10 years after March 11 – A message from Ambassador Baum

Local news, 11.03.2021

Ambassador of Switzerland to Japan Dr. Andreas Baum expresses his admiration for Tohoku’s reconstruction and resilience, and looks forward to building a bright future together with all our friends from Japan.

Ambassador Andreas Baum
Ambassador Andreas Baum © Ayako Suzuki

I feel privileged and humbled to address you, as this month marks 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. 

In the name of my country, Switzerland, I want to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost or affected by the catastrophe. I salute the impressive reconstruction effort in the entire region and the remarkable resilience of Japan. Most importantly, I wish to look toward a bright future together with our friends from Tohoku and Japan.

Switzerland shares deep ties with the Tohoku region. 
As our Host Town on the Road to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Fukushima City is doing us the honor of organizing many Swiss-related events, from concerts to cultural exchanges and school visits. 

Together with the non-profit organization Support our Kids, our Embassy is able to provide students of the affected areas with home stay programs in Switzerland, thus supporting the development of young leaders with a global outlook. 

Between 2013 and 2015, Ark Nova, a movable concert hall produced by the Lucerne Festival, Kajimoto Music and architect Arata Isozaki, contributed to revitalizing the cultural life in Matsushima, Fukushima and Sendai through music and education. 

Let me also express my admiration for the fantastic reconstruction effort of Onagawa Town, ranging from the Medical Center to the train station, new embankment and a shopping district. I am proud that Switzerland has been able to play a modest part in this ongoing success story. 

Japan and Switzerland share a similar commitment for more sustainable and more resilient societies.  As we contemplate 10 years since the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima, we are also provided with an opportunity to reflect on the important challenges ahead of us. 

Among them, the realization of the 2030 Agenda which calls for increased international cooperation, meaningful innovation and responsible entrepreneurship, including in the energy sector. Switzerland looks forward to further deepening its relations with the Tohoku region on many levels, and to continue partnering with Japan towards a future powered by cleaner, healthier and greener technologies. 

On a more personal note, this month marks half a year into my mandate in Japan. I very much look forward to traveling to Tohoku, to discovering the region and meeting with its people and leaders as soon as the pandemic situation allows. 

With admiration and respect for all our friends of beautiful Tohoku, 

Andreas Baum,
Ambassador of Switzerland to Japan

March 2021   

10 years after March 11 – Swiss collaborations with the Tohoku region

Upper left: Tohoku Youth Orchestra ©︎Ryuichi Maruo,  Lower left: SOK Support Our Kids homestay in Switzerland 2020 ©︎SOK, Right: Onagawa Medical Center at the inauguration ceremony in April 2012.
Upper left: Tohoku Youth Orchestra ©︎Ryuichi Maruo, Lower left: SOK Support Our Kids homestay in Switzerland 2020 ©︎SOK, Right: Onagawa Medical Center at the inauguration ceremony in April 2012. ©Embassy of Switzerland in Japan

To mark 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Switzerland wants to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost or affected by the catastrophe, celebrate the impressive reconstruction effort and look together towards a bright future for the Tohoku region. Since 2011, Switzerland has been engaged in various activities for the revitalization of the area as well as for the well-being of the people affected by the disaster. 

Support Our Kids (SOK)

We have collaborated with the Non-Profit Organization "Support Our Kids (SOK)" which has been providing homestay programs to students of the affected areas since 2011. We are very pleased to share some messages from the students who have participated in the homestay in Switzerland. What did the homestay in Switzerland bring to them? Let us have a look together.


Tohoku Youth Orchestra

After the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, Switzerland’s prestigious Lucerne Festival teamed up with Japanese partners, including KAJIMOTO music agency, to bring music to people in the devastated area. In collaboration with architect Arata Isozaki and artist Anish Kapoor, the team produced the world’s first mobile concert hall "Ark Nova", which is a toroidal-shaped inflatable mobile concert hall.

The Tohoku Youth Orchestra that we are introducing today was organized on the occasion of the launch of "Lucerne Festival Ark Nova Matsushima 2013". 

Shortly after the disaster in 2011, world-renown musician Ryuichi Sakamoto initiated a project to inspect and repair music instruments in the schools affected by the catastrophe. As the restoration of the devastated area progressed, Mr. Sakamoto was working on the idea of creating an orchestra consisting of children from the area. He turned his idea into reality when he received a request to perform at the Ark Nova project in Matsushima. 

In 2015, the orchestra started its activities after recruiting more than 100 members, between the ages of 9 and 22, from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. They have since then held a joint practice session in Fukushima-city once a month as well as an annual concert in Tohoku and Tokyo. They have also kept performing at volunteer concerts in the affected area. Under the direction of Mr. Sakamoto, the orchestra has been cultivated as an open space where exchanges with members from diverse backgrounds and audiences can take place through music. 

The orchestra will continue to perform with the hope that they will inspire people around the world with the sound of resilience that originated from Tohoku.

More information: Tohoku Youth OrchestraHibike Kibo no Oto

Onagawa Medical Center

We feel honored to share with you a message from Mr. Mitsuru Saito, Director of the Onagawa Medical Center whose reconstruction was supported by various Swiss institutions.

"The Great East Japan Earthquake deprived Onagawa Town of just a bit less than 10% of its population. More than 70% of the houses in the town had been completely or partially destroyed. The damages were devastating. The former Onagawa Municipal Hospital too was in a critical situation: the first floor had been flooded by the tsunami, medical records had disappeared, outpatient departments and inspection equipment were destroyed. In order to provide immediate relief to the affected townspeople, we managed to set up a first aid center and a temporary clinic to continue medical care using a hall on the second floor and a physiotherapy room. We had to proceed with the reconstruction of the town, and considerable difficulties were expected to restore the hospital main functions, which filled us with anxiety. In these difficult circumstances, we were able to receive substantial financial support from Switzerland and, in October 2011 already, the reconstruction of the hospital was complete, earlier than any other affected areas. We re-opened as "Onagawa Medical Center" consisting of a 19 beds medical care hospital and a 100-bed health facility for the elderly.

In September 2011, with the goal of "supporting the daily life and protecting the health of townspeople engaged in reconstruction after the earthquake", we started to provide mobile clinics for temporary housings located outside of town. In February 2012, we extended our activities to two remote islands where medical care had become unavailable after the disaster. Moreover, we have opened a home care support office in April 2014 and a childcare facility for sick and recovering children in April 2016. We have been doing our best to meet the needs of the people of Onagawa, step by step. Since the earthquake, Onagawa has been a front runner in the recovery movement, starting from the construction of temporary housings, the opening of a temporary shopping district, the inauguration of Onagawa’s new train station and the renovated Ishinomaki-railway. The creation of embankments, disaster public housings, individual housings, commercial facilities around the station, facilities for the fish market, a new town hall and an integrated elementary and junior high school are also part of this bustling reconstruction effort . 

Looking back, it has been 10 years that we have been standing in support of all town people along the reconstruction effort. This was made possible thanks to the contributions of Switzerland, for which we want to express our gratitude."

Mitsuru Saito,
Director of the Onagawa Medical Center

About 1.9 billion JPY in donation from the Swiss Red Cross(Schweizerisches Rotes Kreuz), Caritas Switzerland (Caritas Schweiz/Caritas Suisse) and Swiss Solidarity were used to rebuild the medical center.  We would like to thank Director Mitsuru Saito and all the members of the medical center as well as the Onagawa Tourism Association.