Help disabled and elderly disaster survivors

by Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

May 17, 2011

Marathon Runner Mari TANIGAWA Runs with Disaster Victims

Between May 3rd and 6th, marathon runner Mari TANIGAWA (AAR JAPAN Executive Board Member and Ambassador for the Demining Campaign) visited areas in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures affected by the March 11th earthquake to help at local soup kitchens and deliver relief supplies.
With the hope of bringing cheer to the evacuees through sporting activities, Tanigawa presented a lecture and stretching class at Higashihama Elementary School, as well as a mid-distance running class at the Oshika
Peninsula Evacuation Center, both of which are located in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Smiles and Energy Unleashed through Sports
On May 5th (Children’s Day in Japan), Tanigawa led stretching, jogging, long-distance relay and mid-distance running classes at the Seiyukan Healthcare and Welfare Center on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The Seiyukan Center was used as an evacuation center for approximately 450 people immediately after the earthquake, but now it is occupied by 140 people, including people with disabilities who were former residents of the institution, staff from local government offices, and other evacuees.
May 5th - Children struggling to keep up with Tanigawa’s pace.
Realizing that the evacuees did not have many chances to exercise while living in the evacuation center, Tanigawa proposed a variety of fun activities. Thanks to the cooperation of Mr. Azumi Eiichi, chief of the local government office and its staff, people of all ages, from a 4-year old boy to a 76-year old woman, were able to participate in the events.  
Tanigawa started with stretching exercises. Though we could already see people desperately struggling to keep up with her movements, we couldn’t help but laugh along with the evacuees as they refused to give up. “I got tired because it’s been ages since I’ve been active,” a 50-year old male participant told us, though he seemed to be brimming with energy.
After Tanigawa offered instruction on running techniques, correct eye position and respiration methods, everyone jogged around the Seiyukan center. After each 500-meter lap, people began to drop out one-by-one, but the determined expressions of the children desperately trying to keep up with Tanigawa made a powerful impression on us.
Kids’ Unbeatable Energy Leaves Adults Behind 
April 5th – In the front row, three kids who joined in the mid-distance run (Left to right: Kaito, Ryoki and Mizuho). Mari TANIGAWA is second from right in the back.
Next, a relay was run between two teams. The event included amusing episodes, such as a competitor stopping and waiting while a 4-year old boy on the opposing team retrieved a shoe that had slipped off his foot. 
Last but not least was the mid-distance run. Mizuho SATO (2nd year junior high), Ryoki NARITA (1st year junior high) and Kaito MURAKAMI (6th year elementary school) joined Tanigawa on a 20-minute course near the beach. The three kids showed no sign of fatigue, and seemed to want to keep running even after having run for more than an hour already.
Finally, we organized a relay race between children and adults, including two AAR JAPAN staff members, with the result that the kids’ team won. Mizuho told us it was fun, while Ryoki said, “It was nice having the chance to run with Ms. Tanigawa” and Kaito commented simply, “It was pretty tough.”
Tanigawa was impressed by the kids’ tenacity and energy. She told them, “Keep up your running, and have fun doing long-distance relays with everyone,” to which the kids nodded shyly in response.
Throughout the day, we were able to see the participants raising their voices and having fun being active. I was happy to be able to ease the mental and physical stress suffered by people living in the complicated environment of an evacuation center. This kind of event shows that, even though material support is undoubtedly important, keeping the body and mind healthy through activity is also a vital concern.
Junko MITO
Tokyo HQ, Publicity and Supporter Services Department
AAR JAPAN staff since 2010. From Okayama Prefecture.
May 26, 2011

Cooperating with the Local Commerce and Industry Association to Support Survivors in Temporary Housing

