Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan(AAR Japan) is a Non-Governmental Organization ( NGO ) aiming to provide emergency assistance, assistance to people with disabilities, and mine action, among other operations. It was established in 1979 as an organization with no political, ideological, or religious affiliation. AAR currently has offices in 10 countries.
Aug 16, 2011

Activity Report (June 15th - July 15th, 2011)

Rubato, immediately after the earthquake
Rubato, immediately after the earthquake

The following are excerpts from our English blog which highlight some of AARJ's work in Tohoku in the past few months. To find a complete list of articles, visit our English blog at

Supporting the Reopening of Facilities for People with Disabilities


AAR JAPAN has been supporting the repair of buildings and grounds at over 50 facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly that have been affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Our efforts to help these facilities resume operations as quickly as possible have been greatly appreciated, as the application process for government support is lengthy, and this type of support is not always covered by government recovery programs.


Support for Reopening Facilities for People with Disabilities

Rubato, an ambulatory rehabilitation center for people with disabilities near Sendai Airport in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, was the only facility in Natori City providing services for people who have combined intellectual and physical disabilities. When the earthquake hit, all of the clients and staff were able to evacuate safely, but cars and debris were swept into the building, and the facility’s office supplies and vehicles were ruined. After the disaster, the center was unable to resume operations, as there were restrictions on construction in the area.

Fortunately, Rubato was able to relocate free of charge to a former livestock clinic, and AAR JAPAN has supported renovation of the interior of the building. We repaired the floor, placed a carpet, and renovated the Japanese-style toilet for use by people with disabilities. Renovation work was completed on June 31st. We had seen the center’s clients looking anxious as a result of the effects of the earthquake, but setting up a new location for Rubato’s operations brought smiles back to their faces.

Museum for Artwork by People with Disabilities

 In Ishinomaki City, Iwate Prefecture, AAR JAPAN supported the repair of facilities at Runbini Museum, which exhibits artwork by people with intellectual disabilities and offers studio space on its upper floor.

 The museum had been unable to display some of its artwork due to earthquake damage such as cracked walls and ceilings. After restoration was completed on July 13th, people were able to use the facility as before. They commented, “It’s brighter and feels better now.” The museum is full of unique and wonderful artwork that will be sure to delight any visitor. Please be sure to stop by the museum when you are around!

 This project has been made possible through generous individual donations and through grants from Japan Platform and Accenture Japan, Ltd.

Rubato restarted operations at a new location
Rubato restarted operations at a new location
Inside the new building at Rubato
Inside the new building at Rubato
Artist at work after Runbini Museum’s renovation
Artist at work after Runbini Museum’s renovation
The author, Haruka Hinosugi
The author, Haruka Hinosugi
Aug 2, 2011

Activity Report (May 17-30th, 2011)

