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【Great East Japan Earthquake】 Retreats for COVID-19 Prevention

It has been almost ten years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Civic Force has been supporting the reconstruction efforts and the affected people through the NPO Partner Projects since then. Please read about our partnership with the 3/11 Japan Nuclear Disaster Aid Association.


“Clothes drying outdoors and windows opened – we can enjoy normal everyday scenes like this during the retreat.” (Mother of an elementary school student)

“I don’t really talk about the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. But at the retreat, I can talk freely about it and I feel a bit better.” (Girl/5th grade)

“Being here in Sado, Niigata, I gained hope to live in Fukushima.” (Mother of two children)


The feedback from the participants of an annual summer camp held in Sado, Niigata Prefecture since 2011 shows a glimpse of the long healing process for the people affected by the disaster. Many participants are living in solitude and stress from worrying about the possible impact of radiation.

“We Would like More Families to Join”

“Our month-long camp is held at a 100-year-old Japanese traditional house. Participants play outdoors in the garden and ocean, chop wood, and start fire baths. We also teach tips to build immune systems, play music, make crafts, and discuss the nuclear disaster,” said Mr. Hisao Seki, Representative of NPO Life Care. Mr. Seki was living in Fukushima with his family until the nuclear fallout. His family evacuated to Yamagata Prefecture while Mr. Seki stayed behind in Fukushima. Life Care hosts family summer retreats, nature camps in Yamagata, and study tours in Fukushima.


Mr. Seki was concerned about whether to host the events this year in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. At the end, it was decided to host shorter programs and only invite former participants with infection prevention measures in place. Mr. Seki explained “During the Spanish flu, a famous author, Ms. Akiko Yosano wrote, ‘Children who went swimming in the ocean do not catch a cold.’ The reason why we decided not to cancel our program was to continue providing safe spaces for families to relax without worry. Promoting physical activities during our retreats can help participants maintain their well-being. I believe physical well-being itself can help prevent COVID-19.”

Why Families Still Need Retreats

Retreats have been organized by volunteer organizations across Japan for families affected by the nuclear fallout. The retreats provide safe spaces for the children to play without worry. Heavily affected by radiation, Fukushima has less place left for children to play outside. Retreats offer many outdoor activities with funds collected from well-wishers and grants.

“Nine years since the nuclear fallout, retreats are still needed by many,” said Mr. Meguru Mikami (Mimi-o  sumasu Project) and Mr. Takanori Hayao, joint-representatives of the 3/11 Japan Nuclear Disaster Aid Association. Mr. Mikami hosts retreats in Hokkaido and Mr. Hayao has hosted retreats in Yamanashi. The association works with 62 organizations across Japan. They host a consultation workshop in Fukushima every June, which is participated by over 500 people. Mr. Mikami speculates the reasons behind the high demand for retreats, “In March 2017, housing assistance for evacuees from out-of-evacuation-order-areas was cut off and some returned to Fukushima. However, these families still wish to participate in the retreats. A new mother began to worry about radiation exposure to her baby. Radiation levels tested by CSOs show many hot-spots and many families must be concerned.”

YWCA Fukushima compiled a report highlighting the voices of parents. Civic Force will feature the report soon.