KESENNUMA, Miyagi--The city of Kesennuma, hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has created a multilingual Facebook account to share locals' stories and pictures of the disaster and their reconstruction efforts with people around the world.
The city is the first disaster-hit municipality to provide such information in foreign languages on the popular U.S. social networking site. The city's account currently has more than 1,000 "friends," meaning people who visit and "like" the page.
The municipality has high hopes the move will raise global awareness of the city's plight and help it receive continuous support from overseas.
Reiki Saito, 40, a Kesennuma native now working as an IT engineer for Microsoft Japan in Tokyo, proposed the idea of using Facebook to the city. Saito lost a friend in the tsunami and returned home three weeks after the disaster. He was stunned to see mountains of debris, and could barely recognize the landscape in front of him as his hometown.
"Is there anything I can do to make the international community more aware that Kesennuma needs help?" he thought.
At a meeting of a civic panel on disaster reconstruction, in which he has participated in since June, Saito proposed that the city government take advantage of Facebook, which claims to have more than 600 million users across the globe.
On the municipality's Facebook page, titled "Kesennuma: Building for the future," messages and information are posted in English and other foreign languages. Photographs and videos posted on the page show skeletons of buildings devastated by the tsunami, new fishing ships built post- March 11 and other images related to the catastrophe.
The page also includes messages from Mayor Shigeru Sugawara, local residents and people who hail from the city. Articles from local newspaper Sanriku Shimpo and other materials have been translated into foreign languages for the page. Visitors also can obtain detailed information on how to make donations to the city.
The municipality also plans to post essays written in English by local children.
David Robinson, who used to work for the U.S. magazine National Geographic, is editing the Facebook page on a volunteer basis. He readily took up the position of editor-in-chief as his wife, Ritsuko, is a native of Kesennuma.
"Previously, there were limited options as to how we could reach out to people overseas," Saito said. "Kesennuma's reconstruction has just begun. We hope to get support from people all over the world."
"Like" this way