Te Aponga Uira network technician, Hideki Date (front left) with a group of Catholic volunteers who are helping to rebuild the tsunami-ravaged city of Fukushima. The city also suff ered nuclear fallout after reactors in the city were damaged during the 2011 tsunami.
While most people book tropical getaways for their holidays, Japanese expatriate Hideki Date prefers to volunteer his time and skills where they are needed. During his annual leave recently, Date returned to his homeland where he spent two weeks helping out at the tsunami-ravaged area of Fukushima which has also been closed off due to high risks from nuclear radiation. Following a major earthquake in 2011 that generated a 15-metre tsunami, causing widespread destruction and death, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors were also damaged, causing a nuclear disaster in the area. Four years on and not much has changed in the area reports Date, who has returned home annually to volunteer since the 2011 tsunami. Although originally from Tokyo, Date says he feels compelled to help out his fellow countrymen. “I like to do volunteer work and I have the skills to help and it also helps me with my skills too,” says Date, an engineer. In Fukushima, he helped dismantle abandoned homes in areas where families have left since the tsunami and nuclear fallout. Date says the area was monitored and declared safe to work in without the risk of getting radiation poisoning. He says there are still a lot of damaged homes and businesses that have not been touched since the tsunami ripped through the area in 2011. In fact, Date came across vehicles still stuck in the sides of buildings and giant piles of debris left behind by the waves. He says the destruction left behind by the tsunami is still a sad sight. However, working with a Catholic volunteer group has meant that he can help in some small way to return the still salt-burned area back to a habitable place for the people who once called the area home.