In the Japanese language, the phrase "to eat" is written using Chinese characters that literally mean "making people well" — and we saw the power of that phrase at work during a Friday afternoon visit that will become one of most memorable moments of this mission.
On March 11, 2013, the residents of Katsura Island had about one hour's notice that the tsunami was headed their way. None of them chose to leave. The younger folks on the island gathered the elderly and got everyone to the highest-most point on the island—an elementary school. From this vantage point, the villagers watched as the tsunami destroyed much of the island and wreaked havoc on the small boats, oyster beds and seaweed beds on which they relied for their livelihood.
Inside this bay, which is dotted with islands, the tsunami wave was not the 90-foot wave that hit the coast directly, but was no less devastating as water came in from every direction and brought waves 15 to 20 feet high that wiped out much of the housing on the island and damaged the piers and boats.
Since the disaster, the younger people who used to live on the island have left—leaving only about 100 people, with the youngest being around 50 years of age. Many of this elderly population are living in temporary housing and just recently have been able to resume their seaweed and oyster operations.
Why did our mission visit this island? Because the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Beef Council were the first U.S. organizations to be in Japan with support for the islanders and to other Japanese victims of the tsunami. Working with USMEF, these two Nebraska-based organizations helped provide beef and pork and other foodstuffs to the remaining islanders. USMEF partnered with a number of Japanese organizations to make that happen, including Hannan, the food processing company we visited earlier on Friday.
Continue to follow the Midwest Corn Growers Study Tours blog, designed to capture the highlights - and a few details - of study tours made by corn growers from Nebraska and other corn states.