to confirm the safety of the townspeople, he evacuated to Aizuwakamatsu City in early April with his family. In 2015, he moved to a new home in Iwaki City and continues to commute to Naraha Town Hall.

While Mr. Matsumoto hopes that the town hall storytelling “will help people prepare in the event of an emergency,” he also feels “I don't want the younger generation to ever go through that experience.”

“I was not the only one that was affected by the disaster.”
As a local government employee, he became involved in many ways with disaster-related events and projects.

Mr. Matsumoto has been in charge of the secretariat of the Committee on Radiation Health Management in Naraha Town since 2015. He also participated in a symposium on the reconstruction of nuclear disaster-affected areas in 2016 - 2017, which was jointly hosted by Waseda University and Fukushima University. He was involved in researching disaster legislation and reported on the extent of damage and recovery in the town at the time. In 2016, when the Kumamoto earthquake occurred, he transported relief supplies to Kumamoto City with two other town personnel. They took turns driving a 4-ton truck and covered 3,000 km round trip. When asked why he was able to help the people of Kumamoto to such an extent despite being a victim himself, he replied, “I felt it was our duty to do so, having received a lot of support ourselves.” From Mr. Matsumoto’s perspective, the residents, the town hall staff including himself, were all victims of the disaster. “I was not the only one that was badly affected by the disaster.” He said, “While others lost so much, I still had my family and my job. And I just did my job.” At the time of the disaster, many police officers, firefighters and local government staff continued to carry out their duties even though they themselves were victims of the disaster. How their tremendous efforts helped support the disaster-stricken ares is another important story that must also be passed on.

Mr. Matsumoto looks back at the time by tracing the town’s records of the disaster. The reason is due to the fact that nearly half of the town hall employees is now made up of young people who were hired after the disaster.

Naraha Town Hall

5-6 Kanetsukido, Kitada, Naraha-machi, Futaba-gun, Fukushima