Hands On Tokyo

Hands On Tokyo addresses the critical needs of the community by partnering with other organizations focusing on environmental, educational, and social issues in Tokyo. Through such partnerships, we provide numerous opportunities for any individual or corporation looking to engage in direct volunteer service and community participation. Our vision is to empower volunteers so that they can be confident that their contribution can change lives of others.
Jun 1, 2016

Hands On Tokyo Tohoku Spring Report

Spring is a very busy time for farmers. They must work very hard to prepare for this year's growing season. Labor shortages continue to make it very hard for local farmers in Tohoku to run their farms and grow their businesses and in turn to further rebuild their lives. Growing rice, vegetables and fruit is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work by themselves. With the labor shortages, they need the continued support of volunteers. 
 
With your generous donations, Hands On Tokyo volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center (NRC) in Yamamoto-cho in Miyagi Prefecture. The NRC is an agricultural association of local farmers who produce and promote local rice and local produce. 
 
In March, 13 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped Saito-san and his wife clear hothouses by removing clips and stakes and by pulling out old paprika plants in preparation for this year's growing season. 
 
In April, we took 22 members of the Hands On Tokyo Club at the American School in Japan (ASIJ). The students helped Saito-san, his wife and the NRC prepare for this year's rice growing season by gathering rice seedlings and setting them up in hothouses so that the rice seedlings can grow a bit before they are planted in the rice fields. 
 
Saito-san and his wife always ask us to convey to everyone who supports our volunteer activities in Tohoku just how much they and the NRC appreciate all the support. What Hands On Tokyo volunteers are able to accomplish in a day would take Saito-san and his wife and other local farmers days to complete. 
 
With your generous support, we will continue to organize volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the NRC and others in Tohoku as they continue to work very hard to further rebuild their lives.
This spring we also made three trips to Ogatsu in Miyagi Prefecture.  Ogatsu was completely devastated by the tsunami and is where we built the first new permanent building -- the O-link House -- with your generous support and the generous support of the Major League Baseball Players Association and others.  The 0-link House is a community center and plays a very important role in connecting and keeping the Ogatsu community together while the infrastructure is still being rebuilt.  Former Ogatsu residents regularly travel to Ogatsu to use the O-link House to meet their friends and to hold meetings and classes. It also is a place where local artists can hold exhibits. 
In March, 13 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped weed and plant flowers at the Ogatsu Rose Garden Factory. 
The volunteers also helped make 1,000 slate pieces from slate that was salvaged after the tsunami. The slate pieces are being used in an art installation project aimed at conveying the vibrancy and resilience of the Ogatsu community.  In April, 22 members of the ASIJ Hands On Tokyo Club helped further prepare the slate pieces for this art installation project.
Now there are only approximately 1,000 people who are part of the local community after factoring in all those who tragically perished in the tsunami and all those who have since moved away. Prior the tsunami, Ogatsu was famous for its slate and slate-making crafts. Each remaining community member is being asked to paint a piece of slate and, once all the pieces are painted, the pieces will be arranged in an art installation conveying the continued strength of the local Ogatsu community. We are very happy to be able to support this project. 
A local resident (who founded the Ogatsu Rose Garden Factory after the tsunami so that former residents and visitors would once again see beauty when they first enter the Ogatsu area) kindly conducted a disaster preparedness class for our volunteers who traveled to Ogatsu in March and April. 
In May, 11 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped maintain the O-link House by weeding the lawn and by painting the community center.  Being located near the ocean, the O-link House needs to be painted every two years. The volunteers were very happy to be able to paint the O-Link House and the fresh paint provides great encouragement to all members of the Ogatsu community. We are planning to bring more volunteers to Ogatsu over the summer. 
In May, the volunteers also made goody bags and decorated baskets filled with cookies handmade and beautifully decorated by volunteers from Moody's Japan in Tokyo. We then delivered the cookie-filled baskets to the Ogatsu Elementary and Middle School Parent Teachers Association so that the PTA could distribute the cookies to all the Ogatsu elementary and middle school children who are waiting for their schools to be rebuilt in Ogatsu. 
With your generous support, we will also continue to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites and evacuation centers in Tohoku and neighboring areas so long as people are still living in such places. 
 
There is still so much to be done and there are still so many people in need of support and encouragement. Thank you very much in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku. 
May 2, 2016

Hands On Tokyo Teen Advisory Board Spring Report

With the farmers in Yamamoto-cho
With the farmers in Yamamoto-cho

The past couple of months have been extremely busy for the Hands On Tokyo Teen Advisory Board. Recently, we have welcomed Aoba International School and BST to join our team and have invited them to one of our meetings to explain what Hands On Tokyo is about. We also elected our future President, Vice President, and Secretary for the coming school year. I am confident that our Teen Board will continue to grow and become and even stronger influence as the years go on.

