Updates from Japan Relief Projects

Feb 2, 2016

Ochakko and Massage Therapy Report in Fukushima

It has been almost five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Assistance and efforts have been made in rebuilding the debilitated communities; the construction of disaster recovery housings is underway; the planning of collective relocation of survivors who remain at risk of potential disasters in the foreseeable future is being formulated. The ground preparation for ensuing construction work for housings is being carried out, which is yet to be completed. The extensive delay in advancing the reconstruction work is inevitably keeping the displaced populations in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, amounting to 180,000 persons, stuck in temporary housings. (December, 2015. Reconstruction Agency of the Japanese Government)

This month’s report will share with you the current situation of a temporary housing complex in the city of Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture. The Earthquake of magnitude 9.0 shook the entire Tohoku region, subsequently triggering monstrous tsunami waves that caused a series of blasts and ultimately meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Approximately, 20,000 persons who had resided in the town of Namie along the coast line were displaced. A public office for Namie town was put up in the city of Nihonmatsu for temporary operations. To this day, the residents of Namie town are dispersed and displaced at different temporary housing complexes.

Since the immediate aftermath of the nuclear power plant accident, AAR Japan has visited temporary housing complexes on a consistent and regular basis to ensure the mental/physical well-being of the survivors are well taken care of.

On January the 24th, 2016, our team consisted of two physio therapists and two counselors visited a temporary housing complex that hosts 24 families who cannot go home because of the evacuation order that is still in place. Their city has been cleared of radioactive contamination and public housings have been constructed to its completion which will open this autumn. Nonetheless, more than half of the displaced populations seem disinterested in registering for the lottery to win their space at this newly-built housing. The reason being that recovery of other public services is stagnated and they are not in full operation to serve the community.

The majority of the displaced populations is about to go into their fifth year in temporary housings. Unavoidable limitations on physical mobility and freedom have taken their tolls on the health of the displaced who are predominantly farmers and carpenters by occupation. The massage therapy, through the skin-to-skin contact, loosens the internal tension in their bodies and alleviates the mental anxiety. By providing massage, the physio therapists also find out the extent of stress and physical conditions of these residents.

While waiting for their turn, people exchange friendly conversations with AAR staff over a cup of tea and snacks. This recreational tea time for the purpose of building relationships with one another is the tradition called Ochakko, unique to the Tohoku region. To this, we add a trick to minimize the interpersonal distance and to facilitate people to connect with one another. Everyone is expected to prepare a cup of coffee for someone else, from grinding coffee beans, brewing it and pouring into a cup to serving it on the table. This simple activity springs up a conversation and breaks an awkward tension to interact. The counsellors sit down and join the conversation. Their mere presence and tuned-in attentions to people’s concerns alleviate a sense of distress and frustration and to feed positivity at the table.

The following are the voices of those who participated in Ochakko and the massage therapy:

“Decontamination of radioactive substances is being done in my hometown area and I am happy that I am allowed to go home for a little bit during the daytime. On the flipside, I am saddened to see my house exactly the same way I left it when I first evacuated almost five years ago. There are weeds all over my garden.”

“While I was in my house, I tried to clean up all the mess but I am old and my back is very weak. I wish someone would help me carry things around but everyone is very busy.”

“I feel excited at the prospect of finally moving back to my own house. But I am very concerned that hospitals, grocery stores and other necessary places are not open. Even if I move back, I am not sure if I will be able to live as I used to.”

We always receive words of appreciation from these people when they come to Ochakko and massage therapies we provide in the temporary housing complexes where they live. In the midst of ambiguity over the prospect of future livelihood, a number of displaced persons feel anxious. AAR Japan will continue to visit these people at temporary housings to provide support that they need. 

Jan 29, 2016

Moving on with the victims: JEN's New Effort

A partner organization, "Nursing Care for Men"
A partner organization, "Nursing Care for Men"

From the past experiences in Japan, it is said that there is an increase number of the victims who says that “the most depressing time comes three or four years after the disaster”. It is also evidenced by the various psychological studies.

