A Japanese professor with strong Derry links has sent a touching letter to his friends in the North West, assuring them of his safety following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which has crippled Japan in recent weeks.
Takashi Miyazaki, a Professor of Education at University of Hakkaido in Japan, has visited the city with colleagues on a number of occasions in recent years to work alongside local parenting education group, the Lifestart Foundation.
Dr Pauline McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Lifestart Foundation, told the ‘Derry Journal’: “At the Lifestart Foundation, we educate parents on how children develop and learn.
“Professor Takashi Miyazaki is very interested in the Foundation as he is doing research on the transition from home to school. He and some colleagues have been coming here for years, financed by the Japanese government, and I have been co-coordinating their research on education.”
Dr McClenaghan reveals that the last time Mr Miyazaki visited Derry was in early March, just days before the huge earthquake struck his native country on March 11, measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale and causing widespread chaos.
“Since then, I received a very moving letter from Takashi to his friends here, with some photographs of the devastation in Japan,” she added.
In his email, dated March 25, Mr Miyazaki thanked colleagues in Ireland for their “heartwarming messages” and reassured them that he and his family were safe.
“Fortunately, we are all OK, thank you very much. However, as we are getting concrete information around the stricken area, a great shock is being piled up, again and again.”
The photographs were taken from within the stricken area, and Mr Miyazaki notes: “The highest tsunami was about 30 meters. Nothing is more unbelievable than this wretched spectacle.”
Describing the current feeling among his fellow citizens as “a vulnerable and risky balance”, he went on to say, “At this moment, I am not sure what I should do for forseeing an alternative future.
“However, I hope we can get a clearer vision for trustworthy society through our communication based on common experience of empowerment practice... all I can say surely is that we are facing a historical turning point.”
The letter ends with added poignancy, as Mr Miyazaki asks his friends in Ireland, “please keep in touch”.
“Takashi has many friends here and I just wanted to let them know that while he is safe, they face a desperate situation in Japan,” Dr McClenaghan added.