Updates from Japan Relief Projects

$10+ million
Over 50,000
in 111
Nov 13, 2014

Violin Concerts at Temporary Housing Complexes

The local musicians played the ocarina (4 Oct
The local musicians played the ocarina (4 Oct '04)

AAR Japan organises a variety of events for temporary housing residents, who have been living in a dire situation ever since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, for the purpose of giving joy and encouragement to, and revitalising communities.

As one of such efforts, we organized violin and ocarina concerts at a temporary housing complex and community hall in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture and Watari Town, Miyagi Prefecture on 4th and 5th of October, 2014. The temporary housing complex in Minamisoma City accommodates evacuees from Odaka-Ku near Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Their home was not only destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, but also contaminated by radiation from the power plant, which prohibits the evacuees from returning to their homes. Watari Town is located in the coastal area in the south of Miyagi Prefecture and had a vibrant town life with a prospering fishing industry and a popular beautiful beach before the disaster.

On this occasion, we invited Ms Mitoko Sato, a Japanese violinist active in France who has been playing the violin in the disaster-stricken areas, to play in the temporary housing communities. ”I live off music”, she says and explains that “the only way that I can help the disaster survivors is through music”. At the concerts, she collaborated with a group of local ocarina musicians from Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, upon her request.

The concert started off with ocarina performance. The local musicians played Japanese popular songs, folk songs, and local traditional songs. The warm timbre of ocarina brought smiles to the residents of temporary housing complexes. Violin performance of classic music, which followed the ocarina performance, fascinated the audience, as well. The highlight of the concert was the joint performance of ocarina and violin. They played chorus music, which everyone knows from his/her school days, as well as Japanese National Television’s rooters’ song, “Hana wa Saku (Flowers bloom)”  “Hana ha Saku” was performed alongside sign language. The harmony of the violin and ocarina was truly beautiful. The audience brought back smiles to home after the concerts.

Three years and eight months after the disaster, some progress toward rehabilitation can be recognised in terms of construction of private housing and public permanent housing for the evacuees. However, approximately 188,000 people still live in temporary housing complexes in three prefectures affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. In order to support these evacuees and survivors, AAR Japan is determined to continue our assistance activities in disaster-stricken areas.

"Hana wa Saku" was performed along sign language
"Hana wa Saku" was performed along sign language
The violinist Ms Mitoko Sato
The violinist Ms Mitoko Sato
Joint performance of violin and ocarina
Joint performance of violin and ocarina
Nov 6, 2014

Three-and-a-half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

September 11 marked the three-and-a-half year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Progress has been made in affected areas, where debris has been removed, infrastructure has been restored, and those in temporary housing have begun moving into more permanent housing solutions. Currently there are 89,000 people still living in prefabricated temporary housing units. Employment, education and prospect for the future of the city are all important factors to consider when choosing a location to make a fresh start. Leaving the sense community created in the temporary housing community and creating new connections at the next location can be a source of anxiety that follows as well. Creating your own "home base" - deciding on your location of residence and place of employment - plays a critical role in the shaping of a stable and safe lifestyle. However, it is clear that for the survivors who experienced invaluable loss, the decision is not an easy one to make. Even so, the people of Tohoku with their perseverance and strength are living with the appreciation that they are alive, and are working towards challenges with a positive attitude without losing hope.

It's mainly these types of people who are the clientele of MakiBiz. "I want to rebuild my shop to create a space where people in the community can gather," "I want to create an industry that people in this city can be a part of, and create employment opportunities," "I want to revive my business not only for myself, but also for the people that have supported and cheered me on" – these are the types of statements that we hear from our clients over and over again. MakiBiz is working to respond to each individual's consultations by creating a business support team to work with our clients.

Three-and-a-half years seem long and short. There are the residents in the affected communities who have kept trekking forward, and there are people who are working to support the recovery of these communities. However the recovery of the region is not moving as much as the general public assumes. What is required to further the recovery? In the past three-and-a-half years, those in the community have been desperately running forward, but in current circumstances where things have gradually began to calm down, the time has come to truly face the issue of what the future of Tohoku will be as we move forward. MakiBiz will continue to walk along with the residents of Tohoku, supporting them in the best way possible.