Providing Aid while Contributing to the Local Economy in Soma City and Minami-Soma City
In cooperation with the non-profit organization ADRA Japan, AAR JAPAN has been providing daily necessities to roughly 35,000 families living in temporary housing and rental housing in Fukushima Prefecture.
With the Japanese Red Cross Society having determined to distribute six-piece sets of electrical appliances in the affected areas, AAR JAPAN has decided to offer other daily necessities such as kitchen supplies, bathroom goods, vacuum cleaners, kotatsu (heated tables), chabu-dai (short-legged tables), cupboards and the like. This project is subsidized by the non-profit organization Japan Platform, with deliverable items selected based on requests from Fukushima’s prefectural or local government authorities.
Our target areas include 4 locations in the Soma region (Soma City, Minami-Soma City, Shinchi Town and Iitate Village) as well as Tomioka Town and Kawauchi Village in Futaba County. AAR JAPAN is cooperating with the Commerce and Industry Association in Soma City and Minami-Soma City to procure as many supplies locally as possible, with the goal of contributing to economic recovery as well as providing direct aid. Distribution has already begun.
In Tomioka Town, Kawauchi Village and Iitate Village, where residents have been evacuated due to the ongoing situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, AAR JAPAN will work closely with local government authorities and heed the voices of survivors in order to coordinate our aid activities.
May 30, 2011

AAR JAPAN Aims to Heed the Voice of Every Survivor

Since Friday, March 11th, AAR JAPAN has been engaged in aid activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With its hardest-hit areas located far from major city centers, Iwate Prefecture has been slow to recover compared to neighboring Miyagi Prefecture. Yuki DAIZUMOTO, who has been based in the Morioka Office and engaged in aid activities in Iwate Prefecture, reports on the present situation of AAR JAPAN’s efforts in the area.
From Sudan to the Disaster Area
On April 1st, AAR JAPAN opened its office in Morioka City as a base for relief operations in Iwate Prefecture. Many of our target facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly are located on the coast, so we spend a few hours every day going to the disaster zone.
I heard about the Great East Japan Earthquake while working in Sudan. I came back to Japan at the end of March, and then started to work in Morioka on April 7th. When I first visited the disaster area, it was some time before I could truly believe that the scene I had seen on the news now lay before me. I still clearly remember an old woman pointing to it all and murmuring, “There was a house there, and a bookshop next to it.” Not even the slightest sign of a building could be recognized.
Survivors are pleased to receive fresh food, which is rarely provided due to the difficulty of long-term storage. Yuki DAIZUMOTO (center) distributes oranges at a facility for people with disabilities. (Photo by Satoshi TAKAHASHI)
Rapidly Changing Needs
More than two months have passed since the earthquake, and circumstances have been changing in the disaster area. Rubble removal has progressed, supplies are being distributed, and there are more cars on the roads. In some areas, traffic jams occur where roads are closed for reconstruction work on the power lines. However, there are still other areas where the Self-Defense Force is searching for the missing, where water has yet to be reconnected, and there are no shops at all. While we refer to it all as the “disaster zone”, each part is different.
Requests from survivors have been changing. While previously they asked for drinking water and food with a long shelf life, these days we have been distributing fresh food such as vegetables and fruit, clothes for spring and summer, electric fans, and office supplies such as computers and printers that are necessary for facility operations. Local needs have been changing rapidly from fundamental life support supplies to the resources needed for a normal, productive life.
Strengthening Support for People with Disabilities, the Elderly, and Evacuees in Their Homes
Compared to Miyagi Prefecture, in Iwate Prefecture there is less information available about groups involved in supporting people with disabilities and the elderly, so we keep in close contact with each individual group and facility to keep abreast of their situations. Some people visit care facilities from their homes, which means they are likely to be omitted from lists of supply distribution, as these predominantly focus on evacuation centers. We need to strengthen our support for survivors in their homes to ensure that help gets to everyone.
At the request of the Iwate Prefectural Office, AAR JAPAN has also been cooperating in establishing systems to support a variety of tasks such as confirming the safety and whereabouts of survivors and distributing donations in order to contribute to each survivor’s quick recovery.
As Iwate Prefecture covers a large area, the number of groups working here is still not sufficient to meet the region’s needs. We will continue to watch the situation carefully to ensure that no-one is left out, and that we do not overlook even the smallest voice calling for support.
Aid activities in both Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures still face many challenges, and we thank you deeply for your continued support.
AAR JAPAN has also been aiding in the reconstruction of damaged facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Yuki DAIZUMOTO (Morioka Office)
Worked in private companies and government organizations after graduation from university
Worked in AAR JAPAN Sudan Office from 2009
Stationed in Morioka Office from April 2011, engaged in aid and relief activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Iwate Prefecture
(Born in Hyogo Prefecture)


The following are excerpts from our English blog which highlight some of AARJ's work in Tohoku in the past few weeks. To find a complete list of articles, visit our English blog at

Difficult to Reach Survivors in Fukushima Prefecture Await Aid in Limbo
June 2, 2011

In its continuing efforts to provide aid and relief to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, on May 19 AAR JAPAN delivered electric cookers, electric kettles, garbage bags, towels, underwear, socks, and snacks to Senior Garden, a facility for the elderly in Fukushima City, and Ekuseru, a group home in Soma City, both in Fukushima Prefecture. The following report contains details for each.

