During winter due to extremely cold weather, the tent for shops in Isatomae, Minami-sanrikucho, was rather quiet. Only a barbershop was in operation with several transparent and thick plastic curtains to prevent oil-heated warm air leaking out of the enclosed section. In this cold weather, despite free rent in the tent, many shops moved out to government-constructed temporary-shops with much nicer, warmer-in-winter, and cooler-in-summer environments, but naturally with a highly expensive monthly charge.
Now in summer time, not only the barbershop is there in operation as usual, but also a mountain school (Tengu no Yama Gakko) is offering mountain survival lessons to children. They rented a piece of land close to the tent to teach children not only how to survive in the nature, but also how to cultivate vegetables and construct temporary shelters. Everyday many children gather in the tent to join lessons as one of children’s summer vacation activities.
The school also brought an electric sign board to attract people to come to the tent shops over the weekend, when two additional shops are operating. The liquor shop which was previously operating frequently on weekdays is now operating only over the weekend, since the owner got a bus driver job to prevent him from opening the shop on weekdays. He, however, developed private-brank sake, named “Utatsu,” the old name of the location, attracting some customers. A food shop is also open over the weekend to attract customers to the tent. So, basically four shops are in operation in the tent.
The tent is also becoming a convenient place for diverse town events. The mountain school often holds a parents-children party, and the tent is especially helpful when it rains outside. The mountain school also created a children’s mikoshi for a summer festival, and the tent became the center of mikoshi construction as well as a practiceground for children parading around Isatomae with the mikoshi. The government-constructed temporary-shops also hold events frequently, but when it rains this tent becomes the place of events.
Isatomae received a large number of paper-folded cranes (orizuru) after the Tsunami Disaster, and now the town government is hanging them on a side of a steep hill with a sign written, “To people in the world, thank you very much.” But, to my great surprise, preparations for this displayed orizuru by coating with plastic and piercing them through with a thread have been conducted at a corner of the tent. They still have far more orizuru to process. This is a reason why I say that the tent is becoming a multipurpose community center.
Another surprising finding is that now a Isatomae reconstruction plan is in a process of being formulated. The Central Government is showing a blue print to Isatomae people, while it is trying to incorporate local opinions in the plan. What is clear now is that the government is going to elevate the present government-constructed-shop area by piling up sand from the mountain. When this is to be implemented, these shops will be dismantled and have to be moved back to the tent until every construction (elevated land, dike, road, and shops) is completed, which will take a couple of years. Meanwhile, the tent will become the center of commercial activities in the village. Besides, one of two newly-planned residential areas to be constructed for people in the temporary housing to move in will be right next to the tent. In a sense, this tent may transform into a frequently-used community center even after the government construction plan is completed.
Although the use of the tent has been experiencing ups and downs, I think that the tent offered diverse and valuable supports to different groups of people with different purposes in different periods. I am really grateful for your donations, and without your help Isatomae people might have suffered further without a proper substituting location in diverse stages of transformation.
Thank you very much.
Isatomae tent shops are a little bit busier than Winter season. A barber shop is the busiest one in the tent. The owner installed the second haircut chair and also a modern massage equipment which provides massage while a customer is sitting in a haircut chair. Sometimes, customers have to wait for their turn. The owner decorated the shop in such a nice way that customers do not feel that they are inside a tent. Other than the barber shop, a liquor shop has a display of a large number of alcohol beverages. And also small food shop and a mountain school are in operation. Sometimes NGOs come and conduct their activities. The tent is in a good use, though the number of customers is not as large as shop owners wish, except the barber shop owner. However, since the tent is operated free of charge, shop owners are not losing money.
Temporary shops are operating in the government-provided temporary housing. They are attracting customers, because they are situated in the foot of a small mountain, whose top the tent shops are located. Since the temporaryshops are much nicer and warmer, and are holding diverse events to attract customers, it is becoming quite difficult to attract a large number of customers to the tent shops. But now, a reconstruction talk is taking place. The Isatomae community requested the government to elevate the land and roads where the present temporary shops are located. As soon as redevelopment starts, may be within a year, they have to evacuate the present place. As a solution to this problem, they are discussing to move all shops back to the place where the tent shops are. This means that when the construction starts, the tent shops will be the center of shopping in Isatomae until construction will be completed. Since temporary shop owners have to pay a fairly big sum to prepare themselves to dismantle the temporary housing, in the end shops might not gain much more in the operation of a fairly short period than those owners operating in the tent shops. It is, however, much nicer to feel in the temporary shop that their business is in demand by a fairly good number of customers. But the Isatomae shop tent may become the center of community activities again in a near future.