Walking in the devastated area makes us realize that the reconstruction has not been made a progress yet. The reconstruction in the central city has been done. However; if we walk away from the city center, we see the bulldozers running in the devastated area by Tsunami.

The psycho-social of the recovery tends to be missed compared with the infrastructure because of its difficulty to be found out. As more time has been passed since the disaster, the problems, which existed before such as the number of youths decreasing, nursing care and poverty, have got worse.

Therefore, since October 2015, it is for the long-term solution in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. JEN has shifted from its previous approach as a direct assistance to the victims to so-called “partnership” assistance with the local organizations.

As for the partnership, JEN works not only for providing the necessary material for their activities, but also for making plans together and providing a training to strengthen their ability to implement projects and building networks.

In Ishinomaki, JEN has a partnership with the local organization “Nursing Care for Men”. After the disaster, a lot of elderly couples are forced to live in their own, while being separated from their other family members. With the help of the medical and nursing experts, we are organizing a nursing care class for men to reduce men’s distress from nursing the elderly women, and their isolation. It also aimed to encourage the quality of lives of both nursing and being nursed people.

 

Aiming at Solving Regional, Social Challenges: SAVE TAKATA

As JEN started to provide a new form of support, this time, we introduce one of the organizations which we have a partnership: SAVE TAKATA. It is a general incorporated association acting in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture.

It was after the Great East Japan Earthquake happened on March 11, 2011 that Mr. Nobuaki Sasaki from Rikuzen-Takada established SAVE TAKATA. Mr. Sasaki who had been working in Tokyo determined to drive back to his home town along with his friends from the same town with as many relief supplies on their cars as possible. Then he began volunteering to put out the information on the ground on the Internet, that’s how SAVE TAKATA started.

The population of the city of Rikuzen-Takata was declining before the disaster. However, this has been exacerbated by the outflow of young generations following the disaster.

The organization is working on helping farmers produce and market processed apples, the unemployed young find jobs by providing farming experiences, the youth acquire IT vocational skills, and students do volunteer activities. Thus, SAVE TAKATA aims to resolve both regional challenges which aging population and outflow of young people and social one which rise in unemployed young.

The goal of SAVE TAKATA is to build up rural areas where young generations can live with hope. With the partnership-based support from JEN, its members went on a tour to other rural areas in Japan to study how the locals have got through depopulation and promoted revitalization of the hometown on their own. Based on the findings from the tour as well as its activities up until now, the organization is planning to launch a new initiative to reach its goal.

Agricultural Support by SAVE TAKATA (C)
Agricultural Support by SAVE TAKATA (C)
Jan 29, 2016

Move to Third Temporary Shop Arcade with Ample Worries

Newly Established Temporary Shops
Newly Established Temporary Shops

From the beginning of 2016 New Year, shop owners at the Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade (IFSA) have been very busy preparing for their third move to another temporary shop. In order to raise the land level of the area where the main shop will be constructed, they have to move again to another temporary shop. This is their third time to move, including the initial GlobalGiving-supported tent shop.

At present, their schedule is to remain there for one year and nine months, though this schedule works for them is naturally uncertain in the disaster-stricken area. The temporary shop stands alone in an elevated land, facing the Pacific Ocean, nothing to prevent ocean winds and views. The entrance to the building is on the ocean side. It may sound nice for outside visitors, but for many of those who experienced the disaster, the view simply reminds them of the terrible experiences of the disaster. Many local people complain that they do not feel easy to visit the newly established shop. To make the situation worse, this building stands along a national road still situated at the unraised level, and it is rather difficult for drivers to recognize the existence of the building. But when a small bridge over a corner of ocean, which has been remaining destroyed, will be reconstructed for bypassing town traffic, drivers will rather easily recognize the existence of this temporary shop. But there is also uncertainty whether this bridge will be completed in time before the final move to the main shop. Shop owners are now waiting for an official opening of the temporary shop scheduled on February 7, 2016, worrying whether local people will come back to the shop or whether the bridge will be completed rather quickly.