Finding Shelter After the Storm: The difficult search for a new home for the residents of Senior Garden

Senior Garden is a group home for the elderly who suffer from dementia which operated in Tomioka Town, Futaba County in Fukushima Prefecture. Located just 9km from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the residents and staff were required by the government to evacuate to a noodle restaurant in Kawauchi Village in the same county. In Kawauchi however residents were on orders to remain confined to their houses, but for the uprooted residents of Senior Garden, staying together in big evacuation sites was difficult. Fukushima Prefectural Group Home Council for Dementia assisted the seniors by finding them an apartment in Fukushima city to rent out and use as a group home. Starting March 22, fifteen people have been receiving continuous care in the home. 

For elderly individuals with dementia, even small environmental changes can induce great stress. The trauma of the evacuation had emergency-level medical consequences for some. A 70-year-old man, one of the residents of Senior Garden, suffered a hemorrhage due to a stomach ulcer, causing him to vomit and discharge blood. With his blood pressure falling, he was immediately taken to a hospital, but it his admittance and care was delayed until he was given a screening test for exposure to radiation.

Yasuhiro SUZUKI, Managing Director of Senior Garden, and his wife Yoko, Executive Director, are committed to overseeing the facility. Ms. Yoko SUZUKI said, “This group home is a second family for us. We don’t know when we can go back to Tomioka Town, but we’ve been trying to keep our spirits up, and are determined that we will remain at the sides of those whom we are caring for, even as they pass on.” Despite this determination, two residents are currently receiving care in a professional hospital, and it is clear that living as evacuees has undermined the health of many residents, and it is clear that despite the staff's best efforts, they are undersupplied and understaffed. AAR Japan has responded by supplying food and goods to support the continued operation of the new Senior Garden.

While I had a chance to witness the improvement AAR's supplies had on the conditions in which the staff and residents of Senior Garden lived, I realized it was in the smiles and warm words they exchanged that each found a reason to persevere in the face of this disaster. In their hearts was a greater medicine greater than anyone could ever provide.

May 19th – Ms. Yoko SUZUKI (center), Executive Director of Senior Garden, is taking care of a resident whose health has deteriorated due stress resulting from evacuation. On the right is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN. (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture)

The Fukushima Fallout: Nuclear accident continues to disrupt aid to Fukushima prefecture.

Ekuseru is a group home for people with dementia in Soma City. It is located 37km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, and is now taking care of 9 elderly people, including 3 who are bedridden.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi incident, supplies have been slow to arrive in the region. In the summer, temperatures can rise as high as 33°C (91°F), and in the face of electricity shortages, the staff of Ekuseru continues to worry how they will mange in the summer heat. While other people have relocated, drastic environmental change can cause panic among for the residents of Ekuseru, which can have serious medical consequences (as happened in the case of the Senior Garden).

The situation at Ekuseru embodies much of the anxiety that afflicts the entire the seacoast of Fukushima prefecture, where persisting concerns over the nuclear power plant, radiation, evacuation orders, and insufficient supply distribution continue to plague the population. Today’s visit helped show us how this anxiety particularly troubles the staff and residents of welfare facilities, who are left with little other choice but to desperately wait for outside aid to arrive. 

 It is to this cause AAR Japan is committed: to continue our efforts to provide aid for hard-to-reach people, like those at Senior Garden and Ekuseru, and to ensure that relief finds it's way to those most in need of help.

May 19th – AAR JAPAN delivered supplies to people at Ekuseru. (The back row, the second from the left is Yasushi TANAKA, AAR JAPAN) (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

Yasushi TANAKA (Sendai office)
Yasushi TANAKA, born in Yamaguchi prefecture, has worked to provide aid for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake since April. After graduating from university, he worked in at a financial firm for 14 years. He continued his studies in Environmental Studes in Japan, and AAR JAPAN after working it a Japanese company in Vietnam.

