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HOME > Exchange page > Post-Programme exchange reports > Post-Programme Exchange and Activity reports > Interview with Mr. Aaron Reece Morellini, a participant of the JENESYS Invitation Programme
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Interview with Mr. Aaron Reece Morellini, a participant of the JENESYS Invitation Programme

Mr. Aaron Reece Morellini
2010 Australia Japanese Language University Student, Participant

Aaron Morellini (Mr.), an ex-participant of 2010 JENESYS from Australia, visited the JICE office in Tokyo after completing volunteer work in Tohoku disaster affected areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake. A piece of cloth stitched on his backpack says “I walked from Tokyo to Sendai”. He carries a guitar, the companion of his journey, and it bears signatures and messages from the people he met in Tohoku.

When Mr. Morellini visited Aichi Prefecture back in 2010 with JENESYS, he took interest to the way Japanese people think, their demeanor and manners. He actively sought communication with as many people as he can – students, host family, even passer-bys on the street – using freshly learned Japanese. He seemed to have met quite a number of people during this trip as well, although the nature of the trip was a bit different.

Mr. Morellini took about 2 months to walk from Tokyo to Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai City, and then to Iwate Prefecture, Morioka City, walking an astounding length of 600 kilometers in total. He visited the Tohoku disaster affected areas and met people from those regions, listened to their stories from that fateful day, contributed to recovery efforts as a volunteer, and put up these experiences on his blog.

The only means of travel was on foot, rain or shine. The average distance traveled was 30km a day, sometimes 50km. “I walked instead of using any vehicles. It means you need to make a lot of stops, which means you have many opportunities to meet people, and talk to people. One reason to choose to walk from Tokyo to Sendai and Iwate is to show you can do anything, that ‘nothing is impossible, if you think you can, you can’. I wanted to relay this to the people in the disaster area.”

The idea came into mind when Japanese students visited Australia through “The Youth-Exchange Project with Asia-Oceania and North America (Kizuna (bond) Project)” implemented by JICE in March 2013. As the ex-participant of JENESYS, Mr. Morellini joined the exchange programme and learned the stories about the earthquake and the tsunami as well as the current living situations of survivors. Hearing the first hand stories that are unavailable on the news prompted him to see the situation for himself.

Meeting many different people during the travel, Mr. Morellini heard stories about the day of the earthquake while walking from Tokyo to Ibaraki Prefecture, and also took in opinions about the power plant from the residents of Fukushima Prefecture. On several occasions, a family took him in for a night after learning that he was walking from Tokyo. Arriving in Sendai city after a month of walking, he re-connected with the Kizuna participants that he met 5 months ago in Australia.

The journey then headed towards the coast. Starting from Miyagi Prefecture, Matsushima Town through Ishimaki City, Onagawa Town, and ended up in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture. Viewing the landscape from the rooftop of a building in Onagawa Town, Mr. Morellini compared the original map of the town prior to the earthquake. He lost his words when he saw that the town was almost unrecognizable. Since that day onwards he committed himself to helping all that needed help, conducting English classes, construction work, and taking care of residents of temporary housing. The locals opened up when they recognized his passion and discussed their life before and after the earthquake, showing him family photos and pictures.

“I heard so many tragic stories. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally hard to hear them, but the people I spoke to was all survivors, and their positive attitude after all of these adversities kept me going.” Reflecting on the lessons from the journey, Mr. Morellini felt a sense of accomplishment from connecting on a heart-to-heart level.

Mr. Morellini plans to continue updating his blog about the experiences from the journey in order to spread knowledge to the rest of the world. He will start attending University of Saga starting next April. “The most important thing to me is creating relations between people. I hope to connect with many people in Saga and get to know more about Japan and the Japanese people.”

((Related Information))
Aaron’s Blog: Tokyo to Sendai Walk--Aaron Morellini