Torment between hope and anxiety is much worse when shop owners talk about the main shop. What is unusually nice is that the main shop will be designed by Mr. Sumi who just won a competition over the design of the national athletic field for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. He is a well-known architect using woods and green, which raises local people’s expectation for the use of local lumbers. However, they have to raise a question about the cost, 3/4 of which will be subsidized by the government, while 1/4 will be financed by the local shop owners. Shop owners have to invest a certain amount and still have to pay for a monthly rent of a shop space with a ten-year land lease. If the number of shops declines, their financial burden increases. At an event, shops can make extra sales, but their business basically remains catering for the needs of the local. The size of their business is small. To aggravate shop owners’ worries, since most of local people own cars, local people have a tendency to go shopping within a 30 to 40 kilometer range to big shopping malls, including Kesennuma City. With the completion of the Reconstruction Highway, people will easily stretch their range of shopping, meaning that IFSA have to make constant efforts to attract customers.

Nationally-appointed and –paid consultants are helping to plan redevelopment facilities. Presently, they are proposing to bring a large-sized nationally-known convenience store in the main shop. Their expectation is that the convenience store increases visitors to the shop. However, there is one example of failure. One town, as a way of reactivating local economy, brought a convenience store before the disaster only to force local shops closed within ten years and keep only the convenience store alive. To prevent such occurrence, shop owners are now frequently engaging in discussions whether they can develop their original goods or organize events to stimulate shop’s development. For example, in December, they decided to appeal that abalone used in the Abalone Festival in Kesennuma came from Isatomae. Since fishermen can catch abalone only four or five times a year under a conservation program, they decided to appeal that Isatomae is the place in this area where abalone is caught and attract people who could not enjoy abalone at the Kesennuma Festival to come to Isatomae. They also delivered fliers to neighboring cities. Consequently, they found people from neighboring cities to come to buy abalone at the IFSA.

These struggles of IFSA shops may suggest that they are now shifting their management activities from survival to sustainability. Now, five years have passed. Mr. Yamauchi, who was formerly the Head of IFSA and is now providing detailed information to the DSIA, recognized that five years have passed. His 91 year old father due to his old age moved to Sendai, because of the lack of space in the temporary housing in Isatomae and the existence of large hospitals. Now, after five years, he expressed his wish to come back to Isatomae. He is preparing to build a house, instead of keeping his shop in the main shopping arcade, partly to accommodate his business office in his house as well as his family living together including his father. To complete his plan, it will still take a few more years to offer a comfortable living back in Isatomae to his father. Redevelopment involves time-consuming struggles, involving unusual worries and often unexpected outcome.

Facing Ocean from Shops
Facing Ocean from Shops
National Road Taken from the Shops
National Road Taken from the Shops

Links:

Jan 15, 2016

How Youth are Rebuilding their Communities

Photo Courtesy of IsraAID
Photo Courtesy of IsraAID

When the country of Nepal suffered not one, but two devastating earthquakes in April and May of 2015, the world responded. Immediately, relief efforts began and people across the world mobilized to support organizations on the ground. One group quick to respond was a handful of teens from Tohoku, Japan.

Following the tsunami that devastated Japan in March of 2011, these teens have been working to rebuild their communities in the Tohoku region. As a part of the Japan IsraAID Support Program (JISP), they have been participating in a youth leadership program focused on building their skills in community engagement and directing social projects as well as equipping them with the tools they will need to be successful community leaders. In understanding what recovering from disaster feels like, these youth leaders were motivated to share their skills with their peers in Nepal.

By the end of May 2015, just weeks after the earthquakes struck in Nepal, the group of JISP youth had begun collecting funds to be used for disaster relief. After raising just over $1,000 to be sent to a partner high school in Nepal, JISP's teens felt compelled to do more. Soon a Pen Pal program was started that enabled the Tohoku youth to correspond with their Nepali peers. But they didn’t stop there.

In the months since the Nepal Earthquakes, the Youth Leadership Project has developed and launched an exchange program with Nepali high school students. JISP’s Country Director, Mayumi Yoshida, pointed out that the idea of creating an exchange program originated from the teens themselves; “the concept of exchange program with the Nepalese students arose from one of our Tohoku youth, after joining our shelter building volunteer activities in Nepal and meeting one of the most inspirational female high school students.”

