Updates from Japan Relief Projects

$10+ million
Over 50,000
in 111
Apr 21, 2015

Two Good News, But Also Very Sad News

Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade
Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade

One good news is that the Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade (IFSA) now has a clear schedule of moves to a temporary place (in August 2015) and also to the final place (December 2016). Now, people there started seeing the long-waited end of a tunnel..

The other good news is that a support by a labor union of a company mediated by the DSIA may come to be soon finalized. Three people from the labor union came to discuss with the Head of the IFSA, and proposed to sell some of seasonable commodities to about 6,000 full- and part-time union members. For special events organized by the IFSA, union members can voluntary come to not only help their events, but also participate in events. The labor union also offered to purchase a winner’s cup and medals for a football competition among eight grade school teams in the area. They even offered to give discount tickets to all participants to purchase their food sold by dispatched kitchen cars from the company. They are now trying to work out the details.

One very sad news is that the Head of the IFSA was refused to move into the final Arcade to be started in December 2016. He was the one the DSIA negotiated for establishing a temporary shop tent in 2011, has been the key representative of local organizations to receive GlobalGiving donations, and is now trying to organize a system of support to be provided by the labor union mediated by the DSIA. He is the present head of the IFSA, has organized many events to bring tourists, and has been negotiating with the city government for reconstruction. He has been truly devoting to the development of the Isatomae Community.  

Why did this happen? In the next month, a new company, which manages shopping arcades in both Sizugawa and Isatomae, will be established. Since the preparatory committee of the company is trying to prevent the future bankruptcy of the company, they developed very strict standards. Their goal is to prepare for the company’s sustainability of the next twenty years. This sounds a very good idea. But the committee asked consultants from Tokyo to evaluate the businesses of all members, and decided that members not having a prospect of survival for the next ten years will not be allowed to move into arcades, even if they have money and wish to join. Since the IFSA Head is operating a clothing and sport goods shop, consultants informed him of future market prediction, which will clearly decline due to shrinking children population. Their prediction turned out to be that he may do well for the next five years, especially due to the reconstruction of the area, but after that, it may become fairly difficult to continue his business. To me, what is taking place now is quite wrong. One reason is because nobody can decide to exit from one’s business other than those who operate businesses themselves. The other reason is that he has been diversifying into a few other businesses just recently which is not yet becoming big. But in many rural areas, it is very common to operate several small businesses to generate some decent revenues. Since I lived in a remote area in Niigata, I saw some companies expanding their businesses frequently through diversification. In a sense, he can dynamically cope with changes in the market as he faces environmental changes. Tokyo consultants treat the situation of each member very statically, and do not see evolutionary potentials. I personally feel that such decision should be left to the initiatives of individual members whether one is to take a risk or not and that the market will come to pressure individuals to make their decisions.

In order to keep the stability of this arcade company, this company is to invite a Tokyo-based convenience store. I am in favor of bringing it to the arcade, as long as they work to help local economy develop rather than simply sucking up the business opportunities of the local. How can it be done? This is clearly another difficult area, since it is far less costly to bring everything from what has been mass produced in other areas. A less populated area will not succeed in generating its economic dynamics without the base of community support and movements. People in Isatomae may end up facing much tougher situations than before if the community disintegrates. Some people criticize some types of consultants for their motives to make money from government subsidies with little interest in helping community development, though how to develop a less-populated area is a difficult issue and a central issue discussed presently in Japan.

The temporary shop tent still used as a storage
The temporary shop tent still used as a storage


Apr 1, 2015

Monthly Report vol.42

How Disaster-affected Children Are Living “Today”

“I lost a lot of precious people and things such as family, friends and a home, but since the earthquake, I have learned about the kindness of people and how tough it is to keep living. Now I can feel grateful about everything.”

Recently, we received such messages from high school and college students who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The messages are part of the essays we received from scholars of Civic Force’ s “Dream Support Project,” which supports students in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures with scholarships and support programs.

