Please join us on March 11th as we pause to reflect on the fourth anniversary of the Tohoku Triple Disaster, to pay our respects to all those who sadly perished and to think of all those who are still living in temporary housing and trying with great resilience to further rebuild their lives. So long as people are still living in temporary housing, we will continue to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku. And we will travel to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house which was built with the help of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the US-Japan Council and your generous donations. We also are looking for more ways for those living in the Greater Tokyo Area to participate in our Tohoku projects and for new ways for HOT volunteers to provide support to local Tohoku businesses and families during this continued post-disaster recovery period.
Thank you very much for your continued generous support which enabled us to bring the spirit of Christmas and Valentine’s Day to temporary housing residents in the Yamamoto-cho area of Miyagi Prefecture. In December, HOT volunteers collaborated with a Tokyo-based boy scout troop from The American School in Japan in bringing Christmas presents to children living at a temporary housing site and holding a Christmas-themed café at another temporary housing site.
The presents were festively decorated by students from a Tokyo-based girls’ primary and secondary school, Seisen International School. This is a great example of how students in the Tokyo area can participate in Tohoku projects when they are unable to travel to Tohoku. Primary and secondary school students from the boy scouts troop helped the children living at the temporary housing site select Christmas presents. There was much laughter and many smiles while the presents were being opened and while the boy scouts, their scout leaders, the HOT volunteers, the children and their families enjoyed spending time together. Many of the children living at the temporary housing site are under six years old and have spent much, if not all, of their lives living in temporary housing.
We then held a Christmas-themed café at another temporary housing site where the boy scouts and HOT volunteers, all wearing Santa’s helper and reindeer hats, made yakisoba and French toast, grilled sausages and prepared goody bags filled with holiday-themed cookies and sweets.
In February, 18 HOT volunteers, including teenagers who live in a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area, held a Valentine’s Day themed café at another temporary housing site in Yamamoto-cho for the first time. We are looking to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku that we have not visited before. HOT volunteers made yakisoba and French toast, grilled sausages (some cut into fun shapes such as like an octopus thanks to the special talents of our HOT volunteers) and served hot drinks and Valentine’s themed cakes and other sweets. Yakisoba is a nostalgic comfort food in Japan. One of the temporary housing residents said that the ingredients have gotten more expensive recently so she has not been able to prepare it for her family and she was very happy to have been able to enjoy a yakisoba lunch with her family at the café.
HOT volunteers in Tokyo also made heart-shaped sugar cookies which we brought to the café and decorated with icing and heart-shaped sprinkles with the temporary housing residents. It was wonderful seeing multiple generations enjoying time together decorating the Valentine’s cookies and creating new memories. After lunch one of the HOT volunteers played beautiful songs on his keyboard and then another HOT volunteer demonstrated hula dancing and taught the residents and other HOT volunteers how to hula dance. We did several hula dances together and learned the meaning of many of the hula dance moves. Thank you for helping us bring smiles to the faces of so many temporary housing residents.
There are still labor shortages in certain parts of Tohoku which makes it very hard for local farmers to further rebuild their lives, run their farms and grow their businesses. They and their families cannot do all the labor-intensive work by themselves. They need the continued support of volunteers. With your generous contributions, HOT volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho. The New Rice Center gives local rice farmers a place to store equipment and supplies and to work, get together and share information. It also contains new rice thrashing equipment that local farmers can use when harvesting rice and packaging the harvested rice for the market.
In December, HOT volunteers and boy scouts helped the New Rice Center by attacking a mountain of rice chaff, the protective casings separated from rice grains during the thrashing process. The rice chaff has to be manually bagged so that it can be taken away and used as fertilizer. Then, in February, HOT volunteers, including teenagers who live in a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area, helped Saito-san and his wife by weeding the inside of several hot houses to help Saito-san and his wife prepare for the next growing season and by striping the bark from logs and then treating the wood so that the logs can be used to build wind barriers. It is hard to imagine how long it would take local farmers to bag and remove all of the rice chaff and for Saito-san and his wife to prepare for the next growing season without the support of volunteers.
We will continue to organize more volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the New Rice Center and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives. We also will continue the job shadowing program with Saito-san and other local Tohoku farmers for youths who must leave the children’s home when they turn 18. This will connect local Tohoku farmers who are looking for young people to work with in rebuilding the local agricultural economy and youths who lack family and other support in finding jobs.
In January, we commenced a new Tohoku volunteer project with BNP Paribas. Volunteers are helping plant a rose garden at a home in Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture for children who are unable to live with their families. This project will teach the children the joy of gardening and will help Okada-san who used to have a large rose garden in Fukushima before the nuclear accident forced him to evacuate four years ago. Okada-san relocated to Tsukuba and greatly missed his hometown and beloved rose garden. After hearing his story, we suggested to Okada-san that he work with HOT volunteers and children living at this home to plant a new rose garden for future generations to enjoy.
None of this would be possible without your generous support. Thank you in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku, particularly at the time of the fourth anniversary.