Keep tsunami-stricken isatomae community alive

 
$2,992
$17,008
Raised
Remaining
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

Links:

Jul 28, 2014

To Be No.1 Event Organizing Arcade in Tohoku

Pre-game Lecture on Japan
Pre-game Lecture on Japan's Strategies

The Happy Shopping Arcade () (HSA) in Isatomae, Minami-sanriku-cho, Miyagi Prefecture, has been extremely active to organized many events and bring people from outside of the local community, since Isatomae having the population of only 5,000 is not big enough to keep the shopping arcade going.

Since the Isatomae became the first training camp for the J-league (the Japanese professional soccer league) when it was established in 1991, it has been keeping good relationships with diverse J-league soccer teams. These relations turned out to be highly valuable assets for keeping HSA to bring soccer fans to support the community. The HSA is the only place where you can see many flags of J-league soccer teams flying. Hence, the HSA organized a public viewing of Japan- Côte d'Ivoire game in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Game held in Brazil. They established a tent, set two big-screen televisions, and an NTT-provided projector which unfortunately was difficult to watch due to sun shine. They also had the attendance of Mr. Hisago Sato who became the 2013 scoring leader in Sanfrecce Hiroshima, six present J-league players who signed on a soccer ball, two 2010 world soccer Japan team players, and a famous soccer game commentator who is the coach of the Sendai University Soccer Team. HSA kept a list of attendants and found that even several people came from Kyushu District. A women soccer team from Sendai, Vegalta Sendai Ladies, donated 40 tickets for the August 3 game which was given away in a lottery and two uniforms. Before the game, six J-league members touched a ball to send spirit to the Japan team in Brazil.  Everybody was quite excited during the game until Japan lost two points.

About 200 people came to attend the public viewing, and four television stations reported about the event which was broadcasted as a national news (see the attached newspaper article). Among blue-color-shirt supporters to the Japan team, a group of red-color-shirt supporters were in the crowd. They were supporting Chilean team, since Minami-sanriku-cho and Chile’s Easter Island has a friendship relation. Forty people at Minami-sanriku-cho lost their lives due to tsunami caused by the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960. To commemorate the recovery from the disaster, Minami-sanriku-cho commissioned a sculptor in Easter Island to make a Moai which came to be placed at Shizukawa High School. Unfortunately, this sculpture was lost in the 2011 Tsunami Disaster. Then, the Easter island sent a gift of a Moai sculpture to the town. Since there was a strong sense of good relations with Chile, a group of students wore red shirts to cheer the Chilean team.

After the game, the HSA was hoping to sell a lot of food and drinks, while providing some food for free. Unfortunately, everybody was so discouraged by losing the game, they did not stay at the HSA. In a sense, the public viewing was very successful, but the HSA could not make as much business as expected. Although it was unfortunate that the Japan team lost the game, the public viewing was really successful.

On August 3, the HSA is planning to have a fishing competition for which participants pay for a boat and go ocean fishing. On August 10 and 11, they are to have a summer festival, in which diverse participants play on the stage. The key attraction is BEGIN from Okinawa who also participated to commemorate the return of a Utatsu (Isatomae) post which drifted to Okinawa via Hawaii Islands. After many performances by participants, the festival will end with fireworks to commemorate those who lost their lives on 3.11. On August 16, they will have a Minami-sanriku Festival, and September 14, the town becomes a resting place for the Le Tour de Tohoku for 200 km bicycle competition. In October, they are planning to have an exhibition of 30 decorated and painted cars.    

With regard to raising the level of land, unlike Rikuzen Takata City and Shizukawa in Minami-sanriku-cho, hardly anything is taking place, while the planning of shopping arcade and the new housing area are very much coming to the final stage. People are now applying for housing to be built. The delay in land raising in Isatomae relative to other cities seems to be causing additional frustration, but at least they are eagerly participating to develop overall land planning, the construction of the shopping arcade, and other facilities. But there are many who just cannot wait for this slow development and purchases their own land and house outside of scheduled places. This is generating another psychological problem to those who are not capable of leaving temporary houses, giving them an identity of losers. Now, different are the financial conditions of those who had a tsunami insurance which was only 3% of disaster-stricken people and those who had fire insurance in Ohfunato whose houses were destroyed by fire rather than tsunami from those who did not benefit from these types of insurance.

