7 years ago, this minute, the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. And changed the lives of thousands of people.
Met Koichi-san from Kobuchihama and Sachi-san, Shiho-san and Toru-san today. We talked about many things, but most of all about life after 11.3.11.
If the great earthquake of Tohoku and the following tsunami would never have happened… Then we would not be sitting here together. In fact, we would probably never have met. Though the earthquake was a disaster, there is always something good coming out of something bad.
Also got to know that the small, private volunteer group we joined have collected donations and arranged flee markets to collect a total of 25 million yen. All of it went into things for Kobuchihama and Fukukiura.
This weekend we have another flea market for the Tohoku area. This time we have a rental space in Naka-Meguro. Chie and I went there in the morning to help setting everything up.
Even though it was a lot of work it went quite fast as there was a lot of people helping out. We also had some time to play around.
A work colleague from Chie’s office and her kids have joined forces with us in Ishihara-san’s network of volunteers. Today we delivered packages for the Project “Christmas” to Ishihara-san. Once we were done we continued to Yasaka for dinner together.
At Yasaka we had tori-yaki until we could eat no more, and then we had ice cream from Baskin-Robin. It was all very yummy.
Between eating we had a chance to talk with the kids – around 10 (boy) and 6 (girl) years old. They are such nice kids – once they heard Chie was doing volunteer work after the earthquake and tsunami they also wanted to help in some way. So they started collecting money at their school and bought cookies for the kids in Kobuchihama and Fukukiura. They also donated their old bike, first bringing it up to their bathroom to clean it by themselves.
It was a very nice time. At 9 pm Shio-chan was getting tired so we decided the dinner was at and we all went home.
The last 2 weeks we have been busy supporting Project “Christmas”. This is Ishihara-san’s latest support to Kobuchihama and Fukukiura. The goal is that everyone in the network in Kobuchihama and Fukukiura should get at least 1 Christmas gift.
You can find details at the Tohoku Donation pages.
After a good night’s sleep at the Grand Hotel in Ishinomaki we woke up and had breakfast before we went to Aeon and shopped some nabe (pot for cooking such as shabu-shabu). Ishihara-san wanted to buy a 100 nabe but they did not have more than 25 or so. So we bought them, and made an order to be shipped to Kobuchihama for the remaining 75 or so, using the money we have got from the flea markets.
It was quite lucky we were not able to buy more than the 25 nabe or we would not have got it into the car. The trunk was full of nabe. And we were on our way to Kobuchihama to distribute them.
We went back to the temporary home complex where we had helped arranging their common room. One of the women that live in the complex helped us distribute the nabe, providing a list of people that needed one and what size they needed. At the same time we also distributed electric blankets.
Although it sometimes is hard work it is always worth it when you see a smile on an unknown person’s face. And they are always so friendly wanting us to join them for tea, or giving some pickles that they have made themselves, or seaweed.
Once we had distributed all the things we (Ishihara-san, the woman helping us, Chie and me) went to visit a newborn baby. It was in the area where the woman helping us had once lived. We stopped by her former house as well, though there were nothing left of it. “Here was the entrance” she said, but there were only grass and some concrete there now. She continued telling us about the events just after the earthquake. How she and most people living in that area had run to a nearby hill to escape the tsunami.
She told us that once the tsunami was gone many people returned down to start picking up whatever they could from their destroyed homes. She had stayed on the hill holding on to a tree, when she heared cries for help from down below. A second wave. Taking most of the people that had returned back down with it. She stayed on the hill the whole night, freezing, before she dared to return back. Once she did return the next day there were dead people everywhere.
At around 4 pm we started our return home. We stopped a few times to eat and change driver on the way home. Finally at home we went almost directly to bed.
In Kobuchihama we unloaded some more furnitures and, as in Fukukiura, helped organize the temporary home complex’s common room. It was quite fun work and many of the local people helped out as well.
Once the common room was done the Toyota mini-van and the truck had to return back home. Ishihara-san that had been riding in the Toyota mini-van joined Chie and me in our car. We said our goodbyes and continued to visit some of the people that have become friends with Ishihara-san. First stop was a ryokan that was lucky to be on a small knoll or there would have been more damaged than it was.
When we got here today they had just finished renovating the water damaged parts. Looking out from one of the windows it was easy to see what could have happened to the ryokan if it would not have been on the knoll.
Our final stop was at a temporary home complex next to Coco’s convenience store. Here we had coffee and tea at some friend’s home. Besides donating things that are needed an important function is also to listen. To be an outsider that they can talk to about what has happened and difficulties that they have had since the tsunami.
The father of this family told us that the 3 first months after the tsunami they had a big fighting spirit. They survived such a big earthquake and the following tsunami while so many others died. “We will make it” was their thought at that time. Now, 8 months afterwards the fighting spirit is almost gone. They see no hope or future. They are basically back to where they were as a teenager though they are now 50-60 years old. No money, no house, no possessions. They have to rebuild something that have taken most of their life to build. It is difficult to imagine what that must feel like.
After the coffee and tea we (Ishihara-san, Chie and me) went back to Ishinomaki where we stayed at the Grand Hotel. After an hours rest we went out in hunt for a restaurant. It was Sunday night so most were actually closed. Eventually, on a dark back street, we found a really nice restaurant. We had sashimi, pork, fried octopus and more before we returned to the hotel for a well needed sleep.