Hiraizumi was inscribed as a World Heritage site in June 2011.

General Information about the Hiraizumi World Heritage Site Hiraizumi Iwate, World Heritage Information Center

世界遺産平泉・東北復興対談 達増拓也岩手県知事×ドナルド・キーン氏(日本文学研究者)

希望ともす悠久の祈り

Iwate has faced unparalleled crises as a result of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The registration of Hiraizumi as a world heritage site amidst this disaster has shed a shining ray of hope on the citizens of this prefecture. Takuya TASSO is the Governor of Iwate and considers Hiraizumi a symbold of the reconstruction efforts and passionately believes in the sense of piece and symbiosis within that area. Donald KEENE is a Japanologist and Professor Emeritus at Columbia University who has a deep affection for Hiraizumi and announced after the earthquake that he would be obtaining Japanese citizenship and becoming a permanent resident of the country. The two shared their thoughts on the disaster-stricken area and what attracts them to Hiraizumi, and in doing so, they reaffirmed their resolution to reconstruct the region.
(Interviewer: Junko CHIBA, Iwate Menkoi-TV Broadcaster (from Hiraizumi))

Donald KEENE B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Columbia, Litt. D. from Cambridge, exchange student at Kyoto University Graduate School in 1953. Since then, Keene has continued to research and write while traveling between the United States and Japan for more than half a century. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Japan Academy. He is a Person of Cultural Merit, and a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class. He has been given several awards, such as the Kikuchi Kan Prize of the Society for the Advancement of Japanese Culture, the Yomiuri Literary Prize, and the Mainichi Shuppan Culture Prize, to name a few. He was also awarded the Order of Culture in 2008. Some of his representative works include The Japanese Discovery of Europe, Travelers of a Hundred Ages, A History of Japanese Literature (in four volumes), Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, and Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan. Professor Keene gave his last lecture at Columbia University in 2011, and announced that he would be obtaining Japanese citizenship and becoming a permanent resident of Japan. He was born in New York City in 1922.

Takuya TASSO Graduate of the Tokyo University Faculty of Law. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1988, receiving a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University while with the ministry. He became Deputy Division Chief of the Management and Coordination Division, Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was elected four times in a row as a member of the House of Representatives. He has held his current position since 2007. Tasso was born in Morioka in 1964.

Junko CHIBA Graduate of Keio University Faculty of Law. She began working for Iwate Menkoi-TV in 2001, and currently holds a position in the News Department. She was born in Hiraizumi in 1978

Thoughts on the Earthquake, Tohoku, and Iwate

——Tohoku and Iwate suffered great damage at the hands of the earthquake and tsunami last March. The following month, in April, Donald Keene, who was living in New York at the time, announced that he would be obtaining Japanese citizenship and becoming a permanent resident. I was incredibly moved by this. Was your decision to become a permanent resident of Japan spurred by the disaster?

KEENE For the past 35 years or so, I have spent half of each year in Tokyo, and the other half in New York. Last January, when I was in a hospital in Tokyo after falling ill, I thought to myself for the first time, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll live, but I do know that I want to spend the rest of my life in Japan.” I saw the footage of the Tohoku earthquake on television after I was discharged and had already returned to New York. It goes without saying that what I saw was horrific, but what saddened me was that many foreigners left Japan after the disaster struck. That’s when I made up my mind: “I am prepared to die amongst the Japanese people.”
 There is an excerpt from poet Jun Takami’s diary in my book “So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers.” During the war, there was a rumor going around that enemies were disembarking in Kamakura, where Takami lived. He brought his mother to Tokyo in order to evacuate her to a safe location. There were many, many people in Ueno Station for the same reason, but everyone was waiting quietly and patiently in order. Upon seeing this, Takami wrote, “I want to live with these people. I want to die with these people.” I feel the same way. I may not have been compelled to think that way if it had not been for the earthquake. However, after seeing the destruction, I made up my mind that I wanted to return to Japan, no matter what the cost.

——How did you feel after hearing this, Governor Tasso? What do you think about the support that came from both within and outside Japan after the earthquake occurred?

Governor I remember being very moved when I heard the news not long after the earthquake that Professor Keene was going to be obtaining Japanese citizenship. And now, speaking directly with Professor Keene, I feel truly inspired by him.
 Right after the earthquake, we received various kinds of support from many people from both within Japan and overseas. I felt grateful, and it also renewed my faith in the importance of human connection.
 When the decision was made last June at the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in Paris to inscribe Hiraizumi as a World Heritage Site, I gave a speech thanking the convention, as well as expressing my vow to fully engage in our earthquake recovery efforts. Attendees from many different countries gave us words of praise and encouragement, which deeply touched me.

Source:Iwate Nippo date 1 August 2012