The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 and the ensuing tsunami inflicted enormous damages, including over 18,000 people dead or missing. As many parents lost their children, many children also lost their loved ones including their parents, relatives and friends.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of bereaved children and orphans who lost one or both parents in the earthquake totaled 1,723 as of 2012. These children must adapt not only to changes in their home environment but also to changes in their study environment, such as familiar school buildings destroyed and left unrepaired as well as school grounds being used for temporary housing. In particular, many children have been forced to evacuate from some areas of Fukushima Prefecture, which has been affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Reconstruction of schools, which are the core of each local community, and mental health care of children are major issues that must be addressed together with the reconstruction of the disaster-affected regions as a whole.

Three and a half years have passed since the earthquake. In this Monthly Report, we will portray how children in Tohoku, are facing forward and proactively tackling new challenges “today” while carrying the burden of the memories of “that day.”

During the summer holidays in August, Civic Force held a three-day hands-on training in Tome City and Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, and a networking event for the scholars of the “Dream Support Project” in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. We will also report on these events in this issue.

In addition, we will report on the relief activities for the landslide disaster which occurred in Hiroshima Prefecture in August, a joint disaster drill held in Aichi Prefecture on National Disaster Prevention Day, and the “Jinseki-Kougen Tour” held in Hiroshima Prefecture for residents of Fukushima who are planning to relocate.

Please be informed that the Monthly Report, which has been published on the 11th of every month following the earthquake, will be discontinued after this issue and our next report will be released as a newsletter in December. Please refer to page 4 for more information.

Mar 31, 2015

Report on "Support high school students in Tohoku"

Dear Global Giving Supporters,


AMDA has been supporting the high school students living in Tohoku region, where the number of lives has been impacted by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on 11 March 2011. AMDA has provided the scholarship to 281 students in the past 4 years. As it has been four year since the disaster occurred, we hope some of our scholarship students finally become medical professionals in this year after their studying at professional school for three years.

Thank you very much for your warm supports to our scholarship program. Your continuous support would be highly appreciated.


Mar 11, 2015

Relief for Japan's Tsunami Victims

Gymnastics Exercises. Courtesy of JEN
Gymnastics Exercises. Courtesy of JEN

Dear GlobalGivers,

Thank you so much for your continued support for the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund! Your generous contributions have been crucial to help many communities rebuild after the earthquake and prepare for the upcoming fishing season.

The Peace Winds America team has been hard at work building fishing sheds for tsunami victims. They have already completed over 100 sheds, which give local fisherman, who are still living in temporary housing needing to generate income, a place to work and store their equipment. The recipients of the sheds had a fantastic oyster season where they caught many large, plump oysters and were able to sell them at high prices, supporting their rebuilding and recovery. Peace Winds America is currently working on building 14 new fishing shelters which will be completed in time for the upcoming seaweed harvest and spring fishing season.

On the Road has continued its construction of the Multi-Purpose Recovery Base in the Japanese city of Ishinomaki. Over the past three months, volunteers have finished the electrical work, completed the drainage system, and painted many interior rooms. Once it is completed, the base will host community events and workshops to rebuild and strengthen community ties that were broken following the tsunami.

The Japan Emergency NGO (JEN) has sponsored many community events to help the people of Ishinomaki recover. In December, they held their “Handicrafts Market” where local artisans congregated to sell their products. Each year, this fair empowers local women to become self-sustaining and to turn their hobby into lasting businesses. JEN also built two new parks to give children an outdoors space to congregate and play. The kids’ response towards these parks will help JEN tailor an additional 70 parks tailored specifically to the wants of the children and parents. In November, JEN hosted a match-making event to help men and women find partners and learn about life in the fishing village. Congratulations to the 5 happy new couples who met during the event!

None of this would have been possible without you! Thank you for your continued support for Japan’s recovering communities.

