Hurricane Harvey Draws Texas And Japan Closer

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by Heejae Park
Kenichiro Sasae, the Ambassador of Japan to the United States, Diplomats and Staffs sent message card to cheer people in Texas with a donation to Red Cross [Image: Japan Embassy in DC official twitter account]

Texas was hit by the most destructive hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Charley in 2004. While the sudden disaster has wrought devastation in the state, this storm has drawn people in Texas and Japan closer. The Japanese, who have suffered from numerous natural disasters in recent years, did not stand still. Yoshiki Hayashi, known for his musical group X-Japan, donated $25,000 to the Red Cross to aid relief efforts to Hurricane Harvey victims. According to Yoshiki, he feels that America is his second home, even though he is a Japanese citizen.

Other Japanese organizations followed suit. In particular, several Japanese automobile corporations have led the way. Toyota provided a combined relief effort of over $3 million to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Its efforts included funds for several organizations helping with disaster relief like the American Red Cross, as well as matching contributions, donations, volunteerism, and in-kind donations of pre-owned vehicles. Additionally, Honda and Mazda each gave $100,000 donations to the Red Cross. Honda further assisted by working to establish websites where individuals can contribute directly to the Red Cross. Additionally, Kubota, a tractor corporation, pledged $1 million in relief funds and Mizuho, a financial corporation, gave a combined $150,000 to Habitat for Humanity.

Historically, Japan and Texas have assisted in each other’s relief activities. San Antonio, a major city in south-central Texas, aided fundraising efforts for its sister city of Kumamoto in Japan when it was hit by multiple earthquakes in 2016 that led to severe infrastructural damage, thousands of injuries, and 49 deaths. The donations reached over $47 million in the four days following the disaster. San Antonio and Kumamoto signed the sister city agreement in 1987. Ivy R. Taylor, the predecessor mayor of San Antonio, stated in 2016 “the warm and passionate response from many of our community partners who want to help our sister city is a testament to the bond that has united our two cities for almost 30 years”.

 

Heejae Park is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul.