In the aftermath of the earthquake, the city of Ishinomaki had to construct as many as 7,122 row-house-style transitional shelter units to house the disaster victims. The complex is the largest of its kind among all the municipalities that were affected by the disaster.
Now, forty three months down the line, many people still have no other options than to live in these basic dwellings. Even many elderly locals have to remain in these transitional shelters, and some are growing impatient to move out as they suffer from loneliness and often do not enjoy the comfort they use to have in their former homes.
Ishinomaki aims at setting up 4,000 disaster public housing units so that victims may move from temporary shelters to homes where they can live without anxiety. However, soring labor costs and material prices are delaying the construction work, and residents of the temporary shelters fear that their quality of life will not improve any time soon.
In an effort to bring relief to victims living in the complex, JEN organizes occasional networking events within the community. These events are much appreciated as they bring a sense solidarity and mutual support and understanding among the participants. A participant said “working in a group and talking with neighbors over lunch we cooked together provided me with an opportunity to become aware and learn about things that we usually take for granted.”
Let’s Create Our Dream Playground!
On August 24 and September 7, JEN held a workshop entitled “Let’s Create Our Dream Playground!” in cooperation with UNIQLO Dream Wall project.
JEN organized the workshop to seek ideas for the construction of a playground that will be built on the Kamikama Fureai Square located in western Ishinomaki city. A total of about 100 people, including many children, attended the workshop, creating a lively atmosphere.
Workshop participants firstly had a good look at the site. They observed how large it is, where it is located, and what its surroundings are. They then had the opportunity to give their input on what they would like to have in their “Dream Playground”. The children had a lot of fun doing so. Their opinions on the layout of the playground, the color of the equipment, how to play with the equipment and so on were put together into plans presented to architect Masayoshi Takeuchi. Mr. Takeuchi will then integrate these plans into his own architectural plan, which will take concrete shape next spring.
By taking their input into consideration, the workshop brought local residents a sense of ownership in the playground project. JEN is committed to continuing these activities that aim to create an environment where children really want to play so that they may be able to realize a town where they can live an easier life and hope to live for a long time.
Kadonowaki Junior High Student Council Wins Volunteer Spirit Award for its Efforts on "Spreading Flowerbeds through Human Connections"
The 18th Volunteer Spirit Award was awarded to the student council of the Ishinomaki Municipal Kadonowaki Junior High School.
The award aims to develop volunteerism among junior-high-school and high-school students by encouraging the conduction of volunteer activities, promoting exchanges with other students, and letting other students know more about volunteer activities.
The criteria for deciding the winner of the award are: contribution to the community, creativity, ability to make a plan and execute it, leadership, and the activity’s educational value.
Kadonowaki Junior High School also invited the students of the Ishinomaki Municipal Kadonowaki Elementary School and the Omachi Elementary School to join their project. The school districts where these two elementary schools are located were severely hit by the tsunami, particularly the Kadonowaki Elementary School which was burnt down. The tsunami and ensuing fires have left many districts completely changed. One of these districts, Minimicho, looked like “a deserted city” according to some students who used to live there. To rejuvenate the area, the students came up with this idea: “We hope to make a flowerbed in our inflicted school’s playground, and make people happy with flowers of many different colors”. The damage was so bad at Kadonowaki Elementary School that many people around the country came to see this particular site to get a grasp of the devastation of the disaster.
The teachers of the school consulted with the city board of education to realize the students’ idea, but they were told it was difficult to set up a flowerbed within the school’s premises because the reconstruction plan of the school had yet to be made.
JEN helped “these students of Ishinomaki, the most affected city by the disaster, set up their initiative aimed at cheering up their communities.” JEN’s help consisted of renting a vacant plot of land located at a short distance behind the school. It removed the rubbles, weeded the plot and cleared the litter to prepare the soil for flowers.
In November 2012, many local people and volunteers cooperated with the students in making a flowerbed and planting tulip bulbs. A surprising number of flowers imbued with the students’ hope bloomed the next spring. In the autumn of 2013, the flowerbed was taken charged by the first graders from the second graders who first came up with the idea. In this manner, the activity will be perpetuated.
The Volunteer Spirit Award was awarded to the students for their efforts to revitalize their communities. No doubt, Ishinomaki’s future leaders on whom the city’s revitalization relies on are growing. JEN continues to support these future leaders.
Feel the current environment in Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture!
In Oshika Peninsula which we introduced in the previous report, we held the event “Let’s Go to the Sea!” 4 times in total from June to August 2014.