MakiBiz RFP Program Overview

With the completion of the Oikawa Denki office space, only 2 out of the 9 MakiBiz RFP Program's projects remain to be completed - Konpiramaru and Tamiko Abe. These two projects are planned to be completed in November. Learn more about each project through their project links on the Open Architecture Network.

MakiBiz Client Intake

MakiBiz has supported 190 business owners since it opened its office. Information about our clients, along with other MakiBiz updates can be found

"Dream Map" Workshop Held at Ishinomaki NOTE

MakiBiz helped to coordinate "Dream Map," a popular dream visualization workshop in Japan at Ishinomaki NOTE, an organization that supports young adults with employment support. The event consists of visualizing what you'd like to become or what you'd like to accomplish in the future, and using pictures and words to express this on one sheet of paper in a six-hour time frame. Their fuzzy dreams gradually take a clearer shape through the process of self-analysis and in speaking with other participants, and it helps participants to take action in achieving them. We hope that this process empowered participants in taking a step forward to achieve their dreams!

MakiBiz Business Support

Much progress has been made with our business support clients! Kikuzakari Sake Brewery, who holds a 140-year history, has started fundraising through a micro-financing service to buy all required equipment that will replace ones that they lost for the tsunami! And two ship-building companies in Ogatsu have merged into one, and are working towards constructing a new factory. Moving forward, we will likely be aiding many businesses in reaching funds necessary to rebuild. MakiBiz will strengthen its support structure, and continue to aid small businesses with the support they need!



Business Coordinator

Tesuki Washi Ushiogami
Tesuki Washi Ushiogami
Tamiko Abe
Tamiko Abe
Oikawa Denki
Oikawa Denki
"Dream Map" Workshop
"Dream Map" Workshop
Kikuzakari Sake Brewery
Kikuzakari Sake Brewery


Oct 29, 2014

Updates on projects continuing in Japan!

summer camp, photo courtesy of Academy Camp
summer camp, photo courtesy of Academy Camp

A busy summer has come and gone for our various partner projects working in the field in Japan. Thank you for your continuous support of the relief efforts being done in Japan for the earthquake and tsunami victims! Through your support, various projects are able to help benefit the livelihoods of those affected by the disaster.

Parents were concerned about allowing their children to play outside because of the health risks of radioactivity that the earthquake may have caused, but Academy Camp has been a great outlet for children to engage in outdoor activities. During the summer, Academy Camp held camps for children living in Fukushima for them to enjoy the outdoors in areas with lower radiation levels. The children participants as well as the volunteers for the camps really enjoyed the wonderful experience that the camp provided because it was an experience that was full of kindness, warmth and bright smiles. Academy Camp also founded the first dragon boat team in Fukushima. The paddle boat practices are a great opportunity for the children to get mental and physical exercise as well as a time for the parents to be a part of their children’s new activity.

Architecture for Humanity continues to help local shops and businesses to recover and re-open to build a financial future for the communities affected by the earthquake and tsunami. In partnership with the MakiBiz RFP Program, Architecture for Humanity commenced their “Tamiko Abe” project that is to help a local aqua-farmer build a building for her to conduct her business. They recently held a Japanese ground-breaking ritual called Jichinsai for the new site, a ceremony that is held before beginning the construction of a building to pray for a safe construction.

There are many still living in temporary housing in Japan, but the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has been holding events to improve the stress and mental health of those living in these homes. They have conducted aromatherapy classes, where many of the elderly were able to relax through botanical aromas, and also held fun soap making class where the participants got to interact with the others living in the homes. Because many living in the temporary housing are afraid that such events will go away and that those affected by the disaster will be forgotten, AAR Japan will do what they can to continue to hold these events to remind these people that they will not be left behind.

