On April 15th and 22nd, we organized an event that we called “Singing Bus Tour.” The plan was to go around the city of Sukagawa with its residents on a bus rented out from the social welfare committee. The bus went around to all the cherry blossom viewing sites in Sukugawa, while the passengers continued to sing in a chorus. Many people living in temporary housing participated in the tour: 35 people on the 15th, and 30 on the 22nd. An electric keyboard was set up inside the bus, and pianist Tomoko YAMAZAKI was there to play popular songs and nursery rhymes for us to sing along to.
Because the cherry blossoms blossomed late this year, we unfortunately could not visit many sites. However, the participants enjoyed going to famous sites such as Iwase Farm, and eating lunch boxes out in the Fukushima Airport Park. Both the participants and the members of the social welfare committee were very happy at the end of the day, and asked us, “Please make this an annual event!”
170 Carps Swimming in the Sky
In April 29th, as a part of its “Building Healthy Communities Project,” AAR JAPAN held an event at the Elderly Support Center of Yunuki Town in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. We have been implementing this same project in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures since July, 2011. Specifically, we have been holding regional community events such as massage sessions, health exercise sessions, and counseling with the goal that those affected by the disaster can regain their health, both physically and psychologically, as soon as possible. This was the first time an event was held in the Fukushima Prefecture. Since Children’s Day (May 5th) was very near, we decided to hold an event where the participants can make their own carps to fly as carp streamers on this national holiday.
The carp streamers, or “Koinobori” in Japanese, are made by drawing an image of a fish, with its characteristically prominent scales, on a piece of white cloth. The participants also wrote messages on the carp to make them very original works of art. Many participants came; from elementary school students, to users of welfare facilities serving persons with disabilities, to Afghan staff members from AAR JAPAN’s Afghanistan office. At the end of the day we had 170 carps swimming in the spring sky.
The children actually came at 10 in the morning to start drawing pictures of carps on white cloth. They all seemed absorbed in the task, and some didn’t seem to want to let go of their magic markers even after having finished one carp. There were children that drew up to five “Koinobori.” The colorfully drawn “Koinobori” were attached to a rope by the children themselves, although with some help from AAR Japan’s staff members.
An elderly woman that came with her grandchild shared with us, “We couldn’t put up “Koinobori” last year because of the disaster, but I’m so glad we were able to this year. Our children are very happy.”
Pleasure from Singing Together
AAR Japan also distributed handmade tote bags collected from all over the country to the people living in Yunuki Temporary Housing Complex. The recipients were moved by the messages inside the tote bags, saying “How thoughtful to include a personal message inside each bag. We are very thankful for these messages from the heart.” There is a large public bath at the community center of the temporary housing complex, so some people said, “These bags are just the right size for me to take to the bath!” All the bags are made with much care, and the pockets are attached in very useful places, so the bags should be very sturdy and practical.
In the evening, we held a small concert with performances by opera singers Yumiko SAKANO and Takao ASAHARA, and pianist Tomoko YAMAZAKI who performed earlier with the bus tour. After the concert we also had an interactive session where the audience was invited to participate in the singing. The 60 or so people in the audience seemed a little nervous at first, but soon they were up and singing along to Japanese traditional children’s songs such as “Chatsumi” (meaning picking tea leaves) and “Furusato” (meaning hometown), lead by the two professional singers. After the concert, the participants joyfully shared with us “We usually don’t get to sing so loudly, so it was a really fun experience.”
Since many people asked us to hold both events again, we believe we were able to bring some happiness back into their lives. As requested, AAR JAPAN will continue these activities in the Fukushima Prefecture.