Mar 062012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Japan’s post-disaster recovery didn’t just play out across TV screens for CSU professor Masako (Mako) Beecken.

“I visited this one particular site where the radiation exposure had been pretty high. They needed to scrape the surface of the ground maybe 20-25 inches, maybe more,” she said. “They don’t know where to put that contaminated soil, so they just pile it up, and place a blue tarp over it.”

The Department of Foreign languages and Literatures faculty member was visiting the nation nine months after its earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown crisis in March 2011. The catastrophe led to 15,850 deaths, 6,011 injuries and 3,287 people missing across 18 districts, according to the Japanese National Policy Agency.

More than 125,000 buildings were also damaged or destroyed.

Beecken, who teaches Japanese, was bearing witness to the nation’s rebuilding efforts.

“When you actually stand in a place like that, you really cannot see the damage or anything,” she said. “But you really kind of feel threatened. So people there have to live with this invisible threat every day.”

And it’s because these conditions persist to this day that CSU’s Japan Club is hosting a memorial today at 6 p.m. in Clark A 104. The event will feature a student-made video recapping the disaster, as well as a moment of silence for its victims.

Donations supporting recovery efforts will also be collected, with all proceeds going toward supporting the orphaned children in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture.

Club President Kimi Gomez is aiming for 150 people from CSU and around Fort Collins to attend.

“We’ve been working really hard on it since last semester,” she said. “ … We’ve been advertising as much as possible, so we hope that we can get as many people as possible to come.”

But this isn’t the first time the Japan Club has held an event calling attention to the nation’s disaster. Last year when the catastrophe occurred, the group helped collect almost $10,000 in donations and divided the funds to two Japanese organizations.

A parent-teacher association in the Miyagi Prefecture received one half of those donations. The other half went to an orphanage in the Fukushima Prefecture, where the children had to stay inside after the disaster or risk exposure to nuclear radiation.

“When it was 100 degrees outside, they had to have the windows closed with no air conditioning,” Beecken said.

The $5,000 gift helped them buy air conditioning.

“Even after a year, although Japan has restored incredibly, there are still so many people who live under poor conditions,” she added. “We still have this problem of radiation exposure. People should be aware of that.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

Interested in the event? Attend:

When: Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Clark A 102
What: Japan disaster recap, moment of silence and fundraiser.

 Posted by at 4:11 pm

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