It is new style experience-based reconstruction assistance. In Japan, many people have been interested in the current situation and the community recovery there and still finding the way to contribute to assistance there for those affected by the disaster.
We offer good opportunities for them to come to Oshika Peninsula and experience local environment, fishing, participating in a local festival and interacting with local people.
We also vitalize the local economy and to boost reconstruction there by call in many participants from outside the area.
In this report, we would like to introduce the event, the 8th “Let’s Go to the Sea!” held in June this year.
It had been held for 2 days, on June 7 and 8, at Yagawahama and Sasunohama, Oshika Peninsula.
In this event, the participants experienced fishing, listening to the locals talk about the disaster and recovery, visiting a temporary local shopping street which had been reconstructed 8 month later after the natural disaster hit the region and supported the locals, and looking around the city of Ishinomaki to know the present conditions.
Participants were able to learn directly the realities there such as the locals’ actual disaster experience and their positive spirits which they tackle difficult tasks to recover their hometown with, which they could not know through media coverage.
They shared their thoughts on the project with us:
“I was able to hear the situations in Tohoku through the media after the disaster but found out through the experience there that the reality was totally different from what I thought”.
“The event’s great attraction is that we can interact with the locals; they are genuinely kind-hearted, so I come to like Oshika Peninsula very much.”
JEN will keep conducting the event till the completion of reconstruction in the region.
Strengthening family bonds!
We have been conducting assistance for community reconstruction in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture since the earth quake and tsunami hit the city over 3 years ago.
On June 28, we held the event, “Parent-and-Child Hometown-Rediscovery Class” in order to strengthen their family bonds and to refresh their bodies and spirits.
JEN give an opportunity that elementary school students and their parents living in Ishinomaki city participate the out-of-door activity and learn about their home town.
A series of 6 classes are scheduled to be given in the June-December period, and are going to be improved so that they can give participants better opportunities to learn and experience various features of their hometown Ishinomaki.
This event held for the first time this year, was themed on hiking in Mt. Magi and photography class joined by 12 families of 29 parents and their children in total.
Firstly the photography class was conducted at the car park at the foot of the mountain and we distributed disposable cameras to each child.
Nowadays Japanese children only have experience of using digital camera so we taught them how to wind the film and how to take picture with the disposable camera.
At the beginning, children seemed puzzled to use the camera but once they started taking photo, they seemed to relax and we noticed their smiling faces and lively voices everywhere at last.
After that, the parents and children headed towards the Hitsujisaki Shinto Shrine on the top of the mountain which has an altitude of 250 meters.
In the middle of hiking, they listened to local histories and myths of Ishinomaki from a local historian who accompanied them.
Children were so excited about insects and plants living in the mountain which normally they cannot find in the city and the old tales that have been handed down in this area such as “from when human beings started dwelling at Ishinomaki city” and “a myth of Maki clan” whose name was possibly derived to the name of the Magi mountain.
Waking through nature trails, they found an obstacle course for kids, so they dashed towards it right after having lunch. The parents seemed to get more refreshed by seeing their children playing joyfully.
JEN is planning to hold classes such as fishing, camping in a remote island and cooking in the near future.
We are committed to our working on offering opportunities that parents and their children in the disaster-stricken area can strengthen their family bonds while rediscovering their hometown, Ishinomaki.
Promoting the empowerment of women!
On July 12, we held the event, the 5th "Handicraft market, Hands-on exhibit in Ishinomaki: Making Handcrafting into Jobs". The event was one of the women empowerment projects, aimed at giving women a leg up who make handicrafts in the area.
This time, we offered opportunities of making-goods experience such as weaving as well as selling and buying handicrafts such as handmade bags and other handmade items. The hall where this event was held became crowded with a lot of visitors right after its opening.
After that, JEN staffs and the local handicraft-sellers who sold things in the event, had a monthly meeting.
In the meeting, many ideas such as a central theme and layout of the next event in August were thought up by the local participants. They also actively worked on making public announcement about the event such as handing out the leaflets.
JEN is working hard aiming at developing the cooperative system between the local participants through having this kind of meeting in order them to hold the event by themselves.
“Come Join Our Fishery!” Event Continues to Succeed and Expands to Other Villages
The Oshika Peninsula is an area made up of over thirty fishing villages, each with its own unique culture and traditions and their name ending with “-hama.”Since two years ago when the project called “Come to Join Fishing” was launched, the aim has been to address problems in the fishing villages and ways to rebuild them. One way to help rebuild the villages is to attract outside visitors to the area by promoting Oshika`s attractions.