After arriving in Japan on December 23, 2015, the students from Nepal and Tohoku were able to learn, in-person, from each other’s experiences. With the support from JISP’s staff, the youth were able to connect through their shared experiences and discuss their plans to rebuild their respective communities.

“The 10 Tohoku/Nepalese youths spent time together whole through the 8 days program,  and built such a strong bond that they now consider themselves, "a family.” They discussed potential projects to support the community in their respective situations, and confirmed the importance of education and training to cope with future disasters that repeatedly assaulted both countries over history.” - Mayumi Yoshida, Country Director JISP

Thanks to donors like you, GlobalGiving has been able to support programs working on long-term disaster recovery projects through the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. With your support, project’s like JISP’s Rebuilding 10000 lives in Japan - youth leadership can continue to develop initiatives that shape community leaders and recovery efforts, even years after a disaster.

Photo Courtesy of IsraAID
Photo Courtesy of IsraAID
Photo Courtesy of IsraAID
Photo Courtesy of IsraAID

Links:

Dec 3, 2015

Tohoku Fall Report

Thank you very much for your heartfelt support and making it possible for us to continue bringing volunteers to Tohoku and to continue reassuring the local residents that they have not been forgotten as the rebuilding continues. None of this would be possible without your generous support. 

 

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. They cannot do all the labor-intensive work by themselves and 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 in Yamamoto-cho in Miyagi Prefecture -- which is an agricultural association of local farmers who produce and promote local rice, strawberries and apples. 

 

On September, 12 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped Saito-san and his wife prepare for this year’s harvest. We will continue to organize volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the New Rice Center and others in Tohoku as they continue to work hard to further rebuild their lives and relaunch the businesses that they enjoyed operating before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

 

In September, 12 Hands On Tokyo volunteers also held a café at a temporary housing site in Yamamoto-cho and made yakisoba (a popular nostalgic comfort food in Japan) and French toast, grilled hot dogs and served hot drinks and sweets. After lunch, the volunteers and the temporary housing residents decorated eco bags for use by the temporary residents to help minimize the number of plastic bags used for shopping. It was wonderful seeing multiple generations enjoying time together and creating new memories.

 

In November, seven Hands On Tokyo volunteers traveled to Joso City in Ibaraki Prefecture where, in September this year, there was unprecedented rainfall and tens of thousands of local residents were forced to abandon their homes as the Kinugawa River burst its banks. The volunteers made lunch for several hundred local residents whose houses were either swept away or made uninhabitable by the flooding and who are still living in temporary evacuation centers.  We grilled hot dogs and served 200 sets of hot dogs, cups of warm chili and blueberry, chocolate, banana and lemon poppy seed muffins to the local residents. They were quite surprised and very grateful to be offered lunch, particularly now that the flooding is no longer in the news. They receive food at the evacuation centers but there is not much variety and they do not get to eat meat that often so they very much enjoyed the hot dogs and chili.     

 

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. 

 

In October, Hands On Tokyo volunteers traveled to Minami Soma in Fukushima Prefecture on two separate weekends. Minami Soma was severely impacted by the March 2011 triple disaster. In addition to experiencing the earthquake and a 14 meter tsunami, Minami Soma is approximately 25 kilometers north of the Fukushima nuclear power plant and has experienced a significant reduction in its population.  

 

Local high school students have been looking for ways to bring people back to Minami Soma even if only for a day and decided to create a new tradition for the local area: a samurai matsuri (festival) with samurai battle re-enactments and opportunities to ride local “soma” horses that are descendants of the samurai era horses.  On the first weekend, five Hands on Tokyo volunteers helped make samurai costumes (armor). These costumes were used by the local high school students participating in this year’s inaugural samurai matsuri and can be used by local high school students participating in future samurai matsuri in the years to come.  The volunteers and others making the costumes learned the sewing techniques that have been used for centuries to make samurai costumes. The volunteers felt honored to participate in the continuation of this historic local craftsmanship. On the second weekend, 13 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped set up the matsuri and, on the day of the matsuri, held a café serving yakisoba, grilled hot dogs, hot drinks and sweets. The volunteers were happy to be able to support the local high school students in creating this new tradition and new memories for Minami Soma and the high school students and other local residents appreciated all the support. It was wonderful seeing so many people smiling and enjoying a beautiful autumn day in an area that has experienced so much hardship in recent years.