Dear Kind-hearted Donors,
Thank you very much for many donations brought to Isatomae people in Minami-Sanriku Cho. They really appreciate your donations and were given big encouragement through human interactions in the tent-shop we constructed. They are encouraged to move forward.
A big change is taking place now with the tent, passing almost one year after the 3.11 Tohoku Tsunami. This area is quite cold, having temperature between -5 and -15 degrees in centigrade during winter time. Tent is too cold for customers to come and enjoy shopping. Although the Biomas Network Japan brought a big stove, it was not adequate enough. Besides, in the middle of December, the Government constructed temporary shop houses which can create a warm and nice shop environment with an electric air conditioner. No way a tent shop can compete. Asa matter of fact, cold temperature brought a couple of incidents of burst water pipes, causing several days without water. Since computers left in the tent broke down due to moisture and cold weather, a volunteer-operated computerschool decided to move out.
Despite such conditions, the tent shop is functioning to serve the needs of local people. Presently, four shops are still in operation (a lady’s hair salon, a wine shop, a coffee shop and convenience goods), and two NGOs have their places for community activities. Community events are taking place there, turning it more like a community center. Since the tent is operated with little charges, in terms of financial conditions it is more attractive to shop owners who have less favorable financial conditions. The government-provided temporary shop-houses require a little big amount for rent and a deposit for removing the housing which will take place three or four years later. Besides, the number of shop-houses constructed is very small relative to those constructed in the main town of Shizugawa. So, the tent shop still remains attractive to some people who are contemplating to open a shop. It offers a good ground for generating shop start-ups, which can move out of the tent once they start accumulating some fund and regular customers. Besides, once spring comes, it will bring back customers, and community center activities by NGOs and the computer school.
In a sense, the tent is now functioning as an incubation center for very small shops and a community center. It is still satisfying vital needs of Isatomae people, and will bring more activities once spring comes. Since it will take several years before Isatomae people will finally have a permanent location to live and have economic activities up in the mountain side, not next to the ocean, the tent will continuously serve the vital needs of Isatomae people, though its function transforms as the stage of recovery and redevelopment advances..
The Isatomae shop-tent in Minami-sanrikucho is really growing to be the center of community activities. As you can see in one of the pictures, a large crowd is filling up space in the tent, sometimes making it difficult to smoothly move. This is greatly because of increased participationn of diverse shops. The shop-tent started with seven shops, but now it has personal computer classes and a wine shop added inside, and mobile fish and meat shops right next to the tent. Occasionally, voluntary groups open shops sometimes delivering donated goods and sometimes selling commodities inexpensively. The shop-tent is now undoubtedly the center of community activities in Isatomae. This tent shops were reported in seven newspapers and one news in TV Sendai. Now, there is even a talk on constructing a tent-based community center for other activities needed for human interaction and care, especially when many people express their concern about the third wave of suicidal attempts as the New Year approaches. But this community center unfortunately is still at a stage of discussion.
Dear Donors, Thank you very much for your warm and heartful support to people in Isatomae. Although tent facilities are not completed, people in Isatomae decided to open tent shops. About seven shops started as the first step for rebuilding the community. Many people are still hesitant to open their shops, either not having sufficient fund or suffering from heavy debt from the past. The busiest shops were a barbar shop and a clothing shop. The barbar shop seats were continously filled, and what was amazing was people's smile and talking during hair cutting. People, especially senior ladies, just love to talk about their life and living conditions there, and when they finished they spent looking at themselves in a mirror for a while as if they found a new self. Many people were also at a clothing shop, spending fairly long time to select clothes of their choice. They looked really enjoying their shopping. It was a great moment to see Isatomae people feeling active, smiling and talking. This tent building was documented by the TV Sendai and was reported by two televison stations and three newspapers. One was a national newspaper. Thank you very much for your kind support.
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