Previous GlobalGiving donation to Isatomae was used to have this World Soccer Game Viewing, and they were extremely appreciative of the donation, especially because it turned out to be a big success. As written above, since they are planning to organize more events to become the No. 1 event organizing arcade in Tohoku for keeping their arcade alive, future donations are indispensable. They will very much appreciate future donations.

Sending Hearty Cheers to Japan Team
Sending Hearty Cheers to Japan Team
Viewing Game with J-league Flags on Ceiling
Viewing Game with J-league Flags on Ceiling
News Reporting of Public Viewing
News Reporting of Public Viewing

Links:

Apr 21, 2014

Moving Forward into A New Stage

Shop Tent Used as a Storage
Shop Tent Used as a Storage

When I met Mr. Yoshinobu Yamauchi, the President of the Temporary Tent Shop and the Vice President of the Isatomae Fukko Shotengai (Isatomae Redevelopment Arcade) in Isatomae, Minami-Sanrikucho this time, he looked more hopeful than ever before. It is because the Isatomae Chamber of Commerce (ICC) started discussing about the construction and operation of a new shopping arcade to be built on a raised land.

He was informed that elevating the height of a piece of land, where all shops will temporarily move in, will start around September 2014 and that the present shop arcade will move there, may be, around April 2015. Since temporary shops will be smaller than the present one, they will reuse the shop tent, which the Refugee International Japan in cooperation with the DSIA donated, for storing many equipment and commodities. (As an attached picture shows, it is presently used by a company which owns the land there as a storage.) Then, finally, around April 2016 a new shop arcade will be ready on the raised land of where they are presently operating.

Now, they started discussing whether they will establish a cooperative or a company for operating the new arcade. Given complexities involved in establishing a cooperative, they seem to be in favor of establishing a company, which may be easier to borrow money from banks for building the arcade. They are also talking about the size of investment each shop needs to make and the amount of subsidies the government provides, and even started contacting diverse organizations to find out whether they are interested in borrowing office space. The owners of the new arcade will be the members of the Isatomae Chamber of Commerce, but in order to generate revenue for the operating company, they are also talking to medical doctors, dentists, and other organizations to see if they are interested in borrowing office space. Since they are informed to establish a company by February 2015 and start hiring one staff to operate it, they are now contacting people to figure out the size of an arcade to accommodate diverse needs. In a sense, for the first time after many months of discussions about their plan, they started shifting to the phase of concretizing the shopping arcade, though they may face frequent ups and downs until they can finally move into a newly established arcade. We need to continuously and psychologically support them to go through another phase of challenges.

Donations made through the GlobalGiving have been helping the Istomae Fukko Shotengai to sustain the shop tent and organize diverse events. One of attached pictures show a remnant of an event they organized to commemorate their post box drifting to Okinawa via possibly Hawaii Islands, while they are preparing for the White Fish Festival as shown in their homepage and also used clothes sales in front of the Athlete Yamauchi during this weekend as shown in an picture.

They are now planning to have a big event on June 15, 2014, when Japan will have a soccer match against the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, the first Japanese match in the World Soccer Game 2014. They will install three big-screen televisions, and watch the game. They already have about fifty flags of Japanese soccer teams as shown in an attached picture, and will have the visits of J-League soccer players, a cheer band, and cheer leaders. They will also sell food so that visitors can barbecue local food there. But for the first time, I learned that they can organize such event, since they have been developing relations with Japanese soccer teams, even going back twenty five years ago. They provided a training ground to Japanese soccer teams, especially to Kashima Antlers. Mr. Yamauchi has been a key member developing such relations. For the redevelopment of Isatomae community, they are making full use of good connections they have been developing for many years. And the DSIA, taking a long-term perspective, also hopes to be a good supporting organization to them, especially by mediating the goodwill of GlobalGiving donors.