 

We will continue to organize volunteer trips to communities devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and other natural disasters.  There is still so much to be done and there are still so many people in need of support and encouragement. We are looking for more ways for those living in the Greater Tokyo Area to participate in our Tohoku projects and for new ways for Hands On Tokyo volunteers to provide support to local Tohoku families and businesses and those in neighboring areas impacted by natural disasters.

 

Thank you in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku.

Nov 6, 2015

54 Months on: Ishinomaki Still in Transition

A renewed school in Ishinomaki
A renewed school in Ishinomaki

By this September 11th, four and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it makes us realize how quickly time flies.

Ishinomaki, though worst affected by the earthquake, is now recovering. The renovation works on schools in the city have finished, and so children have moved from awkward makeshift classrooms to their renewed schools, returning to their normal school lives. The city’s key industry, fishery, has recovered to the extent that its fish haul reached as high as 80 percent of the pre-quake level. To support the industry Ishinomaki fish market was reconstructed and now the renewal into the world-class market. With the construction of coast infrastructure and housing for affected people proceeding at a fast pace, many supporting organizations are seen to take initiative to boost local development.

While efforts to construct 4,500 public housing units for affected people by 2017 are now underway in Ishinomaki, there are still 133 cramped temporary quarters where as of August 1st, 4,988 households are suffering from many inconveniences. Temporary quarters are becoming empty every day, as people continue moving to the public housing units to settle in new neighbourhoods. The difference between neighbourhoods that are ready to brace these people and ones that are not is becoming visible, which is presenting a new challenge.

It is said that the local government has no plan to integrate temporary quarters within this year, but the people fear that necessity impels it to hasten the plan.

You can see Ishinomaki continues developing day by day, but people living in the disaster stricken areas feel like “we have a long way to go to return to normal.” JEN will continue supporting those of the locals until they can live with peace of mind.

Next Support Activities to Move onto

Since setting up its liaison office in Ishinomaki, JEN has been making continued efforts to support recovering local communities, and has decided to close the office at the end of this October because the needs for on-site activities have changed. From November onwards,, our continued support to the communities will be delivered through recovery assistance organizations based in the disaster hit areas those of which are: Iwate Prefecture; Miyagi Prefecture, and Fukushima Prefecture in order to encourage local’s power to live.

Record-breaking rainfall in September breached levees in inland areas of Miyagi Prefecture, causing immense damages on the areas. Responding to calls by an organization working in the Oshika Peninsula after the earthquake, locals in Ishinomaki voluntarily joined clearing houses of sludge in the flood-ravaged areas.

These days, we can expect disasters caused by torrential rains, volcano eruptions, and landslides anywhere at any time. It is vital for us to do something to help disaster evacuees in corporation with others in times of emergency. What is heartening to us is that there are willing helpers among people who have experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake, as we saw in the recent flooding where people in Ishinomaki took a prompt action in corporation with organizations.

The city of Ishinomaki was heavily damaged by the earthquake, but thanks to the support from all over the world. The city’s key industry has achieved to be reconstructed and the communities are gradually recovering, and also new innovative movements are found to be created.

A new public house unit
A new public house unit
Nov 5, 2015

Passing the 5th Winter in Temporary Housing - Voices of Fukushima Evacuees

Since the 2011 Tohoku disaster’s immediate aftermath, AAR Japan has maintained its consistent presence in the affected areas to give psychosocial support to the victims and to construct a communal support system of evacuees living in temporary housing. We have implemented a variety of projects, through which engagement with the community prevented social/psychological isolation as well as the long-term accumulation of stress that poses a detrimental threat to the well-being of evacuees.  

