Singapore students moved to tears in Japan
A photo exhibition by Republic Poly students was launched yesterday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Japan’s deadliest quake
Despite the language barrier, the Republic Polytechnic (RP) student cried with the fisherman who had lost his son in Japan's deadliest earthquake on March 11, 2011.
The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) collaborated with RP to send nine students and two lecturers to Japan from June 4 to 13 last year.
They captured the country's rehabilitation after the 9.0-magnitude quake that triggered a 40m-high tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people and left millions displaced.
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the disaster and the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties between Singapore and Japan, the students presented a photo exhibition of the trip at Ion Orchard yesterday.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan launched the exhibition, called The Strength of the Human Spirit.
The mass communications students went as photographers, videographers and writers to the Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.
Student photographer Azmi Athni, mingles with the children from Toyama Nursery School. PHOTO: MARCUS TAN/SRC
Third-year student Kulvinnder Kaur, 21, who went as a writer and had a translator during interviews, recalled meeting the fisherman.
She said: "The survivors welcomed me with open arms. But there was this fisherman who caught my attention because he looked so withdrawn.
"I asked him how he was doing. After a while, he broke down and told me he lost his son in the tsunami.
"I couldn't understand what he was saying, but I could tell he was still grieving. It moved me so much I cried with him." Third-year student Kane Raynard Goh, who was a videographer, said: "Eight months ago, we returned to Singapore bearing stories that moved us to tears, and now we want to share them with other people."
Second-year student Rachel Ng, 20, who was a photographer, told The New Paper: "One of the most memorable pictures I took was when we went to a (destroyed) service station.
The former Tapic 45 service station in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, was left in its wrecked state. PHOTO: RACHEL NG/SRC
"I saw cables dangling from the ceiling, coffee cups strewn on the floor and an ice cream machine among the debris.
"I was trying to capture the melancholy of the place. Five years on, it was chilling to see it untouched."Mr Goh, 22, said of the service station: "There was a marking on the roof and the guide told us that was how high the water was. It was so surreal I had to take a moment to compose myself."
EXCITED: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (left) with students and lecturer from Republic Polytechnic at the photo exhibition launch. TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
The group also visited several facilities in Japan funded by Singaporeans through a fund-raising appeal by SRC, which raised $35.7 million.
Mr Goh said: "The community hall in Rikuzentakata serves more than 20,000 residents. They never missed an opportunity to thank us."
WELCOME: (Above) Children of Toyama Nursery School performed for the Republic Polytechnic students and gave them handmade paper hats. PHOTO: RACHEL NG/SRC
THE STRENGTH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT
What: Photo exhibition of Japan five years after the March 11, 2011, earthquake that triggered a tsunami.
Where and when: Ion Orchard (March 2 to 6), VivoCity (March 8 to 13), Westgate (March 15 to 27), The Star Vista (April 1 to 3)