My grandmother was born in Nami-ita, a little district of Ogatsu town that is now part of Ishinomaki. Ogatsu is famous for its Ogatsu inkstone, which can be retrieved from slate mountains that formed over millions of years. Aging population in Nami-ita was chronic as young people are pouring into the big cities. The disaster in 2011 worsened the problem as the tsunami swept away large parts of this district, including my grandmother.
I took part in this leadership training program in California last year, together with 99 other high school students from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima- the prefectures devastated by the disaster. Going to the United States for the first time, learning about leadership training, and meeting new friends through this program broaden my horizons and changed my life.
I came back to Japan with renewed hope and confidence, albeit also with a huge responsibility resting on my shoulders, that we can change our hometown together. I organize guided tours sometimes, bringing visitors around my hometown to show them the charms of this city from my perspective.
I am currently working with two other friends to come up with a proposal to the local government to advocate for change. As local high school students, we believe we are the ones to create a hometown that we envision, together with other stakeholders.