Flags Donated from Japanese Soccer Leagues
Flags Donated from Japanese Soccer Leagues
Remnant of Event Commemorating Post Box Return
Remnant of Event Commemorating Post Box Return
Used Clothes Sales
Used Clothes Sales

Links:

Jan 23, 2014

Struggling Hard to Attract Visitors from Outside

the Goddess of Mercy by Bamboo Light Up
the Goddess of Mercy by Bamboo Light Up

One key question I ask when I visit Isatomae, Minami-sanrikucho, every three months is whether a plan for reconstruction has been finalized. According to the Isatomae Shoko Kai (Isatomae Chamber of Commerce = ICC), it seems that the plan is very much finalized, but what I heard this time was also a little bit different from the previous plan I heard three months ago. The height of the dike will be 8.70 meters high, which was the same as before, while the height of raised land for shops changed from 5 meters to 7 meters, which enables residents to see the ocean with footsteps. They are hoping to see the completion of land raising by the end of 2015, but they sounded quite uncertain. Whenever I ask a question, “When will the construction of shops be completed?” They just cannot tell even when the land raising will be completed, needless to say about the completion of their shopping complex. They were very lively to tell about their shopping- complex plan, but when I ask about the completion date, their faces looked dark, showing their fatigue and a situation where they still do not see the end of the tunnel. They are quite tired, though they have a lot of issues to be decided. For example, one big issue presently is whether the shopping complex will take a corporate form or an association form. Some residents are even refusing to allow their land raised by the government, and the ICC even has to convince them to go along with a new plan.

One fortunate factor of the Isatomae community is that it has a 260-year-old “Contract Association (Keiyaku Kai)” consisted of about 80 households, and owns a large piece of land in the mountain as commons. Its history is so old that they never thought it to be useful. But a new residential housing complex will be built on this land, making their cost of land acquisition for their houses much cheaper. It is reported that the town purchases 1 m2 of destroyed land for \10,000, while a newly developed land in the mountain will cost about \12,000 to \18,000. Those who are a member of the Contract Association can reduce the cost of land acquisition, though they still have to pay for building houses. Many residents may simply choose renting public apartments instead of building a new house due to financial reasons.

Despite a small population size of 4,500 residents, in the past, ocean views, good ocean food, and country-side living in Isatomae attracted tourists. Now, everything is completely new, not different from big cities, and ocean views are blocked by the dike. Can they succeed to attract visitors? At this moment, with limited resources, they are doing their best to show the attractiveness of Isatomae by planning diverse events. They even added a playground for children. Naturally, since their attractiveness is ocean food, such as urchin, scallop, abalone, octopus, crab, sea weed, etc., they are planning to have festivals at the peak periods of these catches. Ezo scallop raised at Isatomae was offered to the imperial household for celebrating the Coronation of the Showa Emperor in 1928. They are even bringing out such an old historical fact to attract outside visitors.

Such attractiveness is not different from other communities in the Pacific-Ocean coastal area. To differentiate the Isatomae, they are developing their unique activities. Now in January 2014, the ICC borrowed 280 bamboo sticks from the Miike Light Bamboo Festival Committee in Fukuoka Prefecture, and are showing beautiful candle-light art works at night in the Temporary Shopping Arcade (see attached pictures). In the past, they succeeded to receive supports from all professional soccer teams in Japan and obtained their flags. They applied for a Guinness Record as one place having the largest number of soccer team flags. Unfortunately, it was not recognized as a record. Now, in June they are trying to have a public viewing of the World Soccer Game with diverse supports from these Japanese soccer teams. Naturally, they plan to have summer festivals, summer fireworks, and locally particular festival called “Donto Festival” held in diverse places in Miyagi Prefecture.