Shinichiro OHARA, Program Coordinator of AAR Japan Fukushima Project, has stood side by side with the affected persons of Fukushima to overcome a myriad of adversities since the disaster. He reports the recent circumstances surrounding each individual whose future prospect of repatriation varies. He explains how we are trying to secure the attainment of well-connected community in such precarious times. 

As of August 2015, there are a total of 107,734 displaced persons evacuated from radiated areas demarcated as evacuation order zone near Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Uncertainty over the far-reaching ramifications of the nuclear meltdown incident and the ensuing delay on clean-up of radioactive contamination is prolonging the evacuees’ displacement.  

Construction of post-disaster public housing is underway at the progress rate of 16 %, making slow yet certain progress. In parallel, a handful of people who decided to resettle outside of no-entry zone have already moved forward with the signing of contract for the construction of new houses and permanent withdrawal from temporary housing. We see bright smiles and hear joyful voices from those who have secured their settlement to restart a new life in a new place. On the other hand, the majority continue to live with ambiguity over resettlement in the face of a stark boost in price for the purchase of estate. Sluggish development of post-disaster public housing also adds another dose of complexity for these people in the process of making important life decisions about their future.

Ms. Minabe from the city of Namie tells us that “My house I used to live prior to the disaster is within the restricted-residence zone[i] because of a high radiation level. Clean-up of radiation around my areaas been conducted except for forests and mountains that are still contaminated. The potency of contamination is barely kept low despite the de-radiation efforts and is expected to rise back to the initial level prior to the clean-up, had the thorough clean-up does not take place effectively.[ii] The unpromising prospect convinced me to finally make a decision to use a financial compensation I had received to buy a new house in the city of Minami Soma. Nonetheless, I have been told that it would be at least three years until the final completion of construction work. This temporary housing is going to be my home until then.”

Another woman from the city of Namie, Ms. Agi tells us that “My house is in a mountain which is also within the designated area of restricted residence. The government tells me I can return home upon the completion of ongoing decontamination efforts but I don’t trust it. When I hear about frequent mechanical errors for which the electric power company should be accountable for making overt efforts in reducing, I fear another disastrous meltdown that might happen even if I move back home, in which case I do not want to move back into my old house in Namie city. Of course I miss my home that holds my precious memory of my husband who deceased before the March 11 catastrophe. I miss him and I miss my home. However I am leaning towards moving to post-disaster public housing in my displacement area. I can hopefully move out of this temporary housing by the end next year. Sometimes I cry out of sadness and helplessness and I cannot stop crying.”

As part of relief efforts for the displaced persons whose lives have been reduced merely to seek hope and comfort from outside, AAR Japan has stood at the center of reigniting a light of vitality in the community. We created a space for ingenuity and creativity in strategizing the sustainable relief mechanism conducive to fostering community solidarity. We have held massage physical therapy sessions, ochakai (tea gathering), handicraft workshop, and visits of counselling, all of which are open to anyone. 

We recently sponsored Tohoku traditional potluck (imonikai) at two temporary housing complexes in cooperation with NPO Peace Project, for which displaced persons in temporary housing complexes came together. Imonikai potluck symbolizes the agricultural tradition of Tohoku region, which celebrates harvest of a variety of vegetables upon the arrival of fall. People make miso stew with various ingredients to nourish the body for upcoming cold winter. This is the occasion where friends and families circle around to feel the warmth of the community and reassure the collective solidarity. We had imonikai potluck for two consecutive days from October 10 – 11 in two separate temporary housing complexes and a total number of participants amounted to 210, among which included evacuees from far-away municipally subsidized rental housing complexes who cannot often take part in other activities. 

Mr. Wada who participated tells that “Food shared with large company is always good. I had a wonderful time talking with other people who I don’t get to interact with on a day-to-day basis. I know that there are people who are going to move out next spring, but this strong community bond that has been forged among us, evacuees, will not separate us even after we eventually move to different places from the temporary housing. I feel very thankful.”

There are more than 100,000 people still being displaced after 4 years and 7 months since the disaster in 2011. AAR Japan will continue to stand by them and provide support they need.  