Thanks again for your continued support for those impacted by the Japan earthquake and tsunami. Your generous donations contribute to the amazing work that is being done by many of our partner organizations!

Dragon boating, photo courtesy of Academy Camp
Dragon boating, photo courtesy of Academy Camp
photo courtesy of Architecture for Humanity
photo courtesy of Architecture for Humanity
soap making class, photo courtesy of AAR Japan
soap making class, photo courtesy of AAR Japan
Oct 21, 2014

Ups and Downs, But Highly Appreciative of Help

Past young bike-freaks gathered to help Isatomae
Past young bike-freaks gathered to help Isatomae

People at the Isatomae Redevelopment Archade (Fukko Shotengai, FS) still feel a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. They are working on diverse issues to rebuild their community. So far, they started seeing a small portion of land raised to half a level of the original plan, where the FS shops will move temporarily while the land level of the shop’s permanent location will be raised. Shops will move to the half-raised temporary place in 2015, precisely when not yet known. It was surprising for them, since the temporary place will be below the land level of main road and the permanent shop place when the rest of the land is raised to the level originally planned. But at least, the plan is advancing relative to the past. It was a good news.

Then another surprise came. The government passed a law that the present government-funded temporary shops have to be continuously used for the next five years. This law generated two serious concerns. One is that the present shops have to be closed and moved to the temporary location, meaning that they have to stop operating their business completely for two months. This law was passed, assuming that shops are moving from a present temporary location to a permanent one. The Isatomae’s situation is to move from the present temporary location to another temporary one and then finally to a permanent place. Does this mean that they have to move present temporary shops and facilities twice? Concern is that moving old shop buildings is as expensive as building new ones. They are now negotiating with the government whether they can build new shops in the permanent place while they use old shop materials in a newly moving temporary place. If moving old shops costs the same or more than building new ones, then it is better to build new ones. But does the law allow this to happen since all of two moves will take place within five years? Amid their worries, one good story is that they are going to use the temporary shop-tent which was built by donations from the Refugee International Japan, the Japan Forest Biomas Network, and the GlobalGiving mediated through the DSIA.  They may have to operate their business in the tent for two months when old shops will be dismantled and rebuild in the temporary place and to store their equipment and facilities for quite a long time. The FS is highly appreciative of the existence of the tent, which helps to make their transition much smoother.  This means that, thanks to your kind heart, understanding and donation, we are still helping them to rebuild their community.

The other problem could be much tougher than the first one. It could become quite a demotivating factor for people in the FS since they have been working to build their new shops with dream for almost two years. The FS very much decided to establish an Isatomae Redevelopment Company which will own new buildings and charge rents to tenants, rather than to establish an association. A company form enables the FS to borrow money from banks and even allow outside tenants to come in when vacancies in shops occur. This makes the company operation securer. However, despite their two-year discussions, the Minami-sanriku Township suddenly informed them that it will establish a company and provide them a building. The plan was informed suddenly as a surprise. Now, they have to engage in negotiation all over again despite a well-thought plan by the FS. This could be quite a tough negotiation and be demotivating.

Separate from these problems, the FS is organizing many events as usual. On October 20, they have a group of past young bike-freaks to bring in about 100 unusually decorated cars (see pictures). They wanted to show their willingness to contribute to society. The FS is also planning to have an exhibition of their soccer team flags in the Sendai Stadium when a soccer game will be held there, hoping to find willing partners to contribute to the FS. They are working very hard to get events organized and planned, so that they can bring in customers to the FS. But even on this point, they worry that the lack of clear planning when they can move to the temporary as well as the permanent places makes it quite difficult to plan and organize events, which are a very important source of bringing in customers.

When they start seeing the raised temporary place to move in, it gave them a sense that they start seeing a small light at the end of a long and dark tunnel, moving one step closer to their dream. But then, new problems, one of which may even make their two-year efforts meaningless, arose. They are engaging in negotiations, very much hoping that they can follow their original plan. Given this uncertainty now three years after the disaster, they look much more tired than before. But they are extremely appreciative of the tent-shop, established with the help of the DSIA, the GlobalGiving, the Refugee International Japan, and the Japan Forest Biomas Network. 