Two weeks ago, eighteen students from the American School In Japan Hands On Tokyo group went on our annual Tohoku trip over the weekend of April 16th. First, we went to Ishinomaki to help out Saito-san’s farm. Saito-san is a farmer who Hands On Tokyo has partnered with since the earthquake hit the northern region of Japan. We sewed rice grains and placed them in the green house. This tedious job is usually done only by around four or five workers, but it was completed in just a couple hours. Everyone not only helped out Saito-san but was also able to learn about the process of farming the rice. Afterwards, we went and visited a couple of elementary schools that were destroyed in the 3/11 disaster. The teen volunteers were able to see the destruction in real life as opposed to the mere photos on television or online, allowing for a deeper connection with and feeling of sympathy for the victims of the disaster. This was a good way to inspire even more passion in the volunteers about what exactly they were there for. The next day we went to the town of Ogatsu to visit the Hands On Tokyo O-Link house and to help paint 1,000 ogatsu-ishi (a slate found only in the Ogatsu mountains) with black ink so that the people can paint them and put them together into a mural; this is to celebrate and motivate the 1,000 people who are left in this town, trying to revive the region. Each ASIJ student was able to paint his or her own message/image onto one of the small rocks, concluding our Tohoku trip. All the volunteers were extremely hard working and responsible students, making this year’s Tohoku trip very successful once again. 

 

Last Sunday, April 24th, the Teen Advisory Board had our painting project at the Chofu Gakuen Children’s home. This project was led by Hironori Kuo and James Newton from St. Mary’s International School. The logistics and details were discussed the week before and we were able to gather over 50 students from the five international schools. We split them up into three groups: painting, gardening, and car-washing. We held a morning and afternoon session but many of the students opted to volunteer the entire day. The pool locker rooms were painted a nice summery green with the help of professional painters who have helped out the teen painting projects in the past. Through this project, the Teen Board was able to create a relationship with the Chofu Gakuen children’s home and we are planning on doing more with them in the future. 

 

Thank you so much for all your support, which has enabled us to carry out various meaningful projects! 

At the O-Link House in Ogatsu-cho
At the O-Link House in Ogatsu-cho
Top Left: painting the pool changing rooms, Top Ri
Top Left: painting the pool changing rooms, Top Ri
Mar 2, 2016

Tohoku Winter Report

It is hard to believe that this month marks the Fifth Anniversary of the March 11th Triple Disaster in Tohoku. Please join us in taking a moment to think of all the people who tragically perished and all the people whose lives were forever changed that fateful afternoon. 
 
Agriculture was one of the key drivers of the Tohoku economy before the Triple Disaster. Labor shortages continue to make it very hard for local farmers in Tohoku to further rebuild their lives, run their farms and grow their businesses. Growing rice, vegetables and fruit is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work just by themselves and, with the labor shortages, they need the continued support of volunteers. Recent news reports, however, indicate the number of people volunteering in Tohoku has dropped and the local farmers are feeling the impact. 
 
With your generous donations, Hands On Tokyo volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center (NRC) in Yamamoto-cho in Miyagi Prefecture. The NRC is an agricultural association of local farmers who produce and promote local rice, strawberries and apples.
 
In December, Hands On Tokyo volunteers and a group of  25 boy scouts and troop leaders from a Boy Scout Troop at The American School in Japan (ASIJ) helped Saito-san and his wife remove clips and stakes from an eggplant patch in preparation for this year's growing season. 
 
In February, 17 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped Saito-san and his wife remove 1,000s of clips from five hothouses in which paprika plants are growing. What the volunteers were able to accomplish in a day would have taken Saito-san and his wife days to complete. After taking a short break while eating delicious grilled leeks grown by Saito-san, we also helped clear stones from land where Saito-san and his wife want to start growing vegetables this year. It was very moving to find fragments of everyday dinnerware from the houses washed away by the tsunami and to imagine how Saito-san and his wife will be able to clear the rest of the stones by themselves so that the land can be used to grow vegetables.  
 
We will continue to organize volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the NRC and others in Tohoku as they continue to work very hard to further rebuild their lives and relaunch their businesses.
 
Five years later there are still people living in temporary housing. In December, Hands On Tokyo volunteers and the ASIJ Boy Scouts served rice pilaf, hot soup and hot dogs to temporary housing residents in Yamamoto-cho. We made holiday goody bags and presented them to the residents together with beautiful holiday wreaths made by employees of American Express Japan in Tokyo. We also decorated Christmas cookies with the residents. It was wonderful seeing so many generations enjoying this holiday activity together and seeing so many smiling faces. 
 

On Valentine's Day, 17 Hands On Tokyo volunteers served chicken wraps, rice pilaf and hot soup to temporary housing residents in Yamamoto-cho. We also made Valentine's goody bags for the residents and Valentine's chocolates, and decorated tissue boxes with lots of Valentine's hearts with the residents. There was much laughter and many smiles. The volunteers and residents could not think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day. When we prepared to return to Tokyo, the residents asked us to please come again soon. 

 
In December, nine Hands On Volunteers traveled to Joso City in Ibaraki Prefecture where, in September last year, there was unprecedented rainfall and tens of thousands of local residents were forced to abandon their homes as the Kinugawa Ruver burst its banks. The volunteers made lunch for 150 local residents whose houses were either swept away or made uninhabitable by the flooding and who are still living in temporary evacuation centers. We made chicken wraps and served them with hot soup and Christmas desserts. The local residents were very grateful to be treated to lunch, particularly now that the flooding is no longer in the news. 
 
Thank you for helping us bring smiles to the faces of so many temporary housing and evacuation center residents. We will continue to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites and evacuation centers in Tohoku and neighboring areas so long as people are still living in such places. 
 
There is still so much to be done and there are still so many people in need of support and encouragement. Thank you in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku. The local residents often say "wasurenai de ne" (which means "please don't forget"). With your generous support, Hands On Tokyo and its dedicated volunteers will never forget.
 
   

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