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Over three months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami tore through the Tohoku coastline. The following video discusses the work of SDF members from Kyoto in the town of Otsuchi in Iwate Prefecture.

  • ~00:20: This is the first ever fully-joint operation of the Ground, Air and Maritime Self-Defense Forces
  • ~00:40: The GSDF member states that when he first arrived in the town, the sight of the rubble piled high left him speechless
  • ~00:58: About 1000 people are still missing in the town.
  • ~01:03: Base of the GSDF 7th Engineer Group (Construction) of the 4th Engineer Brigade out of Uji, Kyoto
  • ~01:25: There are approximately 650 service members based at the camp
  • ~01:28: They do not have a single day of holiday.
  • ~01:30: They are using a field catering trailer to cook hot food
  • ~01:58: The town caught fire after flames spread from a burning gas station
  • ~02:07: The SDF has been working hard to clear roads and paths
  • ~02:30: On the wooded hill behind the house, there is a shrine where 6 or 7 families are staying
  • ~02:38: The SDF visit these families once a day carrying essential supplies
  • ~02:55: Although buses are running in parts of the town, the train line is yet to be restored
  • ~03:05: In the disaster zone, there is still no mains electricity or water supplies
  • ~03:15: The man is asked what life would be like if the SDF weren’t there. He replies that they would not be able to get anything done, and that the SDF are really helping them
  • ~03:28: The removal of the debris is very dangerous work. 7 victims have died and over 100 accidents have occurred involving the rubble
  • ~03:50: Red flags are used as markers to inform people of dangerous areas of the rubble
  • ~04:10: There are many dangerous items in the wreckage. Col. Yonezu explains that the houses there were fitted with propane gas tanks. When they are found in the debris, they have to be inspected and made safe by hand.
  • ~04:25: There is asbestos and dioxins within the debris
  • ~04:34: Although there have been no serious injuries among the service members in Otsuchi, they continue regardless of major blows or cuts.
  • ~05:00: They are fighting against time: with the arrival of summer, the temperature is rising and the dead fish and waste are creating a horrendous smell
  • ~05:30: Col. Yonezu says that the removal of the wreckage is slow-going, but life is slowly picking up where it left off.
  • ~05:50: The SDF have received many messages of support. Col. Yonezu says that messages of gratitude and support sustain them.
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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch