On March 12th, 2014, AAR Japan and the ladies who live in Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture, prepared red and white rice cakes for the students and teachers of Toni Junior High School. Kamaishi City suffered from catastrophic impact caused by the 3.11 earthquake. The ladies living in the Complex located within 5 minute walk from the school adore these junior high school students as if they were their own grandchildren, and have been wishing to do something for them. Likewise, Toni Junior High School appreciates the relationship with the residents of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex and often invites the residents to their school events.
To celebrate the graduation of the class 2014, the ladies suggested preparing something heartwarming as a graduation present, so AAR Japan decided on red and white rice cakes, as the combination of red and white is a symbol of auspicious or happy occasion in Japanese culture. As it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare rice cakes with traditional equipment, AAR Japan provided two new rice cake machines to the local community center in Toni district.
With their practiced hands, the ladies finished preparing rice cakes so much faster than we initially expected. Soft and aromatic with the scent of glutinous rice, their rice cakes came out even better than the ones sold at stores. AAR Japan staff was moved when hearing the participant say “Knowing that this is for the students definitely gives us motivation!”
In Japan, celebration has been traditionally accompanied by rice cakes. People used to prepare rice cakes with traditional equipment but are more apt to buy them at a store. Having two new rice cake machines, ladies of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex are now able to prepare rice cakes whenever they want to. In fact, the ladies were already discussing preparing rice cakes for the celebration ceremony of raising the framework of a public housing complex.
We do not know yet when the residents of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex will be able to move into new permanent houses. Some of the construction sites are finally fixed, but even on those places general contractors are not yet arranged to start the construction. The prospect of moving out from the Temporary Housing Complex is still not clear.
The longer the life continues in Temporary Housing Complex, the more important such social events become for the residents; as it is easy to isolate themselves in the Temporary Housing Complex. Though the preparing of red and white rice cakes, the ladies of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex were able to socialize with each other as well as to build strong relationship with Toni Junior High School. We sincerely hope that the young and the old of Toni Town continue to unite and move forward together.
This activity was made possible by your generous donations. We have purchased two new rice cake machines and some glutinous rice for this activity.
AAR Japan held a cooking lesson in a community hall at Takami Town Daiichi Temporary Housing Complex, Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture on December 23rd, 2013.
With the objective of cooking a delicious yet easy meal using only a frying pan, 18 participants made “Paella”, a popular Spanish dish. The participants enjoyed cooking with the help of Yoshiko SHIODA, cooking adviser, and the paella came out looking very tasty.
Participants expressed their satisfaction and joy. They happily made comments such as “I cannot usually make such a posh dish”, “All the colors from a variety of ingredients make it look delicious”, and “I appreciate the fact that the process was very easy, using only a pan”.
As a dessert, participants tried vanilla ice cream with soybean flour and a few drops of pure soy sauce. Although they were surprised by the unexpected combination of ice cream and soy sauce at first, the first mouthful of the ice cream brought smiles on their face.
The residents of Takami Town Daiichi Temporary Housing Complex evacuated from the coastal area of Minamisoma City. They have no prospect of returning home due to the tsunami damage and radioactive contamination. According to some participants of the cooking lesson, community events, in which the complex residents gather and make something together help networking. As such, they would like to have similar kind of opportunities.
From October 23rd to 25th, we held the fifth folk song concert tour at 11 venues in Koriyama City, Katsurao Village, Motomiya City and Nihonmatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture featuring the popular comedian Mr. Nekohachi EDOYA and the folk music team called ‘Minyo-jin’. Same as the previous tours, every venue was packed with the audience with excited and throbbing expression.
The concert started with the smooth lead of Mr. Nekohachi, who is famous for his performance of mimicking animals. Led by the dynamic intro of Shamisen (traditional Japanese string instrument), the singers’ powerful and penetrating voices pleasantly filled the venue. First, each performer sung his/her specialty, and then the performers took requests from the audience. Not only the Fukushima-originated folk songs such as ‘Aizu Bandaisan’ and ‘Soma Nagareyama’ thrilled the audience, the songs rooted in Tohoku area such as ‘Sado Okesa’ and ‘Tsugaru Aiya Bushi’ also moved some of the audience to tears since these songs invoked the memory of their family members. In the finale, ‘Soma Bon-uta’, one of the standard pieces among Fukushima people, was performed and the audience truly enjoyed clapping, swinging, singing along and dancing. The highlight of the concert was the part in which Mr. Nekohachi and Ms. Keiko CHIDA together performed four songs in which names of animals appear in lyrics. In the interval of the beautiful singing performance of Ms. CHIDA, Mr. Nekohachi mimicked the voice of animals such as cows and bush warblers comically but to the life, which filled the venue with roaring laughter.
Here are some remarks we received from the audience.
A lady who participated in the concert at Odagaisama Center on October 23rd
‘I stayed with my daughter, who lived outside Fukushima Prefecture for three months right after the earthquake before moving to this Miharu Temporary Housing Complex. I am getting used to the life here and I enjoy doing handicraft such as knitting with other residents. I had the knitting session today too, but I wrapped up earlier to get a good seat at the concert! Usually I am not that interested in concerts but if it is folk music, that is different. I laughed a lot for the first time in a long time. The winter here is much colder than Hamadori, where I used to live and the heat in summer is also tough, but I am getting used to and trying to cheer up.’