With the help of JEN, this project has been expanding to other fishing villages. In March two main events were held which promoted Oshika`s culture. The first, a Fishing Experience called “Come to Join Fishing Event” allowed participants to enjoy spring foods of the villages.
At the second event, participants were given the opportunity to experience a four hundred year old fox deity shrine festival at Kitsunezaki-hama, and some even carried amikoshi, a portable shrine, during the parade. JEN has been committed on working toward creating a sustainable community—one in which the locals will be able to continue supporting themselves.
A Lantern Vigil is Held to Remember Those Lost 3 Years Ago
Kadonowaki`s “Maneki Community”, a resident`s association created after the tragedy and made of some one hundred thirty people from 2-4 chome, organized a lantern vigil to commemorate those lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake. About eighty people living in the town and those taking shelter at other locations came to the ceremony to remember and pray for their loved ones.
Many took part in filling in the names of their neighbors in a handmade map. The pattern of the lantern vigil was created by Mr. Toyokazu Abe of Kadonowaki; it represents a cirque, which is a piece of jewelry worn by Buddha, and the soul, which is in the shape of a heart.
Ishinomaki Elementary Schools Receive New Playgrounds
JEN donated four playgrounds to elementary schools in Ishinomaki. With many of the playgrounds destroyed by the disaster and those remaining replaced by temporary quarter sites, children were left with nothing to play with outside.
Fortunately, on March 12 a presentation ceremony at Kama Elementary School took place, followed by one at Okaido Elementary School. Two other playgrounds donated by JEN were installed in Teizann Elementary School and Kaduma Elementary School by the end of April.
Newly Renovated Community House Opens
On March 23, a concert for the completion of the Koganehama Community House, located in Watanoha District in the northern region of Ishinomaki City, took place. With over one hundred thirty locals present, singer Katsuragi performed along with a surprise appearance from singer Okunn, a member of the gospel group RAG FAIR.
JEN has been helping to restore the building since July 2011. In March 2012, JEN led a workshop for locals on how to maintain a community house and helped restore a restroom and the interior of the building.
In order to successfully manage the community house, five officials from five administrative regions were put in charge. They have been working on receiving funding for additional repairs and organized this concert. Mr. Tahahiro Nagai expressed gratitude towards JEN and hopes that the community becomes independent and self-reliant in the near future.
Kadonowaki Elementary School Front’s New Garden
On March 29th and 30th, JEN assisted in moving a flower garden to the front of Kadonowaki Elementary School. This project was initiated upon request by the Kadonowaki Junior High School students.
Despite the event overlapping with their spring vacation, many students came out to help. About fifty students, forty-three volunteers, parents, and children helped dig out over eight-hundred viola seedlings, tulip bulbs, and a signboard and transported them to Kadonowaki`s school front.
One Kadonowaki Junior High student Miss Seika Sakurai shared her thoughts on the project with us: “It was a lot of fun! The project started when my sister was my age, so I hope we can continue it as a good tradition.”
Today, we'd like to share a story out of many lives you have changed - through supporting our project.
Mr. Homma's story
Mr. Homma is a chairman of the neighborhood association of Kadonowaki. Great East Japan Earthquake on 11th March, 2011 changed the fate of the area. Kadonowaki, which is one of the most suffered areas and 400 people of 4000 dead or missing people in Ishinomaki city fall a sacrifice to the earthquake there. After the earthquake, some people were sacrificed to tsunami and some moved to temporary housing, and only 60 people (23 families) of 2000 people who had been a member of neighbor association of Kadonowaki remained there and the neighbor association had had to suspended activities. However, the activity ran with JEN leaded the association to start again.
He became connected to JEN in October 2012 when about a year and half had passed since the earthquake. At the time, JEN supported “Recovery Program for us” ran by junior high school students in Kadonowaki and looked for a place such as everything was washed away to make flowerpots. After that, Mr. Homma, had being worked for gathering 4 neighbor associations together as a member of “Maneki (Inviting) Community”, and JEN formed “Watering for Flower pots Committee” and moved forward the project with students, habitants and volunteers together. In April 2013, flowers bloomed beautifully with some messages of hope attached. Two years has passed since the earthquake and Mr. Homma said “I am finally ready to recover.” In August 2013, JEN supported the construction of community house, “Maneki House” as a center of interaction of people. Some events such as tea ceremony and exercise class for health are held on a regular basis. Also, festival to praise Jizo (guardian) which had been canceled because of the earthquake and former habitants who had moved to temporary housing came back to the town. Mr. Homma hopes that many people would come back to the town after the land readjustment even if it is only one person.