Volunteers Working Outdoors. Courtesy of JEN
Volunteers Working Outdoors. Courtesy of JEN
A new fishing shed. Courtesy of Peace Winds
A new fishing shed. Courtesy of Peace Winds
Disaster Recovery Base. Courtesy of On the Road
Disaster Recovery Base. Courtesy of On the Road
Mar 6, 2015

Disaster Recovery Project 4th Anniversary

  Please join us on March 11th as we pause to reflect on the fourth anniversary of the Tohoku Triple Disaster, to pay our respects to all those who sadly perished and to think of all those who are still living in temporary housing and trying with great resilience to further rebuild their lives.  So long as people are still living in temporary housing, we will continue to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku.  And we will travel to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house which was built with the help of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the US-Japan Council and your generous donations.  We also are looking for more ways for those living in the Greater Tokyo Area to participate in our Tohoku projects and for new ways for HOT volunteers to provide support to local Tohoku businesses and families during this continued post-disaster recovery period.

  Thank you very much for your continued generous support which enabled us to bring the spirit of Christmas and Valentine’s Day to temporary housing residents in the Yamamoto-cho area of Miyagi Prefecture. In December, HOT volunteers collaborated with a Tokyo-based boy scout troop from The American School in Japan in bringing Christmas presents to children living at a temporary housing site and holding a Christmas-themed café at another temporary housing site. 

  The presents were festively decorated by students from a Tokyo-based girls’ primary and secondary school, Seisen International School.  This is a great example of how students in the Tokyo area can participate in Tohoku projects when they are unable to travel to Tohoku. Primary and secondary school students from the boy scouts troop helped the children living at the temporary housing site select Christmas presents.  There was much laughter and many smiles while the presents were being opened and while the boy scouts, their scout leaders, the HOT volunteers, the children and their families enjoyed spending time together.  Many of the children living at the temporary housing site are under six years old and have spent much, if not all, of their lives living in temporary housing.      

   We then held a Christmas-themed café at another temporary housing site where the boy scouts and HOT volunteers, all wearing Santa’s helper and reindeer hats, made yakisoba and French toast, grilled sausages and prepared goody bags filled with holiday-themed cookies and sweets. 

   In February, 18 HOT volunteers, including teenagers who live in a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area, held a Valentine’s Day themed café at another temporary housing site in Yamamoto-cho for the first time.  We are looking to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku that we have not visited before.  HOT volunteers made yakisoba and French toast, grilled sausages (some cut into fun shapes such as like an octopus thanks to the special talents of our HOT volunteers) and served hot drinks and Valentine’s themed cakes and other sweets.  Yakisoba is a nostalgic comfort food in Japan.  One of the temporary housing residents said that the ingredients have gotten more expensive recently so she has not been able to prepare it for her family and she was very happy to have been able to enjoy a yakisoba lunch with her family at the café.

   HOT volunteers in Tokyo also made heart-shaped sugar cookies which we brought to the café and decorated with icing and heart-shaped sprinkles with the temporary housing residents.  It was wonderful seeing multiple generations enjoying time together decorating the Valentine’s cookies and creating new memories.  After lunch one of the HOT volunteers played beautiful songs on his keyboard and then another HOT volunteer demonstrated hula dancing and taught the residents and other HOT volunteers how to hula dance.  We did several hula dances together and learned the meaning of many of the hula dance moves.  Thank you for helping us bring smiles to the faces of so many temporary housing residents. 

   There are still labor shortages in certain parts of Tohoku which makes it very hard for local farmers to further rebuild their lives, run their farms and grow their businesses. They and their families cannot do all the labor-intensive work by themselves.  They need the continued support of volunteers.  With your generous contributions, HOT volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho.  The New Rice Center gives local rice farmers a place to store equipment and supplies and to work, get together and share information. It also contains new rice thrashing equipment that local farmers can use when harvesting rice and packaging the harvested rice for the market.

   In December, HOT volunteers and boy scouts helped the New Rice Center by attacking a mountain of rice chaff, the protective casings separated from rice grains during the thrashing process.  The rice chaff has to be manually bagged so that it can be taken away and used as fertilizer.  Then, in February, HOT volunteers, including teenagers who live in a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area, helped Saito-san and his wife by weeding the inside of several hot houses to help Saito-san and his wife prepare for the next growing season and by striping the bark from logs and then treating the wood so that the logs can be used to build wind barriers.   It is hard to imagine how long it would take local farmers to bag and remove all of the rice chaff and for Saito-san and his wife to prepare for the next growing season without the support of volunteers.   