Despite financial and resource limitations, they are trying to make use of any chance for making the Isatomae Community known to outside. Given a small population of Isatomae, they believe that attracting outside visitors is the only way for them to survive and redevelop their community. Since a small community like Isatomae is rather difficult to obtain supports, they are still in disparate needs of continuous financial supports. Although they are quite tired and still do not see the end of tunnel at all, they are solely relying on their strong motivation and spirit to keep the community alive and going. 

Mr. Fuji by Bamboo Light Up
Mr. Fuji by Bamboo Light Up
Newly Added Playground
Newly Added Playground
Soccer Team Flags of the Temporary Shopping Place
Soccer Team Flags of the Temporary Shopping Place

Links:

Sep 24, 2013

A New-stage Problem, but with Cooperative Solution

Tent as
Tent as

Dear Precious Donors,

     Please excuse my delay in sending my report on the Isatomae Tent Shop to GlobalGiving, since the Typhoon 18 which brought quite heavy rain and land slides on September 16, 2013, prevented me taking a trip there. It was too risky for me to travel and I might have been stranded in a train.

     The shop tent at Isatomae is still there being used as a storage, while the Fukko Publicly-financed Temporary Shops are attracting people over weekends with a newly added children’s facility. Situations are just the same as before. except that some serious discussions are taking place among diverse-involved partners about who will take care of the shop tent. This issue became really serious, since the strong wind and heavy rain of the Typhoon 18 might have torn the tent apart. One issue was that nobody was clear who owns the tent. In an early stage of emergency, the biggest concerns among partners were to have the Isatomae Community restarted and get the local economy working. Everybody was hoping to see the good effects of the tent, which was amazingly well achieved. But in this process, some tacit agreement seems to have existed who takes care of the maintenance of the tent.

     Until all members moved out of the tent in August 2012, the Isatomae Chamber of Commerce was fully taking care of the tent. Then, the remaining mountain school, which was closely affiliated with the Japan Forest Biomas Network, was maintaining the tent, according to the head of the Tengu Nature Mountain School in Isatomae. Since they also moved out in September, 2013, the issue of who owns and maintains the tent became a serious issue. The owner of the land where the tent is located seems to be claiming that the tent should be either removed or his company will use the tent for their storage. Discussions involving the Forest Biomas Network, the local Chamber of Commerce and the land owner seem to have reached a temporary solution that the land owner uses the tent for its storage under his maintenance, until newly arising needs of the local Chamber of Commerce comes out in the near future. The reason is that within two years the Fukko Publicly-financed Temporary Shop will be removed, since the land will be elevated to seven meters high adjacent to 8.5 meter-high dike (previously the elevation was reported to be five meters). All equipment and facilities currently used at the Fukko Temporary Shops will be stored in the shop tent, until they can all move into newly established permanent shops. When this final stage comes, three partners will discuss what to do with the tent, to be continuously used as a storage for the land owner or to be removed. This was a nice solution, since the tent is still usable and will be continuously used to support people in the Chamber of Commerce, though the final stage may be about five or seven years away.

     Thus, the cost for maintaining the shop tent does not have to carried by the local Chamber of Commerce. But donations are still in need to keep the dynamics of the Fukko Publicly-financed Temporary Shops. Your kind help for this cause is still very much appreciated by people in the Isatomae Community. I am very grateful for your help, since they still have a long and long way to go before they can really find their home and community in a permanent condition. Until then for about, may be seven years, everything will be temporary. It is a psychologically and really tough situation for people in the Isatomae Community.

Tent Shop Functioning as a Storage
Tent Shop Functioning as a Storage
The Tengu Mountain Nature School Moved Out
The Tengu Mountain Nature School Moved Out

Links:

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Project Leader

Yoshitaka Okada

Tokyo, Tokyo Japan

Where is this project located?

Map of Keep tsunami-stricken isatomae community alive