August 19th, 2011
On March 11th 2011, the worst tsunami in recent Japanese history slammed into the eastern coastal communities devastating thousands of homes and businesses in its path. Though this tsunami destroyed Japanese communities, there is one thing it didn’t destroy: honesty.
In a story written by Akiko Fujita on the ABC International site, rescue workers, police authorities, and regular citizens in Japan are reported to have returned approximately $78 million in cash and other valuables to their rightful owners. Since March 11th, people have turned in thousands of wallets that were scattered throughout the debris, containing $48 million in cash as well as identification cards and other valuables. The Tokyo Times reported more than 5,700 safes carried away by the tsunami have been returned to the police. Volunteers and rescues workers hauled these safes, some containing the equivalent of $1 Million, to police stations. Authorities with the Japanese National Police Agency reported the combined value of belongs from these safes that has been returned to their owners is at $30 Million.
Identifying the owner of the safe turned out relatively easy since most safes had official documentation such as land rights documents and bankbooks that contain names and addresses. However locating the missing owners proved the more daunting task. Koetsu Saiki explained, “The fact that these safes were washed away, meant the homes were washed away too. We had to first determine if the owners were alive, then find where they had evacuated to.” Searching for names in evacuation centers, missing person listings, digging through change of address forms, and even calling town halls and asking for the owner by name are the main methods the police are using.
Many people in the Miyagi prefecture were employed by fisheries along the coast and these companies prefer the paying workers in cash transactions, which explains why stashing cash a common method among fishing communities. Other valuables such as gold bars and momentous family heirlooms were also found inside these safes. They have been using garages and spare office rooms piled high with safes waiting to meet their owners again. Although, the number of recovered valuables declines every passing month, more and more police departments continue receiving wallets, safes, and other things every week.
Even though buildings may fall and communities crumble, the Japanese people have a strong foundation built on honesty. It will take more than a tsunami to take away the honesty of the Japanese people. Our hearts’ go out to the victims of this catastrophe and our respect goes out to those honest individuals who are doing their best to revive their communities.