  We will continue to organize more volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the New Rice Center and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives.  We also will continue the job shadowing program with Saito-san and other local Tohoku farmers for youths who must leave the children’s home when they turn 18.  This will connect local Tohoku farmers who are looking for young people to work with in rebuilding the local agricultural economy and youths who lack family and other support in finding jobs.

  In January, we commenced a new Tohoku volunteer project with BNP Paribas.  Volunteers are helping plant a rose garden at a home in Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture for children who are unable to live with their families.  This project will teach the children the joy of gardening and will help Okada-san who used to have a large rose garden in Fukushima before the nuclear accident forced him to evacuate four years ago.  Okada-san relocated to Tsukuba and greatly missed his hometown and beloved rose garden.  After hearing his story, we suggested to Okada-san that he work with HOT volunteers and children living at this home to plant a new rose garden for future generations to enjoy.  

 None of this would be possible without your generous support. Thank you in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku, particularly at the time of the fourth anniversary.  

Mar 3, 2015

Tohoku Fellowship Program advances to the next stage

201 Fellows to 111 Projects - 62% still in Tohoku
201 Fellows to 111 Projects - 62% still in Tohoku

Almost 4 years have passed since the Great Japan East Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Thanks to tremendus support from around the world, ETIC could have recruited 201 Fellows and sent them to 111 recovery projects. As we described in the previous reports, Fellows have made significant contributions to the recovery of Tohoku, where the aging rate is very high and thus the lack of workforce has been one of the bottleneck issues.

About 62% of the ex-Fellows decied to stay in Tohoku to continuously work for recovery. Fourteen ex-Fellows launched their own company/nonprofit.

However, Tohoku is still on a long way to the recovery. A number of leaders need Fellows who work with them as a right-hand person. Therefore, ETIC decided to expand its target for the Fellowship Program from 200 Fellows in 3 years to 300 Fellows in 5 years.

In order to achieve the target, ETIC has renewed its recruiting website to attract motivated young people. We will actively pulicize information and stories on recovery projects with good leaders in Tohoku (we are very sorry that the documents will be written only in Japanese).

New recruiting website
New recruiting website
Mar 2, 2015

Supporting Sustainable Business Continuity Planning Training In Japanese NGOs: Part 2

Introduction to simulation exercise
Introduction to simulation exercise

International Medical Corps, in partnership with Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., successfully completed its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) training for a total of 9 Japanese NGOs. Training took place in the form of in-house lectures and tabletop exercises conducted at each NGO’s headquarters to build organizational capacity to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently. Feedback from all participating organizations has been overwhelmingly positive.

In this last report, we share the experience of long-running Japanese NGO Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC). Established in 1980, JVCis an international NGO implementing various projects in over 20 countries in areas such as agriculture, water provision, forest preservation/utilization, children's education, peace-building, and emergency relief. They implement activities meeting local needs and situations with an eye toward the future of people and the community. They work in over 20 countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, South Africa, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan. In Japan they are implementing awareness-raising activities toward a fair and just society through advocacy, development education and networking as well as supporting recovery efforts after the 2011 earthquake.

International Medical Corps provided JVC with a BCP in-house workshop on November 25th, followed by an emergency scenario simulation exercise on December 25th, 2014.

Takatoshi Hasebe, Administrative Director of JVC:

Since JVC has been working in conflict zones for many years, we’d put serious thought into how we at the Tokyo headquarters should respond if one of our staff members overseas were to get caught in a difficult situation. However, we’d never really thought about having a plan in place if we were ever to face an emergency here in Tokyo, affecting the entire organization. That changed after the March 11th, 2011. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, due to concerns about damage from aftershocks we limited the number of staff allowed to work at headquarters and ordered the remaining staff to work from home. We didn’t have a BCP or any emergency response plan but we managed to act flexibly and start our relief activities in the Tohoku area fairly quickly. But that experience was a wake-up call, forcing us to admit that we needed to prepare ourselves for similar emergencies in the future, including possibly an earthquake affecting our headquarters.  However, until now, we hadn’t managed to make any progress towards this end. So it was very timely and fortunate for us that International Medical Corps offered us their customized training in BCP.