Ms. Konno, aged 63, participated in the concert at Takagi Temporary Housing Complex on October 25th
‘The concert was great! It all cleared the wretched feeling I had been feeling these days. The song I requested, ‘Kabenuri Jinku’, is the song of my memories. I should have brought my husband too.’ She was originally from Chiba Prefecture in Kanto area and moved to Namie Town when she got married. She told us that she enjoyed working on handicraft with the other residents in her free time and she also expressed her wish to let people all over Japan know how the residents were trying to move forward.
On August 9th 2013, we organized a community interaction event at Matsukawa Daini Temporary Housing Complex in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture. The event program included body massages by a professional physical therapist, folk music concert and a magic show. A total of 41 participants gathered at the community center in the temporary housing complex and enjoyed the entertaining performance, briefly forgetting the mental fatigue, which the evacuees daily experience.
Although the event had been announced to begin at 1:00 p.m., several participants started coming at around 12:30 p.m. In the first hour, the participants received body massage by the professional physiotherapist, Ms. Yokoyama, which helped the participants relax their bodies and receive advice on their health condition. At 2:00 p.m., a pair of men in bright costumes showed up in front of the audience, who turned out to be the great magicians/comedy duo ‘Akkerakan’. They performed various and eye-catching tricks and even a pigeon appeared from a hat, which evoked a wave of applause among the audience. A 10 years-old boy, Sho, who participated in the event with his grandmother, volunteered and greatly enjoyed to assist the magician duo. With an excited and amused smile, he told us that it was his first time to see a magic so closely. Then the folk music concert started, amusing the audience with powerful music, dance and comical short drama. During the concert, the audience intently listened to the united harmony of powerful singing voice, Shamisen (Japanese traditional string instrument) and Tsuzumi (Japanese traditional drum). Some participants shed tears when they and the performers together sang a message song about the prayers for the recovery of disaster-affected areas. Then, changing the atmosphere completely, a short comedy drama was performed, which featured a character that was very popular among the senior generation of the participants. The event ended with the biggest applause and beaming smiles of the audience.
Since the residents in Matsukawa Daini Temporary Housing Complex are originally from the same village, the social ties are relatively retained, and there are opportunities for gathering and doing activities together. Still, the participants assured that they were happy to join such events that gave another opportunity to come out to mingle with other residents. They are originally from Iitate Village, a large area of which is classified in the off-limit zone due to the high level of radiation. When an AAR Japan staff member Matsumoto had a chance to talk with two of the participants, Ms. Ito and Ms. Takahashi, they spoke cheerfully and, even with a laugh, described their village as ‘the area that was most severely damaged by the radiation’. They continued, ‘Even after moving to this temporary housing complex, we are doing quite well since the residents are all from the same village. We enjoy playing gateball and crafting basket together, and we are getting along well’. However, when they were asked whether they wanted to return to their home village, their facial expression slightly hardened. They answered, ‘We are not sure about that, since we are not able to return in any way’. This is the moment when we re-acknowledged that there is still a long way to go for the evacuees to positively look at their future. We will continue our efforts to cheer up the feelings of disaster-affected people and help them regain the strength to look forward.
Water is essential for life, and Japan has been proud of its abundance in water. However, after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, shortage of safe water is threatening the well-being of young children in Fukushima. The following report describes AAR’s current effort to protect health of children by providing bottled water to nurseries and kindergartens in Fukushima Prefecture.
After the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, radiation exposure has been a serious concern for everyone living in the affected area including young children who are thought to experience larger impact by radiation. Mothers are always worried about what their children consume at home and outside. Although food comes to many people’s mind as a primary source of radiation exposure, water, not only for drinking but also for cooking, is also a critical one.
In the most part of Fukushima Prefecture, water for daily use was not something people are accustomed to paying for. Instead they used to use tap water for drinking and cooking without worry before the nuclear power plant accident. When concern about the radiation contamination in tap water arose, nurseries and kindergartens were suddenly forced to find a way to procure safe water. At any nurseries and kindergartens, plenty of water is used every day for drinking, cooking lunch and snack for children and preparing milk for infants. However, many facilities did not have a separate budget for water purchase and no extra budget was available especially in the aftermath of the earthquake - people were facing a lot of unexpected expenses. There were some nursery school staff who bought safe bottled water for children at their own expenses and some nurseries had children to bring bottled water from home. Some teachers told us that they really wished to let children drink safe water as much as they want when they are thirsty, which they took for granted for ages.
In response to this wish, AAR Japan has been providing safe bottled water to 9 nurseries and kindergartens in Soma, Minami Soma and Date City in Fukushima Prefecture. The total amount delivered reached 16,480 litters so far. It was a great pleasure for us to see children happily drinking water and more unforgettable was the facility staff’s relieved expression. They told us that although they sometimes received time-to-time water donation, they had always been anxious since the donation was not guaranteed to continue. Water is simply essential for daily living, and the fear of running out of it is horrifying.
AAR Japan has also been supporting Yotsuba Nursery School through providing fruits for children’s lunch. Due to the concern on the radiation contamination in locally produced food, the nursery school has tried to purchase food items produced outside Fukushima Prefecture, but as they were costlier than the locally produced, this option was not financially sustainable. Hence AAR Japan decided to deliver fruits that are produced outside Fukushima Prefecture in response to the request from the nursery. Children are now able to enjoy seasonal, nutritious and safe fresh fruits for lunch. Meanwhile, this support could have more meaning - maintaining balanced diet and good eating habit at an early stage of life has a huge impact on children’s growth and future physical health. Children are eating not only for today, but also for their future.
AAR Japan will continue the support through provision of water and fruits to nurseries and kindergartens. Let us help children and mothers in Fukushima Prefecture to maintain good health through safe water and balanced diet.
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