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Target Area Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki City and nearby villages. Activities during October, November & December, 2013.
Community Building in Ishinomaki
[Children Learn Fishing]
JEN has been assisting efforts to care for emotional and spiritual needs of children. On October 20, JEN hosted "Furusato Kodomo College in Tanigawahama", an event to offer children in Ishinomaki an opportunity of experiencing fishery. Corporate volunteers and the fishermen from Tanigawahama Fisheries Cooperatives volunteered to help JEN.
Since the disaster, children have had fewer chances to go to the sea due to the traumatic experience of the disaster and evacuation life that forces them to live away from the sea. This event therefore is about getting the bearers of Ishinomaki's future to know Ishinomaki's good things and love Ishinomaki much more through hands-on experience.
On that day children experienced fishing, making mother shells to raise oysters and clearing scallop shells of substances sticking to the front of the shells along with the fishermen.
The fishermen who accepted the children looked very happy because the children's cheers filled Tanigawahama where the number of children has decreased.
[Imoni Party Help Sustain Community]
JEN is committed to helping develop mutual supportive relationships and self-sustaining communities by assisting activities that serves that purpose such as traditional customs.
In many parts of the Tohoku region from October to November, there is a custom of enjoying "imoni party" at outdoors such as river banks. Different from area to area as seasonings and gradients are, enjoying over a hot pot featuring taro is called "imoni party". The party usually takes place as an event to socialize with friends or people at work, making Tohoku's people feel that autumn would not be autumn without it as well as hanami party in spring.
On October 27, JEN helped the community association of the evacuees living in Nukaduka temporary housing complex host an imoni party. Not only joined the evacuees but people outside including those living in the neighborhood of the temporary housing and in other temporary housing complex, deepening ties among them.
A neighbor brought the evacuees some persimmons from his garden for present using a forklift truck. You can bet that continued efforts to develop people-to-people links such as hosting imoni party could establish mutual supportive relationships.
[Lantern Vigil to Commemorate 3,266 Victims]
With December 5, 2013 at 14:46 marking 1,000 days since the disaster broke out, citizen volunteers hosted "the Great Tohoku Earthquake Lantern Vigil to Commemorate the Anniversary of 1,000 Days." Many people gathered for the prayer vigil from all around the city of Ishinomaki.
This ceremony was run by a planning committee organized by citizens and some 70 volunteers. It's intended to commemorate victims together and determine to move forward together as we were kept alive and allowed to stay live.
First-year art club members at Ishinomaki High School developed the design of lantern layout in the shape of wave rings centering 3/11-shaped lanterns so that the people in Ishinomaki may pay more attention rather than 3/11 to the present and then the future just like wave rings ripple around
The chair of the planning committee said "We are going to host the ceremony at each junction to pray for those who were killed and to provide an opportunity of sharing the determination to restore Ishinomaki."
[The 4th "Come to Join Fishing Event"]
JEN continues supporting an event that invites people from across the country to come and enjoy the nature and fresh food of the Oshika peninsula so that disaster areas can boost their self-help efforts toward recovery.
Higashihama planning committee held the fourth "Come to Join Fishery Event" at Sudachihama on the Oshika Peninsula on December 1 with help from JEN.
Now that it was an oyster season, a lot of plans unique to the oyster season were worked out including touring oyster farms; experiencing oyster shelling; exchanging with oyster fishermen in Higashihama; feasting on all-oyster dishes.
Oysters are usually farmed for two years until they are ready to ship; in inshore farms with hardly waves during the first year and for the second year in offshore farms with restless waves. The participants visited both farms and hauled ropes of two-year-old oysters, harvesting large oysters.
After harvesting oysters, the participants experienced shelling oysters with the guidance of the people in Higashihama. We usually eat already-shelled oysters available at stores and so the participants seemed to have difficulties in the first-time experience of their shelling oysters. They were much surprised to hear that fishermen can shell 3-5 oysters per second.
By the time they finished shelling oysters, mothers in Higashihama had already prepared lunch, waiting for them to sit at the lunch table. The lunch was abundant in variety such as grilled oysters, rice assorted with blue mussels, miso soup with oysters and laver, fried oysters as well as steamed oysters or an hot pot of oysters using oysters shelled by the participants, proving to be luxurious all-oyster dishes.
The day went by surprisingly fast; before the participants say good-bye, each participant expressed their thanks or feedbacks to the people in Higashihama.
The Higahsihama planning committee intends to continue with a series of this event. So does JEN.
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