On November 25th, International Medical Corps’ Country Representative and Tokio Marine’s risk management expert came to our office and gave 14 of our staff including our director-general and myself a thorough introduction into BCP including what it means and what we need to do to create our own BCP. As an NGO, the community looks to us for support, and so when disaster strikes we will have additional emergency response work on top of trying to salvage our regular work. We realized that it is really important for us to prioritize our tasks and scope of work; otherwise we will all be overwhelmed. The staff members who took part in the training commented that the lecture gave them a clearer picture of what needs to be done to prepare the office for both the immediate aftermath of a disaster (e.g., confirming the safety of staff, making sure there is enough food and water for everyone, etc.) as well as to make sure the organization can function and continue operations with limited resources.

Exactly one month after the BCP lecture, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine came back to our office to provide us with a hands-on simulation exercise to help us experience how we would react if a large-scale disaster were to strike Tokyo. 16 staff members participated. The simulation was split into two parts: (1) immediate response; and (2) business continuity.

During the first part, under the leadership of the director-general we were able to fairly quickly come up with key tasks such as checking on the safety of the building, confirming the safety of the staff who were outside the office, and finding a safe route out of the office. However, we all got a little lost in the beginning, all of the staff were trying to keep notes of the news updates that kept coming in every minute. Later on the trainer pointed out how it is important to prioritize what kinds of information we need to collect and who would do the collecting and reporting back to the group. We also needed to go beyond assigning people to key tasks and clarify exactly what each staff member was supposed to do in their new roles. We also realized that, to be able to respond efficiently, much in advance of the disaster we needed to have emergency contact numbers for each staff, adequate emergency supplies including a radio for getting emergency information, and a list of things to be carried out of the office in case of an evacuation.

During the second part of the exercise, we discussed all that needed to be done by the organization within a week of the disaster, issues like emergency staffing needs and workload, wire transfers to the field to continue overseas operations, press releases and homepage updates, etc. We would also need to decide whether or not we would do an emergency response in the immediate community while also coping with our own difficulties, and if so, to what scale and what would be the necessary resources. Here too we realized how forethought would save us precious time during an emergency. Inevitably things will not go exactly according to plan and we will probably face problems we hadn’t anticipated, but if we continue to anticipate possible scenarios and have a plan for dealing with them, we will have a much better chance at protecting ourselves and the organization’s operations.

There is still so much we need to discuss, but this training has helped us get started with the process. We now know what questions to ask ourselves and what steps we need to take to ensure we have in place an ever-evolving contingency plan. Next March we are planning a follow-up meeting with all the staff members who participated in the training to share feedback and to plan how we will develop our own BCP during the next fiscal year. We are very grateful to International Medical Corps for generously sharing with us this expertise and promise not to let what we have learned go to waste.

Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: feedback
Simulation exercise: feedback
Group discussion
Group discussion
Feb 20, 2015

6th "Handicrafts Market, Hands-on Exhibition!"

Volunteers Weeding
Volunteers Weeding

On December 13 2014, the sixth "Handicrafts Market, Hands-on Exhibit in Ishinomaki: Making Handcrafting into Jobs", an event aimed at giving a leg up to women who do handicraft in Ishinomaki, was hosted by JEN at the central office of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives in Ishinomaki, Nakazato Agricultural Cooperative Hall.

JEN’s handicraft support project for 2014 aims at promoting the empowerment of women through handiwork and putting in place a mechanism needed to ensure women’s self-sustaining and lasting business by developing a network of contacts.