May 17, 2011

Marathon Runner Mari TANIGAWA Runs with Disaster Victims

Between May 3rd and 6th, marathon runner Mari TANIGAWA (AAR JAPAN Executive Board Member and Ambassador for the Demining Campaign) visited areas in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures affected by the March 11th earthquake to help at local soup kitchens and deliver relief supplies.
With the hope of bringing cheer to the evacuees through sporting activities, Tanigawa presented a lecture and stretching class at Higashihama Elementary School, as well as a mid-distance running class at the Oshika
Peninsula Evacuation Center, both of which are located in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Smiles and Energy Unleashed through Sports
On May 5th (Children’s Day in Japan), Tanigawa led stretching, jogging, long-distance relay and mid-distance running classes at the Seiyukan Healthcare and Welfare Center on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The Seiyukan Center was used as an evacuation center for approximately 450 people immediately after the earthquake, but now it is occupied by 140 people, including people with disabilities who were former residents of the institution, staff from local government offices, and other evacuees.
May 5th - Children struggling to keep up with Tanigawa’s pace.
Realizing that the evacuees did not have many chances to exercise while living in the evacuation center, Tanigawa proposed a variety of fun activities. Thanks to the cooperation of Mr. Azumi Eiichi, chief of the local government office and its staff, people of all ages, from a 4-year old boy to a 76-year old woman, were able to participate in the events.  
Tanigawa started with stretching exercises. Though we could already see people desperately struggling to keep up with her movements, we couldn’t help but laugh along with the evacuees as they refused to give up. “I got tired because it’s been ages since I’ve been active,” a 50-year old male participant told us, though he seemed to be brimming with energy.
After Tanigawa offered instruction on running techniques, correct eye position and respiration methods, everyone jogged around the Seiyukan center. After each 500-meter lap, people began to drop out one-by-one, but the determined expressions of the children desperately trying to keep up with Tanigawa made a powerful impression on us.
Kids’ Unbeatable Energy Leaves Adults Behind 
April 5th – In the front row, three kids who joined in the mid-distance run (Left to right: Kaito, Ryoki and Mizuho). Mari TANIGAWA is second from right in the back.
Next, a relay was run between two teams. The event included amusing episodes, such as a competitor stopping and waiting while a 4-year old boy on the opposing team retrieved a shoe that had slipped off his foot. 
Last but not least was the mid-distance run. Mizuho SATO (2nd year junior high), Ryoki NARITA (1st year junior high) and Kaito MURAKAMI (6th year elementary school) joined Tanigawa on a 20-minute course near the beach. The three kids showed no sign of fatigue, and seemed to want to keep running even after having run for more than an hour already.
Finally, we organized a relay race between children and adults, including two AAR JAPAN staff members, with the result that the kids’ team won. Mizuho told us it was fun, while Ryoki said, “It was nice having the chance to run with Ms. Tanigawa” and Kaito commented simply, “It was pretty tough.”
Tanigawa was impressed by the kids’ tenacity and energy. She told them, “Keep up your running, and have fun doing long-distance relays with everyone,” to which the kids nodded shyly in response.
Throughout the day, we were able to see the participants raising their voices and having fun being active. I was happy to be able to ease the mental and physical stress suffered by people living in the complicated environment of an evacuation center. This kind of event shows that, even though material support is undoubtedly important, keeping the body and mind healthy through activity is also a vital concern.
Junko MITO
Tokyo HQ, Publicity and Supporter Services Department
AAR JAPAN staff since 2010. From Okayama Prefecture.
May 26, 2011

Cooperating with the Local Commerce and Industry Association to Support Survivors in Temporary Housing

Providing Aid while Contributing to the Local Economy in Soma City and Minami-Soma City
In cooperation with the non-profit organization ADRA Japan, AAR JAPAN has been providing daily necessities to roughly 35,000 families living in temporary housing and rental housing in Fukushima Prefecture.
With the Japanese Red Cross Society having determined to distribute six-piece sets of electrical appliances in the affected areas, AAR JAPAN has decided to offer other daily necessities such as kitchen supplies, bathroom goods, vacuum cleaners, kotatsu (heated tables), chabu-dai (short-legged tables), cupboards and the like. This project is subsidized by the non-profit organization Japan Platform, with deliverable items selected based on requests from Fukushima’s prefectural or local government authorities.
Our target areas include 4 locations in the Soma region (Soma City, Minami-Soma City, Shinchi Town and Iitate Village) as well as Tomioka Town and Kawauchi Village in Futaba County. AAR JAPAN is cooperating with the Commerce and Industry Association in Soma City and Minami-Soma City to procure as many supplies locally as possible, with the goal of contributing to economic recovery as well as providing direct aid. Distribution has already begun.
In Tomioka Town, Kawauchi Village and Iitate Village, where residents have been evacuated due to the ongoing situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, AAR JAPAN will work closely with local government authorities and heed the voices of survivors in order to coordinate our aid activities.
May 30, 2011

