May 18th, 2011

Update on Friends in Far Places

From Mark Krajnak, Manager, Corporate Communications, Johnson & Johnson

In a JNJ BTW post a couple of months ago, Sharon D’Agostino, Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Contributions and Community Relations, Johnson & Johnson, described what Johnson & Johnson was doing to provide aid to the people of Japan.

Since the March earthquake and tsunami, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Japan. Back in early January 2010, I visited the country while developing a story for the Johnson & Johnson annual report. As the focal point of that story, I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful young lady, Masako Yoshino. Yoshino-san lives in Urawkawa, a town in the Hokkaido region of northern Japan. From the Sapporo/New Chitose Airport, it was a three-hour van ride through small towns and winding highways along the coast to Urawkawa. And, having just come from temperate Tokyo, Urawkawa in January was downright cold, snowy and icy – so much so that the photo team started to refer to it as “Snowkkaido”.

Urawkawa is a small village and much of its daily life is centered on the nearby seas. Interestingly, though, Urakawa also is known as “the hometown of thoroughbreds” and produces some of Japan’s top racehorses. In fact, the photo shoot that we did for the annual report story with Yoshino-san was at a local stable as riding and horses is a love of hers, as well as a part of her ongoing therapy. The snow was blowing and it was freezing, but she had a smile on her face the whole time.

Last March, when I heard about the effect of the earthquake and tsunami, my first thought was to some of my colleagues that I had met while in Tokyo. My next immediate thought, though, was towards Yoshino-san, and the other people we met while there. Yoshino-san is part of a group living establishment called Bethel House. The patients of Bethel House, and the kelp packaging they do, are an integral part of the Urawkawa community. After the tsunami, about 4,200 people in the community, including Yoshino-san, were evacuated to higher ground.

Some people who had read about Yoshino-san in that annual report story have contacted Johnson & Johnson to ask how she is doing. In checking in with my Japanese colleagues, I was able to find out that Yoshino-san and the other residents of Bethel House are doing well and life is getting back to normal for them. Luckily, while affected by the earthquake and tsunami, Bethel House and its residents have sound disaster preparation planning. The team at Bethel House even shared with me some photos of the group visiting a recent cherry blossom festival.

I was happy to hear my friends in the northern reaches of Japan were all doing well. Even while there, I saw how resilient and happy they were. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Special thanks to Naoya Ito and Kenji Kumano, my colleagues in Japan, for their help with this post. And a special thanks to Yoshino-san and Bethel House for sending over the photos of the town and the group.

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