It all started with craft workshops held at temporary housing and public meeting places in disaster affected areas. Some female workshop participants wanted to find a market for their products, making their hobbies into jobs.

On November 15-16, they held a craft fair at Sun Park in Aeon Mall Ishinomaki. The “handicraft market committee” composed of female handcrafters arranged the fair in a new and different way that allowed “everyone to sell everyone else’s product, enhancing cooperation among the handcrafters. During the fair the handcrafters worked together on site management, product inspection, accounting operation and so on. Having diverse customers and selling others’ products seemed to have given them opportunities to learn a great deal.

From this year, the female handcrafters are going to come to host the event by themselves. We hope them to fully demonstrate what they have gained through their experiences so far.


Improving Children’s Park to Restore Their Associations

In the city of Ishinomaki, children have been having difficulty finding outdoor spaces to play because many of the city’s parks were left unrestored after being ravaged by the tsunami and other places like baseball parks and sports ground were used to set up temporary housing for disaster victims.

When JEN distributed questionnaires to children in elementary and middle schools and interviewed their parents this year, many of those questioned voiced the opinion that “the tsunami had taken decent places for children to play.” In response, JEN is now restoring two parks in the Kamikama district of Ishinomaki after carrying out a research at about seventy smaller parks on what kinds of needs for parks communities have, how many children will play in them, and whether there are any play spaces nearby. JEN is also helping the members of the neighborhood association bring the activities of the children’s association back into the district.

The neighborhood associations have held meetings many times among them about park restoration, providing a variety of ideas.

During the summer vacation in August, a total of seventy parents and their children in the district did exercise at the park every morning, just as they used to before the disaster, although the park was yet to be restored [The Japanese students have a custom to gather in a park early in the morning on their summer vacation to do exercise, but the district had been forced to give up keeping the custom due to the disaster.].

The neighborhood association and children’s association are now regaining their energy little by little by working together on restoring their park.

The construction work of the two parks was completed on December 7.

JEN will continue helping communities create a town comfortable for children.


Revitalization of Seaside Communities

On Saturday November the 1st and the 2nd, the second “Hamakon 2014 in the Oshika Peninsula”, a matchmaking event, took place in the Oshika peninsula in the city of Isbinomaki of Miyagi prefecture.

In line with locals’ request and with their cooperation, Hamakon was designed to address the challenges facing Oshika peninsula such as the outflow of population, the declining birth rate and aging population, and the difficulty of finding successors in the fishing industry. The event provides a chance for unmarried men and women to meet their partners.

This year’s event drew nine men from the Oshika peninsula and nine women from across the country. The male participants, who received prior instruction, made a united effort to make the event interesting. Thanks to the cooperation of local residents, the event created an opportunity for the female participants to see many interesting places in the Oshika peninsula and learn about how wonderful the nature of the Oshika peninsula is.

On the first day, the participants had one-on-one encounters, introduced themselves and played games in Meguro, a guest house featuring fine Japanese kappo cuisine in Obuchihama in the Oshika peninsula. The female participants seemed to like locally-hauled fish and seafood for dinner. After the dinner, the participants got along great and were excited to be chatting, smiling faces being seen everywhere.

On the second day, first, the female participants visited Yagawahama to talk with wives of fishermen. They talked about what it’s like to be married to fishermen over barbecued locally-hauled ascidians and scallops. Their next visit was at the “San Juan Park.” Under calm weather, the event went on as scheduled. Participants then had more get-to-know time, during which they played games, had good conversations and had lunch. Finally came the time for the participants to declare their interest for one another. Five couples were formed. Congratulation!

JEN continues to foster social revitalization of seaside communities by conducting activities such as this one. JEN’s goal is to bring more smiles to the people in these communities.

Redio Gymnastics Exercises
Redio Gymnastics Exercises
Couple Ringing the Bell of Happiness
Couple Ringing the Bell of Happiness


The north coast of Japan was hit by a horrible tsunami after an 9.0 magnitude earthquake that occurred 80 miles offshore. The largest earthquake to strike Japan on record, millions of people have been affected by this massive disaster.

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