AAR JAPAN Aims to Heed the Voice of Every Survivor

Since Friday, March 11th, AAR JAPAN has been engaged in aid activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With its hardest-hit areas located far from major city centers, Iwate Prefecture has been slow to recover compared to neighboring Miyagi Prefecture. Yuki DAIZUMOTO, who has been based in the Morioka Office and engaged in aid activities in Iwate Prefecture, reports on the present situation of AAR JAPAN’s efforts in the area.
From Sudan to the Disaster Area
On April 1st, AAR JAPAN opened its office in Morioka City as a base for relief operations in Iwate Prefecture. Many of our target facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly are located on the coast, so we spend a few hours every day going to the disaster zone.
I heard about the Great East Japan Earthquake while working in Sudan. I came back to Japan at the end of March, and then started to work in Morioka on April 7th. When I first visited the disaster area, it was some time before I could truly believe that the scene I had seen on the news now lay before me. I still clearly remember an old woman pointing to it all and murmuring, “There was a house there, and a bookshop next to it.” Not even the slightest sign of a building could be recognized.
Survivors are pleased to receive fresh food, which is rarely provided due to the difficulty of long-term storage. Yuki DAIZUMOTO (center) distributes oranges at a facility for people with disabilities. (Photo by Satoshi TAKAHASHI)
Rapidly Changing Needs
More than two months have passed since the earthquake, and circumstances have been changing in the disaster area. Rubble removal has progressed, supplies are being distributed, and there are more cars on the roads. In some areas, traffic jams occur where roads are closed for reconstruction work on the power lines. However, there are still other areas where the Self-Defense Force is searching for the missing, where water has yet to be reconnected, and there are no shops at all. While we refer to it all as the “disaster zone”, each part is different.
Requests from survivors have been changing. While previously they asked for drinking water and food with a long shelf life, these days we have been distributing fresh food such as vegetables and fruit, clothes for spring and summer, electric fans, and office supplies such as computers and printers that are necessary for facility operations. Local needs have been changing rapidly from fundamental life support supplies to the resources needed for a normal, productive life.
Strengthening Support for People with Disabilities, the Elderly, and Evacuees in Their Homes
Compared to Miyagi Prefecture, in Iwate Prefecture there is less information available about groups involved in supporting people with disabilities and the elderly, so we keep in close contact with each individual group and facility to keep abreast of their situations. Some people visit care facilities from their homes, which means they are likely to be omitted from lists of supply distribution, as these predominantly focus on evacuation centers. We need to strengthen our support for survivors in their homes to ensure that help gets to everyone.
At the request of the Iwate Prefectural Office, AAR JAPAN has also been cooperating in establishing systems to support a variety of tasks such as confirming the safety and whereabouts of survivors and distributing donations in order to contribute to each survivor’s quick recovery.
As Iwate Prefecture covers a large area, the number of groups working here is still not sufficient to meet the region’s needs. We will continue to watch the situation carefully to ensure that no-one is left out, and that we do not overlook even the smallest voice calling for support.
Aid activities in both Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures still face many challenges, and we thank you deeply for your continued support.
AAR JAPAN has also been aiding in the reconstruction of damaged facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Yuki DAIZUMOTO (Morioka Office)
Worked in private companies and government organizations after graduation from university
Worked in AAR JAPAN Sudan Office from 2009
Stationed in Morioka Office from April 2011, engaged in aid and relief activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Iwate Prefecture
(Born in Hyogo Prefecture)


Jul 13, 2011

Activity Report (June 2nd - 3rd, 2011)

The following are excerpts from our English blog which highlight some of AARJ's work in Tohoku in the past few weeks. To find a complete list of articles, visit our English blog at

Difficult to Reach Survivors in Fukushima Prefecture Await Aid in Limbo
June 2, 2011

In its continuing efforts to provide aid and relief to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, on May 19 AAR JAPAN delivered electric cookers, electric kettles, garbage bags, towels, underwear, socks, and snacks to Senior Garden, a facility for the elderly in Fukushima City, and Ekuseru, a group home in Soma City, both in Fukushima Prefecture. The following report contains details for each.

