LOOK JAPAN January2000

I arrived in Kobe on business late on the night of January l6. When I saw the reddish-black full moon, I felt something ominous in the air, and I couldn't sleep for a long time. Just as I was finally drifting off, the jolt came and I woke up to my own screaming," says Miyauchi Yoshiko, CEO of the Communication Bureau, a company that puts together distinguished specialist networks. She was and is also an adviser to the Hyogo prefectural government, and at dawn made her way to the government offices. She walked with tears in her eyes, feeling the cruelty of nature that left this modern city so vulnerable and so mercilessly destroyed. She arrived at the government building to find that many of the workers there were also victims, and decided to help in whatever way she could. She tried calling several organizations to determine the extent of the damage, but seldom got through; even the radio didn't work. "Without our usual means of information gathering, we were severely faced with our human limitations. Physical strength and will power were all I had left to work with." She recalls the specter of the quake as "hell on earth."
"In this colossal disaster, where anyone could easily have been killed, I found myself alive by luck. I felt strongly that I had not so much survived as been 'allowed' to live, and that raised the question of the meaning of my being left alive and what I should do with it."
As soon as she returned to Tokyo, Miyauchi took advantage of the networks she'd built and called on 38 business and opinion leaders, specialists and journalists from all over Japan, including President Anzai Kunio of Tokyo Gas, Chairman Higuchi Hirotaro of Asahi Breweries, architect Kurokawa Kisho, University of Tokyo Professor Emeritus Ishii Takemochi, film director Shinoda Masahiro, and writer Yamane Kazuma to promote a new Society to Help Rebuild Hyogo. The group assisted the prefecture through fundraising, proposals to the governor, volunteer activities, coordination between volunteers and the prefecture, lectures and establishment of another support group called PROPEL 21.

Miyauchi goes on: "The earthquake was a very sad, painful, and agonizing experience, but it forced us to realize the essential issues, such as what's really important to us as humans and what forms the core of human relationships. In our effort to modernize the nation, based on human-centered thinking almost to the point of arrogance, we single-mindedly pursued economic efficiency and mass production, consumption, and throwing away of wastes, only to contribute to the destruction of the global environment. In the process we lost the warm cooperative relationships we used to have and became used to shallow, cold ones instead. "
In the quake, we saw our strongest materials shatter and realized that the most reliable things are bonds between people-family, friends, neighbors. In the resurgent volunteer spirit and the human love expressed to us on a global scale in the form of physical help and emotional support, I felt these intangible human bonds and the importance of community as I never had before. "
I also realized something of the strength and resilience of nature. Despite the awful damage, the trees held onto their roots, the new buds came out and bloomed. They cheered and comforted us. Now we have to be humble and get back to the basics. We are all part of the living entity that is the earth and the cosmic environment, and we have to think seriously about living in harmony with nature. That's a large part of the idea behind Japan Flora 2000."

Miyauchi was the first non-government worker to be hired as chief@public relations officer for Hyogo-ken, as well as the first from outside the prefecture. Over her six years in the position, she carried out special PR strategies. "Since the Port of Kobe opened during the Meiji Restoration (1868), Hyogo-ken has been bringing in and adapting to many foreign cultures. Governor Kaihara Toshitami himself is from outside Hyogo, too. People in Hyogo love such a big heart and take pride in being Hyogo-ites. So despite the disaster, they've been making steady progress in recovery and reconstruction, without panic. With a sense of gratitude, Hyogo must tell the rest of the world the lessons it learned from the quake. Emotional care, which is hard to see, is one example. Building a global crisis-management system for disasters like this is, I think, a good place for Japan to take the initiative. Sharing the information we gathered from our disaster experience globally is the mission given us to contribute to human happiness."