Past young bike-freaks to help Isatomae
Past young bike-freaks to help Isatomae
Donated tent to be used again by Isatomae shops
Donated tent to be used again by Isatomae shops


Sep 25, 2014

Updates on AMDA International Scholarship Program

Dear Global Giving Supporters,

AMDA has been supporting to 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 International Scholarship Program has started in March 2011 and 274 students of 8 schools have received the scholarship in the past 3 years. Each student receives 15,000yen (about 147USD) per month until she/he graduates high school.

We are happy to announce that 7 students newly joined our scholarship program as recipients during this reporting period (July-September 2014). 5 students are in the 3rd grade and 2 are in the 2nd grade of a high school in Otsuchi town, Miyagi prefecture.

Thanks to the warm support from our donors, we are able to continue to support high school students in Tohoku Region.

Please click on the attached file to get the report in PDF. 

We thank you for your continued support.

Sep 12, 2014

Monthly Report vol.39

 The Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, has long been affected by many earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions,
floods, and typhoons. Every year, these areas suffer various kinds of damage caused by natural disasters. A report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction(UNISDR), indicated that 75% of the death toll from natural
disasters between 1970 and 2011 occurred in the Asia-Pacific region. It also pointed out that Asia is the most
vulnerable region in the world against disasters. Being located in the trans-Pacific earthquake zone, which experiences frequent typhoons, is one of the causes of huge loss of life after disasters. One important feature of this
region is that most Asian cities are highly populated and many people live near the sea or rivers. Most of the Asian
countries are still emerging nations, so outbreaks of disasters could exacerbate poverty.

Meanwhile, after experiencing the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan is also facing challenges in reducing risk
from disasters. Since March 11, 2011, the Japanese government has received offers of aid from 163 countries
and regions, and 43 international organizations. However, they were not utilized effectively because local governments
that should have functioned as disaster response hubs were affected and thus failed to identify the true needs of disaster victims. Issues involving mutual coordination among various groups, including the central government,
non-governmental organizations, companies, and the Self-Defense Forces, were also highlighted.

In order to tackle such challenges, Civic Force established the “Asia Pacific Alliance” (APADM) in 2012 together with
organizations involved in disaster aid activities in the Asian region. The Alliance aims to bridge the government and
local authorities of a country with companies and NGOs through borderless cooperation. If all parties share and
utilize information, human resources, capital and goods among various countries on the same footing, aid could be
provided faster in times of disasters.

Over the years, as we accumulated experience in disaster aid, we have emphasized the necessity of structuring the
cooperation mechanism among organizations. We are now making efforts to strengthen this cooperative framework in
preparation for natural disasters which have become more frequent in recent years. In regard to the said activities, much progress had been made in the month of May. This month, the 39th Monthly Report focuses on the 2nd general assembly of the Asia Pacific Alliance, the international symposium, and a training program for junior officers involved in disaster management in Asian countries.

Please find the attachment for the further information. 

Sep 11, 2014

Strengthening our bond with the Tohoku community

Volunteer helping in the NRC
Volunteer helping in the NRC

With your generous contributions, HOT volunteers have been able to continue to support a local farmer – Saito-san – and the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho.  The New Rice Center gives rice farmers in the Yamamoto-cho area a place to store equipment and supplies and to work, gather and share information.  In July, HOT volunteers helped Saito-san secure netting and then attach growing paprika plants to the netting in five greenhouses.  By attaching the growing plants to the netting, the branches will not break and die when the baby paprika begin to grow larger.  At the end of the day, the HOT volunteers remarked how hard it must be for Saito-san, his wife and other local farmers to do all that work by themselves.  It is very hard for Saito-san, his wife and other local farmers to run their farms and grow their businesses without the support of HOT volunteers given the continued labor shortages in certain parts of Tohoku. 