Finding Shelter After the Storm: The difficult search for a new home for the residents of Senior Garden

Senior Garden is a group home for the elderly who suffer from dementia which operated in Tomioka Town, Futaba County in Fukushima Prefecture. Located just 9km from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the residents and staff were required by the government to evacuate to a noodle restaurant in Kawauchi Village in the same county. In Kawauchi however residents were on orders to remain confined to their houses, but for the uprooted residents of Senior Garden, staying together in big evacuation sites was difficult. Fukushima Prefectural Group Home Council for Dementia assisted the seniors by finding them an apartment in Fukushima city to rent out and use as a group home. Starting March 22, fifteen people have been receiving continuous care in the home. 

For elderly individuals with dementia, even small environmental changes can induce great stress. The trauma of the evacuation had emergency-level medical consequences for some. A 70-year-old man, one of the residents of Senior Garden, suffered a hemorrhage due to a stomach ulcer, causing him to vomit and discharge blood. With his blood pressure falling, he was immediately taken to a hospital, but it his admittance and care was delayed until he was given a screening test for exposure to radiation.

Yasuhiro SUZUKI, Managing Director of Senior Garden, and his wife Yoko, Executive Director, are committed to overseeing the facility. Ms. Yoko SUZUKI said, “This group home is a second family for us. We don’t know when we can go back to Tomioka Town, but we’ve been trying to keep our spirits up, and are determined that we will remain at the sides of those whom we are caring for, even as they pass on.” Despite this determination, two residents are currently receiving care in a professional hospital, and it is clear that living as evacuees has undermined the health of many residents, and it is clear that despite the staff's best efforts, they are undersupplied and understaffed. AAR Japan has responded by supplying food and goods to support the continued operation of the new Senior Garden.

While I had a chance to witness the improvement AAR's supplies had on the conditions in which the staff and residents of Senior Garden lived, I realized it was in the smiles and warm words they exchanged that each found a reason to persevere in the face of this disaster. In their hearts was a greater medicine greater than anyone could ever provide.

May 19th – Ms. Yoko SUZUKI (center), Executive Director of Senior Garden, is taking care of a resident whose health has deteriorated due stress resulting from evacuation. On the right is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN. (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture)

The Fukushima Fallout: Nuclear accident continues to disrupt aid to Fukushima prefecture.

Ekuseru is a group home for people with dementia in Soma City. It is located 37km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, and is now taking care of 9 elderly people, including 3 who are bedridden.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi incident, supplies have been slow to arrive in the region. In the summer, temperatures can rise as high as 33°C (91°F), and in the face of electricity shortages, the staff of Ekuseru continues to worry how they will mange in the summer heat. While other people have relocated, drastic environmental change can cause panic among for the residents of Ekuseru, which can have serious medical consequences (as happened in the case of the Senior Garden).

The situation at Ekuseru embodies much of the anxiety that afflicts the entire the seacoast of Fukushima prefecture, where persisting concerns over the nuclear power plant, radiation, evacuation orders, and insufficient supply distribution continue to plague the population. Today’s visit helped show us how this anxiety particularly troubles the staff and residents of welfare facilities, who are left with little other choice but to desperately wait for outside aid to arrive. 

 It is to this cause AAR Japan is committed: to continue our efforts to provide aid for hard-to-reach people, like those at Senior Garden and Ekuseru, and to ensure that relief finds it's way to those most in need of help.

May 19th – AAR JAPAN delivered supplies to people at Ekuseru. (The back row, the second from the left is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN) (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

Yasushi TANAKA (Sendai office)
Yasushi TANAKA, born in Yamaguchi prefecture, has worked to provide aid for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake since April. After graduating from university, he worked in at a financial firm for 14 years. He continued his studies in Environmental Studes in Japan, and AAR JAPAN after working it a Japanese company in Vietnam.

