Australian Lachlan Tranter Talks about His Part in Helping Fukushima to Rebuild

Lachlan Tranter from Melbourne, Australia has been working as a coordinator in the International Relations International Affairs Division of the Fukushima Prefectural government since December 2011. His responsibilities include hosting classes at elementary and junior high schools to introduce Australia, planning cultural exchange events, and helping or interpreting at international conferences in the prefecture.
Lachlan decided to come to Japan in the same year as the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident. Rising Sun recently talked to him about what spurred his decision and whether he was worried about the twin disasters.

Rising Sun: What made you decide to work for the Fukushima Prefectural government?

Lachlan: I’ve been interested in Japan’s economy and culture for some time. When I was a university student, I studied at Kyukoku University in Kyoto for around 10 months before going back to Australia to graduate. After that, I worked in a bank for one year. That’s where I was when I first heard about the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme in April 2011. I applied and received an acceptance letter in November 2011.

Rising Sun: So you decided to come despite the earthquake and nuclear accident?

Lachlan: When I applied, I didn’t actually know where I would be working and only found out about Fukushima when I read my letter of acceptance. It was quite soon after the quake so naturally I had worries. But I visited a specialist on nuclear plants at the Consulate General and also talked it over with my parents and friends. My parents said they would support me if I still felt like going after the discussion at the Consulate General.

Rising Sun: How do you see Fukushima now? Has your opinion changed?

Lachlan: The whole of Fukushima is not contaminated. Yes, some people have been evacuated but a lot are still living quite normally. I don’t feel any particular danger. Some of my Australian friends are concerned about me working here but the majority have supported me.

Although the area has been hit by a massive disaster, local people have great spirit and most are doing well. I especially respect the volunteers who are working with us to support recovery. They also have their own issues to deal with but still work hard to respond to local government requirements.

Rising Sun: We’ve heard you joined the team working on the prefectural government’s Facebook page?

Lachlan: Yes, I’m planning to translate articles already on the page into English. I want everyone to know the current situation in Fukushima. Information is important. But the page is not only for people who are already interested in the area. I also want to reduce the negative image affecting the prefecture. By using Facebook and other social media wisely, we can present the facts and help to change things. I want everyone to know just how hard people here are working.

I particularly want to introduce Fukushima’s natural beauty. It is different to what I know from Australia but still amazing ? especially the rural scenery. It is so typically Japanese. I personally think Fukushima rice and fruit are awesome. Strawberries from Minami-soma City are some of the best in the world. My mother visited this May and I took her there so she could try them. She’s a big fruit lover but even she was really impressed.

These are the points about Fukushima that appeal to me as a kind of third party. I’m not just passing on suggestions from local people so I think the information has more impact. That’s how I can be useful. As well as translating existing articles into English, I have been visiting places and meeting people myself to write my own articles.

Rising Sun: Almost one year has passed since you came to Fukushima. How do you feel now and do you have any goals for the future?

Lachlan: I am really happy I came here. There are a lot of things to deal with but putting myself in this situation has helped me to become more emotionally mature. I want to support the people of Fukushima as much as possible. I hope my work can give them encouragement and help them to smile again. What happened here is important to people from right around the world.