German woman encourages youth exchange through support of tsunami-hit Sanriku region

German woman encourages youth exchange through support of tsunami-hit Sanriku region

Gesa Neuert, organizer of a German-Japanese summer school. (Mainichi)
Gesa Neuert, organizer of a German-Japanese summer school. (Mainichi)

What began as a training session in Tokyo some 30 years ago has turned into a lifelong connection to Japan for one German mother of four.

In 1984, Gesa Neuert, who was then doing research on metabolic physiology at a university in Germany, took part in a training session at the University of Tokyo. She became fascinated with the people and culture of Japan, and became involved in Japanese-German exchange programs. Since 2003, when Neuert became the deputy chairman of the Association of German-Japanese Societies, she has organized homestays for over 800 young people from both countries.

Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the German-Japanese Synergy Forum (DJSF) was established to encourage exchange between young people of both countries while supporting recovery in the disaster-hit areas, and Neuert became the organization’s president. The following year, it held its first DSJF Sanriku Fukkou Summer School session, in which students from both Japan and Germany got together and visited areas that were devastated by the 2011 disaster to learn how communities were rebuilding.

In March this year, as Neuert was preparing for DJSF’s second summer school session, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery to remove the malignant lesions and underwent drug therapy. Initially, doctors had told her that treatment would last until early September. Her treatment period was cut back, however, when Neuert insisted that she had to run summer school.

When Neuert first arrived in Japan for this year’s three-week session in September, she was unwell due to the side effects of the drugs she’d been taking. But she couldn’t help but be moved by a traditional shishi (deer) dance performance at a Shinto shrine in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture that to her was evidence of the people starting to get their beloved hometowns back. In Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, meanwhile, she expressed misgivings about government plans to build a massive concrete seawall, saying, „Concrete will not bring back the landscape and lives that have been lost.“

Running the summer school is not easy. But Neuert believes exchange between youths is indispensable for the future of both Japan and Germany. For now, though, she will focus on regaining her strength, so that she can come back again next year.


毎日新聞 2014年10月10日 東京朝刊


 ◇ゲーザ・ノイエルト(Gesa Neuert)さん(58)

約3週間に及ぶ「第2回独日三陸復興サマー・スクール」を企画し、9月に日独の学生らと東日本大震災の被災地を訪ねて復興の現状を学んだ。 ドイツの大学で代謝生理学の研究をしていた1984年、東京大での実習に参加。日本の人と文化に魅了され交流活動に携わるようになった。独日連合協会の副会長だった2003年から、800人以上の若者を両国にホームステイさせた。









Drei Jahre sind vergangen

Vor genau drei Jahren, am 11.3.2011 ist Japan um 14:46 Uhr von einem Erdbeben der Stärke 9,0 erschüttert worden. Der darauf folgende Tsunami, der Höhen von 40 Metern erreichte, hat ca. 500 km der Küstenregion in Tohoku überrollt, 15 884 Menschen getötet und mehrere 100 000 Häuser und Wohnungen zerstört. Noch immer sind 2 363 Menschen vermisst und über 3 000 Menschen sind in Folge des Unglücks gestorben. Die Explosionen im Kernkraftwerk Daiichi haben weitere 150 000 Menschen heimatlos gemacht und weite Landstriche von Fukushima wurden verstrahlt. Zusätzlich ist das Wasser der Flüsse, das Grundwasser und das Meer stark belastet. Aufgrund der Wohnverhältnisse sind viele Familien getrennt, Misshandlungen der traumatisierten Kinder nehmen zu.

Lasst uns die Katastrophe nicht vergessen und sie als Chance sehen, den Kontakt mit den Menschen in Tohuku zu vertiefen und ein Zeichen Deutsch Japanischer Freundschaft zu setzen. Unterstützen Sie die 2. Deutsch Japanische Summer School „Sanriku Fukkou“ im September 2014.


Tohoku population 2010: 9,335,636
Tohoku population 2013: 9,109,167

Total killed = 15,884
Total missing = 2,363
Total injured = 6,147

died because of 3.11.= 3,046

Collapsed buildings = 127,290
Half collapsed = 272,788
Partially damaged = 747,989

Estimated damages = ¥25 trillion ($300 billion)
Debris Swept off shore = 5 million tons

(As of February 10, 2014 by National Police Agency of Japan)