Stories from the Evacuees – The search for clean water, recycling wood buried in the rubble, and communities coming together. 
June 3rd, 2011

Nearly three months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Schools have resumed, and as many survivors move back into their own homes or into temporary housing, the number of people living in evacuation centers continues to fall. Staff at AAR JAPAN who have been involved in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures have provided these illustrations of the hardship evacuees continue to endure, and the tasks survivors have faced while working towards recovery.

The Search for Clean Water in the Tsunami's Wake

AAR JAPAN delivered drinking water, a water tank, and diapers to Ms. Chiba, who has been living as an evacuee on the outskirts of Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. Residents in the area once drew their water from the town well, but the water has become undrinkable after the tsunami contaminated it with seawater and heavy oil. A temporary waterworks was set up at a local stream, but residents had to trek for nearly an hour to retrieve their water for the day.

Water tanks like the one AAR has provided to Ms. Chiba will give residents to have access to a stable reservoir of water when deliveries are delayed and emergencies necessitate immediate access. After the exhausting task of installing the tank, Ms. Chiba and I looked upon a still untouched heap of rubble near her house. It is clear that despite progress, there is still much work to be done.

(Reporter: Takeshi ABE at Sendai office)

May 30th – Takeshi ABE delivered a water tank to Ms. CHIBA who told us that water is essential. (Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture)

Making use of wood buried in rubble to stimulate independent recovery  

Murakami Sawmill has supported the carpenters in Rikuzen-Takata City in Iwate Prefecture for a long time, and once again is coming to the rescue with a plan to put carpenters back to work while helping the survivors of the tsunami find comfort in their new homes. Murakami has provided shelter for the carpenters who have lost their homes and workplaces, and in turn is having them recycle wood from the rubble of destroyed buildings to make benches and furniture for residents moving into temporary housing. The carpenters of Kikuzen-Takata have worked hard in their free hours to craft these benches, and will provide them to residents with no charge.

These benches offer a small glimpse at normalcy for the survivors, and as Iwate begins the long process of reconstruction, these benches perfectly embody this rebuilding sentiment. Murakami hopes that the benches can help connect the survivors to each other into the coming summer. 

While AAR JAPAN continues to provide relief and support to the area, it is clear that the people of Iwate are beginning to find their own ways to rebuild. AAR JAPAN will continue to support these survivors as face forward and take their first steps towards recovery. (Reporter: Yuka YOKOTA at Morioka office) 

May 27th - Yuka YOKOTA, AAR JAPAN (right), is interviewing Mr. KIN, a carpenter who has been sheltered at Murakami Sawmill after his workplace and house were swept away by the tsunami. (Rikuzen Takata City, Iwate Prefecture)

Widening the Circle of Support Hand-in-Hand with Local Communities

Yamada Kyosei Workshop (Yamada Town, Iwate prefecture) has served as a supply distribution base for the elderly and persons with disabilities in the area. Regular patrons of the supply center include a person with a mental disability who lives alone deep in the mountains, a person with a visual impairment whose shop and house were completely destroyed, and an 83-year-old woman who has been is running her own shop out of a shed, which doubles as her home.

For suvivors who have been able to remain in their homes, it is not easy to understand the difficulties which evacuees face, especially by those who are elderly or have disabilities. We hope to widen the circle of support for these people with the help of companies like Yamada Kyosei Workshop. Mr. SATO, chief of Yamada Kyosei, said, “We would like to keep close contact with AAR JAPAN and cooperate to support people who have been in trouble in their houses in Yamada area.”

(Reporters: Ryo OIKAWA and Teruyo MIYAGAWA at Morioka office)

May 31st – Ryo OIKAWA (right end) and Teruyo MIYAGAWA (left end) delivered food such as vegetables and fruits to Mr. Sato, Chief of Yamada kyosei workshop. (Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture)


“Please Enjoy a Delicious Meal!” – Reports From Our Soup Kitchens
June 3, 2011

AAR JAPAN has operated a series of soup kitchens throughout the Tohoku prefectures, and to date has distributed over 16,500 meals at 26 locations in Fukushiuma, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures.

