Australia is with Minami Sanriku
The town of Minami Sanriku, located in Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan, was devastated by the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Many lives, livelihoods and homes were lost.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Australia and Minami Sanriku have forged a strong friendship.
Almost immediately, a 76-strong Urban Search and Rescue Team from Australia was despatched to the town to search for survivors.
The RAAF C-17 aircraft that brought the team from Australia remained in Japan, transporting vital stores and equipment to assist the humanitarian effort. It flew 23 sorties as part of Operation Pacific Assist.
Prime Minister's visit
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was the first world leader to visit Japan after the disaster, visiting Tokyo and Minami Sanriku in April 2011.
In Minami Sanriku, Prime Minister Gillard met Mayor Jin Sato and visited locals at an evacuation centre. At the mayor's request, Ms Gillard announced a food aid package for the town, which arrived four days later.
Australia participated in Minami Sanriku's 'recovery market' in October 2011. More than 60 Australians and staff from the Australian Embassy travelled to the town to show their support for the town's recovery.
Embassy staff returned in April to participate in the market for a second time.
Australia was represented at Minami Sanriku's memorial service, on 11 March 2012, by Vice Chief of the Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO, Fire and Rescue NSW Chief Superintendent and leader of the Urban Search and Rescue Team Rob McNeil and representatives of the Australian Embassy.
At the Embassy, Chief-Supt McNeil spoke to a group of local school students about his experiences.
Gold Coast visit
In March 2012 a group of 24 schoolchildren from Minami Sanriku visited the Gold Coast, attending classes at a local school, staying with Australian families and seeing the sights.
We hope to continue this program in 2013.
Mayor's visit to Australia
In October 2012, Minami Sanriku Mayor Jin Sato - together with Iitate Village Council Chair Chohei Sato - travelled to Australia to share experiences in coping with the longer-term effects of natural disasters. The visit was funded by the Australia-Japan Foundation.
2013 Australia Study Program for Minami Sanriku Schoolchildren
In March 2013, a group of 20 schoolchildren from Minami Sanriku visited Victoria. English classes, farm stays and Phillip Island's world-famous 'penguin parade' were on the agenda. This study tour was funded by Australia-Japan Foundation.