Koki Yamamoto is currently a freshman at Toyo University majoring in regional development studies. He is originally from Namie town in Fukushima Prefecture, an area that was affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent explosion of the nuclear reactor that made his hometown a restricted zone.
Mr. Yamamoto participated in the TOMODACHI SoftBank Summer 2014 Leadership Program which opened up his mind to new possibilities and ideas to support his community. Since returning from the program, he has organized workshops to share his story and to begin discussions around community development with evacuated residents of Namie. On November 15, he shared his story during a TOMODACHI Workshop at the U.S.-Japan Annual Conference in Silicon Valley.
- Click here to read about the TOMODACHI Workshop
Mr. Yamamoto’s speech at the 2016 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference’s TOMODACHI Workshop is below:
My name is Koki Yamamoto and I am a Freshman at Toyo University in Tokyo. My hometown is Namie, 2 miles away from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. I have never been able to return to my hometown since then.
The day after the disaster, my parents woke me up. It was early in the morning.
The siren rang. Since I thought we could return home soon, I packed nothing.
My father had to respond to the disaster, so my mother and I evacuated by ourselves.
Three days later, another nuclear power plant exploded. We were told to evacuate again.
I had to change schools, and I realized that I would never return to my hometown again. I was 14 and I had never live outside of my home town. I blamed the nuclear disaster for this situation, and thought
In 2014, I was able to take part in TOMODACHI SoftBank Leadership Program. During the 3 weeks, I learned the importance of community development. But more importantly
I was able to openly say that I come from Namie Town. Something I could not say before because I was afraid of discrimination. It gave me time and opportunity to speak about my experiences, meet with other Tohoku students, and share memories of my hometown for the first time.
During the TOMODACHI program, I spoke to others about memory of historic festival in Namie, my hometown. It was suddenly clear to me that THIS is what I wanted to do Community Development to support my hometown. Even if I couldn’t go back right now, I want to help create and share my culture to others not just for the people from Namie, but also for myself.
After I came back to Japan, I hosted a workshop “Namie – 20 years Later” for high school students to think about the future of our hometown together. I wanted to allow other students to share their feelings and thoughts for the future that we will live in.
I now see the importance of sharing the story of Namie and Fukushima to the rest of Japan, and hopefully the world. Please don’t forget there are people still trying to rebuild the community with hopes of returning. Please come to me. I would be happy to share my idea. I would love to hear yours.
Thank you for your time.