The following stories relate to soup kitchen operations from April 30 to May 7 (during Golden Week) at Seiyukan (a welfare facility in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture), Osawa Furusato Center, Osawa Elementary School and Yamada Town Hall (the last three in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture).

This is a report from Akiko KATOH, who worked in the soup kitchen at Seiyukan.

Delivering Food at Evacuation Centers in Oshika Peninsula for 8 Days

May 5th, 2011: AAR JAPAN's relief workers have worked hard to provide varried menus. On this day, we prepared Chinese dumplings (gyoza). 

Seiyukan used to be a facility for people with disabilities and for the elderly and is located in Ayukawa, Oshika Pensinsula. Since the earthquake, it has served as an evacuation center for around 140 people. AAR JAPAN provided lunch and dinner for the evacuees at Seiyukan throughout "Golden Week", a series of important holidays during which people usually take time off from work and travel, but this year was characterized by a massive outpouring of volunteer work in Tohoku.

The approximately 20 people who worked in these facilities worked tirelessly through Golden week to provide meals for the evacuees at Seiyukan. We woke awoke at 6 every morning to commute from Sendai and Taiwa to the rural peninsula of Oshika, our cars rattling with ingredients to be used in the soup kitchen of the day. We would usually arrive at the southern tip of the peninsula by 9, and immediately begin discussing what our plans will be for the day.

All That Work Just to Hear Them Say “It Was Delicious”


April 30thAAR JAPAN deputy director Taki KATOH (in the center) also took part in serving the food.

Staff and volunteers from AAR JAPAN shared tasks to decide on who should be responsible for preparing the main dishes and the side dishes to ensure that the meals for the 140 evacuees would be prepared on time.

Putting our efforts into preparing good food for the evacuees was no easy task, but being told “Today’s meal was delicious” and “Being served a different menu every day makes me anxiously wait to see tomorrow’s!” was most rewarding.

Before Golden Week, all the meals served at Seiyukan had been prepared by the evacuees themselves. We at AAR JAPAN were glad to give them a long deserved rest, and a chance at a Golden Week of their own.

Improving Lives at the Evacuation Centers


May 3rd – Cleaning the toilets is also important work!

During the period we delivered to soup kitchens, we didn’t just prepare meals, but also helped to clean the toilets, tend lawns, and play with the kids and help them with homework, which are all important activities to improve the lives of those living at the evacuation centers.

One boy, who was usually in the baseball team at school but didn’t have the chance to play it lately, expressed how happy he was to play catch with one of the volunteers.


May 6th - AAR JAPAN staff Takeshi IKEDA (second from right) and Tomoya Soejima (third from right) with kids from Seiyukan.

On our final day at Seiyukan, people living in the facility thanked us for coming and invited us to visit them again. The kids were sad say goodbye to the staff members they had become friends with. We had only been there for a short time, but we were glad nonetheless to bring joy to everyone there.

By preparing their meals every day, we got the chance to witness the difficulties faced by the those living in the evacuation centers, especially for the children who were having difficulty coping with the disaster.

AAR JAPAN is continuing its efforts to bring soup kitchens to various locations throughout Tohoku, and to date has provided over 16,500 meals at 26 locations. While AAR provides necessary food and supplies for these people to survive, it is in the smiles which appear on their faces upon eating a fresh meal that we see the spirit to continue living in hope return. 

Akiko KATOH, Tokyo Headquarters

(Born in Tokyo) Since April 2010, Akiko KATOH was mainly responsible for projects in Haiti and Zambia at Tokyo Headquarters. After graduating, she worked in a private company and received her Masters in Social Development from a British university. Before coming to AARJAPAN, she gained experience in governmental research institutes and foreign diplomatic missions.

May 19th
May 19th
May 30
May 30


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