[i]  “Restricted- residence zone” refers to areas under the restriction order of the government, which allows short-lived return on an hourly basis in efforts to advance work on clean-up, de-radiation, rebuilding infrastructure. It does not allow over-night stay.

 

 

[ii] Targeted de-radiation areas are limited to a radius of 20 m stretching outward from concentrated residential areas, failing to cover the entire contaminated field. De-contamination efforts are not pursued for non-targeted areas, including forests and mountains. In exceptional cases, contaminated areas on the periphery that pose a dire threat becomes subject to the de-contamination efforts.

 

 

 

 

Oct 30, 2015

Feeling Dignity amid Ever Increasing Anxiety

Students at the last school excursion in Isatomae
Students at the last school excursion in Isatomae

     On October 10, 2015, an operation to build a temporary shopping arcade finally started on the raised land of 9,900 m2 which accommodates a temporary shopping arcade of ten shops and a parking place. This is what they have been waiting for a long-time, and shop owners are relieved to see the advancement. However, soon after hearing this good news, they encountered several unexpected problems. First of all, although the shop building is constructed by a subsidy from the SME Support Japan, a government-sponsored organization to help small- and medium-sized companies, they do not provide any facility at all to each shop, even the minimum decoration. They now find that they have to install all necessary equipment and shelves by themselves even for one year operation. It is a new headache that shop owners are facing.

     Secondly, since the shop is located in a much higher place than the road, passers-bys are not easy to stop at the shop arcade. Thirdly, the temporary shop is established very close to the ocean where a dike for protection has not yet been completed at all. Even though the land level is a little bit higher than before, if they get another tsunami, they are very easy to be swallowed. Many of them actually experienced the awful power of tsunami, and feel very insecure remembering many lives that disappeared in front of their eyes at the disaster. They are feeling quite uneasy to stay in shops.

     Lastly, a very disappointing factor is that no new shop, especially a restaurant, is joining them, which is to some extent understandable for a duplicated cost involved to be in a temporary shop. Despite soliciting many shops to join the arcade, none expressed its interest. The present shop owners feel that the existence of a restaurant is really important, since visitors tend to remain inside the complex for a longer duration than otherwise. When people from the Nihonbashi Rotary Club in Tokyo visited there in October, the shop served locally-produced fresh sea-weeds. They all expressed that a restaurant to taste this really-delicious locally-produced see-food should be there. Unfortunately, we cannot meet such demand. In September for a bicycle event of the Tour de Tohoku 2015, they served sea-food curry rice for 1,400 people. The shop was really crowded and many people tut-tut for the excellent taste of the curry rice. Opportunities to attract visitors are there, but visitors cannot be fully attracted without a good restaurant. On this issue, there is another serious problem. From the ocean in front of the shop arcade, many types of fresh see food, such as salmon, octopus, mackerel, etc. can be caught. But since all sea food processing plant was washed away, we are just purchasing see food even to serve during an event from neighboring towns, not helping to rebuild the local economy at all. In August, voluntary concerts performed by students from Anjo Gakuen in Miyagai Prefecture were also very successful to attract many visitors. However, organizing events to attract visitors to the shop arcade is becoming increasingly difficult due to diminishing donations and the shortage of helping hands.  

     We are pleased very much with the advancement in the construction of a temporary shopping arcade, but it is accompanied by ever increasing uncertainty and anxiety. Sometimes, we are relieved by some voluntary visitors. For example, 40 graduating high school students from Tsurugashima Seifu High School visited the shop for their last school trip. In the school, from April, they have been studying on disaster and recovery by finding out about life immediately after the disaster, emergency equipment that helped people to survive, change of life style caused by the disaster, and efforts for reconstruction. Students were very eager to learn from our experiences, raising many questions, while shop owners were really pleased to be able to help younger generation amid a situation where they are simply receiving abundant help from outside people. They felt dignity in the fact that they can be any help to others.

     In short, they are still facing a situation where maintaining their living is still extremely difficult and where they have to live through with ever increasing uncertainty and anxiety.

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