One High School Girl × Melbourne × Earthquake Support

Aki Okado’s Thoughts

Have you heard about this?
The story of a high school girl fighting alone to send messages from Melbourne to Hachinohe city in Aomori prefecture, an area struck by the Great East Japan earthquake.

Aki Okado, 17 years old – things I can to do now to help.


Interviewed by Yudai Kohchi


-May We Hear Something About Aki Yourself?

I am Aki Okado, 17 years old, from Saitama prefecture. I am enrolled in a senior high school in Japan but since July 2010 I have been studying abroad for a year at my current high school in Boxhill. Therefore, I will be heading back to Japan this coming July. Classes for the third year have recently been announced, and I am really looking forward to it now because I am in the same class with my best friends.


-When You Decided to Study Overseas in Melbourne:

Before I was born, my father was living in Spain. He took me to Spain several times because of that. The cultural differences that I encountered at the time made me made up my mind to learn about other cultures in the future.

The senior high school that I went to in Japan allows for the transfer of credits during study abroad so I decided to use this system to my advantage and study overseas.

I decided on Australia because it is a country of immigrants so I would be able to learn about a variety of cultures at one time. Moreover, some of my parents’ friends are living in Melbourne, and I heard that it is a very safe place so I decided to study in Melbourne.


-So What Did You Think When You Came to Melbourne?

There surely are various kinds of people (laugh).
Have You Learnt Anything During Your Stay in Melbourne Since July 2010?
I truly felt the greatness of my mother. I made up my mind that I will not cry when I come over but…
Before leaving for Melbourne, my mother was against my studying abroad so I begged her everyday “Please let me study overseas”.
But even so, she was still angry and asked “Why now?”
Nevertheless my mother actually secretly researched about studying overseas, and at the end she finally said “Aki, go!”
However, she told me to not contact her unless I have injured myself or fell sick during this time, so I felt that I was not fully approved by my mother even after I arrived here.

Then a letter suddenly arrived about two months after I came to Melbourne, and again the next day. The sender was my mother who said for so many times to “not contact” me. I realised that my mother still cared for me and I just could not hold back my tears anymore.

When I was in Japan, I always argued with my mother and could not really be thought of as a good daughter. But even then, my mother still cared for me. At the same time as I felt happy about this I also thought of how great my mother is.


-Supporting Japan in My Way

At the time when the earthquake struck (Friday 11th March, 2011), my friends wrote on Twitter “what should I do, what should I do?” and they spent the night shaking away at a train station. My father could not go home for three days for the same reason.

I was mortified about myself for knowing about these yet being unable to do anything for them. During this period of time, fund raising activities have started one after another.

It would not be appropriate for someone like me to donate as I am here supported by my parents’ money. So I thought about what is it that I can do here in Australia, and decided on collecting messages from the people of Melbourne.
Then I spent the weekend thinking about where to send the messages to, and bought this notebook on the following Monday.

-To Hachinohe City in Aomori Prefecture

When I was watching news of the earthquake on the internet, scenes of victims in Hachinohe city Aomori prefecture were sometimes broadcasted. According to the news, the death toll was not as high as Miyagi prefecture where the tsunami struck but there were a lot of people who had to evacuate. 

I also heard that goods like food were running short so I thought “That’s it! Let’s send the messages to here!”
I opened up Hachinohe city’s homepage, and there was a forum where you can send emails directly to the mayor so I tried making my enquiry there – “I want to send messages from Australia to people in Hachinohe”.

A day later I received the reply saying “That would be of great help”. I thought again to myself that I have to go for it and persist in this.


-Started by Only One Person – Collection of Messages for Japan

I think that people in Melbourne except Japanese do not usually get opportunities like this to write a message for Japan, so anyone is fine really to leave their messages. First of all, I asked my classmates and teachers to write some messages. Then I visited language schools, universities and my study abroad agent during the limited time I have between after school and my curfew so as to collect as many messages as I can. 

At the end everyone always says “Thanks for giving me this chance to contribute”. I feel encouraged by the idea that everyone’s inner thoughts could be passed on to Japan.

-High School Student × Classes × Curfew

It is quite difficult with the time restrictions so I asked for special permission to leave after the 9am to 12pm class whereas the normal class schedule would be from 9am to 3:30pm. Then I head for the city from Boxhill and walk around various places with the notebook. Although I would like to stay around the city until later for this, it is quite difficult because I have a curfew and must leave the city by 5:30pm.


-Do You Have a Goal for This Activity?

Yes. First of all, I want to send this notebook filled with messages to the people in Hachinohe as soon as possible. Then I want to send a video message because I am currently studying media at school. But the main focus is still on sending this notebook and its packed thoughts to them as soon as possible. 

-Please Say Something at the End

If there are people who read this article and think that they want to write a message, I will bring the notebook to you at a suitable time. Please pass on your messages to me! 

I would also like to take part in charity events as a volunteer. I will do anything that I can do to help!

Requests from Aki
For those who wish to write a message in Aki’s notes or those who wish to support Aki’s actions in some way, please send in the following details to this email address [email protected].

Your Full Name:
Contact details (email address, cell phone number):
Indication of whether you wish to write a message/support Aki’s actions or Both


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