Going forward, we will organize more volunteer trips to further support the New Rice, the Ogatsu Island Farm Project (a new business in Ogatsu growing local produce) and Saito-san, his wife and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives.


HOT has also been able to continue organizing cafes and other events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku as a way of supporting the residents who lost their homes in the tsunami while they are waiting to move into new homes. These events encourage people to spend a bit of time outside of their small temporary living quarters and to socialize with others in their temporary community.  These events also play an important role in letting these residents know that, with the passage of time, they have not been forgotten by those living outside of Tohoku.


In June, we held a café at which HOT volunteers made and served yakisoba, sausages with tomatoes, Japanese omelets, French toast, hot and cold drinks, fruit pies and other sweets.  After lunch, a HOT volunteer played several beautiful songs on his keyboard.  It was wonderful seeing how the power of music can bring members of the temporary community and HOT volunteers together and to see so many smiling faces.  Thank you for making this possible with your generous donations. 


HOT is also finding ways for volunteers in Tokyo to support Tohoku without having to travel to Tohoku.  In June, HOT volunteers held interactive cooking classes with children from two children’s homes who seldom have opportunities to meet with adults other than those working at the children’s homes and their teachers.  Chefs taught the children easy to make recipes with the assistance of HOT volunteers and then everyone enjoyed eating lunch together.  This taught the children important cooking skills that they can use when they leave the children’s home and we sourced the ingredients from Tohoku.  We obtained vegetables from Saito-san’s farm and seafood from Ogatsu, a community that HOT has been supporting for more than three years with your generous donations.  Several teenagers residing at the children’s home who have participated in our volunteer trips to Tohoku also gave a presentation on their experiences volunteering with HOT in Tohoku.


In June, two groups of HOT volunteers in Tokyo baked and decorated cookies and then made goody bags with the handmade cookies for temporary housing residents near Yamamoto-cho.  The residents were very happy when they received the goody bags. 


Going forward and so long as people are still living in temporary housing, we will hold more cafes and events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku.  We also will travel to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house (which was built with the help of your generous donations), to clean local beaches so that people from the greater Sendai area will continue to visit the area and thereby support the local economy and to hold special events to encourage those who are still waiting to resume their lives in Ogatsu and the surrounding communities.


We could not do what we do without your generous support.  Thank you in advance for your continued support and for bringing smiles to the faces of so many people in Tohoku.  

Volunteers helping in the NRC
Volunteers helping in the NRC
HOT Cafe at a temporary housing in Yamamoto-cho
HOT Cafe at a temporary housing in Yamamoto-cho
HOT Cafe at a temporary housing in Yamamoto-cho
HOT Cafe at a temporary housing in Yamamoto-cho
Sep 9, 2014

Building Resilience through Advanced Training to AAR Japan

Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks
Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks

Background: In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and its corporate partners (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.) conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. Due to popular demand, International Medical Corps conducted another similar workshop series from February – May of 2014.

During several follow-up conversations with organizations that participated in previous BCP planning workshops, International Medical Corps learned that many were still facing difficulties getting all of their staff members to gain an understanding of what their BCP is, and the importance of preparing for emergency situations at the headquarters level.

Advanced BCP Training: To assist the capacity-building efforts of these organizations, International Medical Corps is offering advanced BCP training for willing organizations. On August 5, 2014, AAR Japan was the first organization to accept the opportunity to have International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine facilitate a private tabletop exercise to give AAR Japan’s management staff a taste of what it would be like for them react in an emergency situation. 

In total, 17 staff members from AAR Japan, including the director-general and senior management staff members, participated in the two-hour simulation exercise. The participants were divided by their work departments (i.e. administration, communications, and operations), and the disaster scenario was set as follows:

An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hits Tokyo at 10:30AM, with 70% of the Greater Tokyo Area experiencing a quake of 6.0 or stronger. Buildings are damaged and fires ensue in multiple neighborhoods. Everyone in the AAR Japan building evacuates to a nearby public park... 2 hours later, it is confirmed that the AAR Japan building is safe to re-enter.

