SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, March 11, at 6 p.m., the San Francisco Japantown community will host a commemorative gathering to reflect and remember the events of Friday, March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami with waves as high as 133 feet hit the north eastern region of Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan and the fourth most powerful earthquake recorded in world history.

In the Sendai area of Miyagi Prefecture, the tsunami created waves that traveled 6 miles inland and the earthquake was so strong that it moved Honshu, Japan’s largest island, 8 miles east and closer to the United States.

The disaster took almost 16,000 lives, injured thousands more and over 2,500 people still remain missing today. Over 200,000 people still have no home to return to and remain in either temporary housing or permanent relocation. Over a million buildings and homes were totally or partially destroyed. The tsunami also damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which caused the evacuation of 200,000 people.

In response to the disaster, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) established the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (NJERF). The fund was initiated on the same day of the disaster and would raise over $4 million by the end of the fundraising campaign.  Over 13,000 donors and 25,000 on contributed to NJERF and various organizations, community nonprofits, businesses, schools and private individuals held over 300 fundraising events.

NJERF was divided into three phases – Relief, Recovery and Rebuilding – and the fund continued for five years.  The Relief Phase covered the immediate months following the disaster and addressed life-saving and survival needs; from 2011 to 2013, the Recovery Phase addressed temporary housing and mental health needs; the final Rebuilding Phase lasted from 2013 to 2015, focusing on programs and projects that helped to rebuild the human spirit, addressing mental health and community economic development.

The JCCCNC will be officially sunsetting the NJERF program this year, but will continue to visit and develop new programs with the organizations that it has been working with for the past five years.  Every year since 3/11, the JCCCNC has been sending delegations to the Sendai and Kesennuma area of the Tohoku region. In fall of 2016, they will organize a cultural tour to visit all six prefectures of the Tohoku region. In 2017, they plan to send a delegation of junior high school youth to participate in an inter-cultural exchange program with other youth from the affected areas.

“Over the past five years of providing support to the people of Tohoku, when we ask what they need most, their answer isn’t financial support, programs nor material goods. Overwhelmingly, when we ask that question, their answer is always ‘Don’t forget about us,’” said Paul Osaki, executive director of the JCCCNC.

The community gathering for the fifth anniversary, titled “Never Forget,” will include a report and presentation by the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AARJ), a Japanese nonprofit organization that NJERF has been supporting for the past five years. AARJ provided services in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures immediately following 3/11, delivering emergency and medical supplies and providing health-related services, mobile clinics and mental health services. For the past two years, it has been focusing its programs and services in the Fukushima area of Minami-soma, supporting temporary housing facilities and implementing relief assistance in 11 of the city’s municipal districts.

The commemorative service is open to the public. The Japanese American Religious Federation will conduct a meditation and prayer service and light refreshments and art reflecting the Tohoku region will be available. Join the community as it gathers to reflect, pray, remember and to never forget the lives that were affected by the events surrounding 3/11.

The service will take place at the JCCCNC, located at 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco’s historic Japantown.

Supporting organizations:

Buddhist Church of San Francisco

East West Academy of Healing Arts

Dr. Effie Chow

JACL Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District

JACL San Francisco Chapter

Japanese American Religious Federation

Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California

Japanese Community Youth Council

Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

Japanese Cultural Fair

Japantown Task Force

Kokoro Assisted Living

Konko Church of San Francisco

Minami Tamaki LLP

Nakayoshi Young Professionals

Nihonmachi Little Friends

Nihonmachi Street Fair

Oakland-Fukuoka Sister City Organization

Pine United Methodist Church

Rosa Parks Elementary School Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program

San Francisco Japantown Foundation

San Francisco Kyoto-kai

San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association

San Francisco Taiko Dojo

United Nations Association of America, San Francisco Chapter

For more information or to RSVP, call (415) 567-5505 or visit

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