The simulation exercise was divided into two parts: (1) the initial response (between 12:30 – 2pm, approximately two hours after the earthquake); and (2) restoration of operations.

Part 2 of the exercise was further divided into Phase I and Phase II: Phase I started at 2pm, three and a half hours after the earthquake, running until the end of day one; and Phase II covered the day after the disaster:

Phase 1 (2pm): Power outages continue, and office desktop PCs are unusable. Internet connectivity to laptop PCs and cell phones is minimal and the server cannot be accessed. AAR had originally been planning to send money to its overseas operations but they now cannot wire money via net-banking because they cannot use the internet. Calls to the bank are not going through and it is unclear whether the banks are operating.

Phase 2 (the day after the disaster): Train and subway systems have been shut down in many parts of the Tokyo Area; traffic congestion continues. Due to transportation difficulties, as well as, damage to homes and/or affected family members some AAR staff are unable to come in to work. Around 60% of the staff are available, either because they stayed in the office overnight or are able to walk to work the next day. Scheduled power outages have also started, and Laptop PCs and mobile phones will soon run out of their batteries and cannot be recharged. Donors and members have been trying to reach the office with offers of donations but have largely been unsuccessful. Staff members who had stayed overnight are showing signs of exhaustion.

The workshop facilitator gave each group timed tasks in accordance to the specific timelines (for example, during the initial response, each group had 20 minutes to brainstorm and come up with their department’s list of priority tasks that need to be completed within the first two hours of the disaster). During the simulation of the initial response, AAR Japan received regular situational updates by monitoring reports on a large TV screen regarding traffic conditions, public transportation conditions, fires, power outages, etc. Each group was then responsible to keep up with the updates while also working on their assigned tasks. The Director-General oversaw all activities at a distance and received reports from each group regarding updates and priority work areas. 

Results: Through this fast-paced exercise, many issues that had yet to be resolved with AAR Japan came to light, including:

  • What is the minimum number of staff needed?
  • Who has to stay behind in the office and who can go home?
  • How much cash do we need to have on hand to meet our immediate needs for at least a few days?
  • Where will we work if the office becomes unusable?

Overall, the feedback from the participants was very positive, including the following comments:

  • “It was an extremely worthwhile exercise that made me think about disaster response in a practical manner.”
  • “The simulation exercise covered a lot of material in a very short time frame.”
  • “I realized how important prior preparation is for disaster response.”
  • “Next time we should expand the simulation to include more staff members.”

Masayuki Okada, Administrative Officer and the focal point for this BCP exercise, summed up his impressions by saying, “I think this exercise helped us all to realize how much work we still have to do to prepare ourselves for a disaster. We always meant to, but never got around to stockpiling emergency supplies such as food, water, and disposable toilets for our staff. If we lose electricity, most if not all of our work will grind to a halt, so we seriously need to consider investing in a generator.”

Mr. Okada continued, “Other issues include not having an alternative workspace if our office ever became damaged, and how our BCP doesn’t specify which staff member is in charge of certain roles in case of an emergency. This exercise allowed us to experience a little bit of the chaos a disaster causes, and has helped management-level staff to have a better appreciation of the urgency of these issues. Now that we all have this shared sense of urgency, this is the ideal time to push forward with strengthening our level of preparedness. Additionally, we will be sharing the highlights of this exercise with other staff at our annual ‘Joint Conference for Internationally-Posted Staff & HQ Staff,’ which will be held at the end of this month. We truly appreciate the opportunity International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine has given us, and we will be sure not to waste the lessons we learned through this exercise.”

Teams monitoring news feeds
Teams monitoring news feeds
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General

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.

Through our network of project partners, who pass GlobalGiving's rigorous due diligence process, issues as diverse as immediate relief and animal safety are being addressed. The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund is composed of a subset of the projects featured on this page as well as other Japanese NGOs. To see updates on how the funds have been used please see the Fund Reports Tab. Alternatively, you may choose to support the efforts of a specific organization.

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