Stories from the Evacuees – The search for clean water, recycling wood buried in the rubble, and communities coming together. 
June 3rd, 2011

Nearly three months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Schools have resumed, and as many survivors move back into their own homes or into temporary housing, the number of people living in evacuation centers continues to fall. Staff at AAR JAPAN who have been involved in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures have provided these illustrations of the hardship evacuees continue to endure, and the tasks survivors have faced while working towards recovery.

The Search for Clean Water in the Tsunami's Wake

AAR JAPAN delivered drinking water, a water tank, and diapers to Ms. Chiba, who has been living as an evacuee on the outskirts of Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. Residents in the area once drew their water from the town well, but the water has become undrinkable after the tsunami contaminated it with seawater and heavy oil. A temporary waterworks was set up at a local stream, but residents had to trek for nearly an hour to retrieve their water for the day.

Water tanks like the one AAR has provided to Ms. Chiba will give residents to have access to a stable reservoir of water when deliveries are delayed and emergencies necessitate immediate access. After the exhausting task of installing the tank, Ms. Chiba and I looked upon a still untouched heap of rubble near her house. It is clear that despite progress, there is still much work to be done.

(Reporter: Takeshi ABE at Sendai office)

May 30th – Takeshi ABE delivered a water tank to Ms. CHIBA who told us that water is essential. (Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture)

Making use of wood buried in rubble to stimulate independent recovery  

Murakami Sawmill has supported the carpenters in Rikuzen-Takata City in Iwate Prefecture for a long time, and once again is coming to the rescue with a plan to put carpenters back to work while helping the survivors of the tsunami find comfort in their new homes. Murakami has provided shelter for the carpenters who have lost their homes and workplaces, and in turn is having them recycle wood from the rubble of destroyed buildings to make benches and furniture for residents moving into temporary housing. The carpenters of Kikuzen-Takata have worked hard in their free hours to craft these benches, and will provide them to residents with no charge.

These benches offer a small glimpse at normalcy for the survivors, and as Iwate begins the long process of reconstruction, these benches perfectly embody this rebuilding sentiment. Murakami hopes that the benches can help connect the survivors to each other into the coming summer. 

While AAR JAPAN continues to provide relief and support to the area, it is clear that the people of Iwate are beginning to find their own ways to rebuild. AAR JAPAN will continue to support these survivors as face forward and take their first steps towards recovery. (Reporter: Yuka YOKOTA at Morioka office) 

May 27th - Yuka YOKOTA, AAR JAPAN (right), is interviewing Mr. KIN, a carpenter who has been sheltered at Murakami Sawmill after his workplace and house were swept away by the tsunami. (Rikuzen Takata City, Iwate Prefecture)

Widening the Circle of Support Hand-in-Hand with Local Communities

Yamada Kyosei Workshop (Yamada Town, Iwate prefecture) has served as a supply distribution base for the elderly and persons with disabilities in the area. Regular patrons of the supply center include a person with a mental disability who lives alone deep in the mountains, a person with a visual impairment whose shop and house were completely destroyed, and an 83-year-old woman who has been is running her own shop out of a shed, which doubles as her home.

For suvivors who have been able to remain in their homes, it is not easy to understand the difficulties which evacuees face, especially by those who are elderly or have disabilities. We hope to widen the circle of support for these people with the help of companies like Yamada Kyosei Workshop. Mr. SATO, chief of Yamada Kyosei, said, “We would like to keep close contact with AAR JAPAN and cooperate to support people who have been in trouble in their houses in Yamada area.”

(Reporters: Ryo OIKAWA and Teruyo MIYAGAWA at Morioka office)

May 31st – Ryo OIKAWA (right end) and Teruyo MIYAGAWA (left end) delivered food such as vegetables and fruits to Mr. Sato, Chief of Yamada kyosei workshop. (Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture)


“Please Enjoy a Delicious Meal!” – Reports From Our Soup Kitchens
June 3, 2011

AAR JAPAN has operated a series of soup kitchens throughout the Tohoku prefectures, and to date has distributed over 16,500 meals at 26 locations in Fukushiuma, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures.

The following stories relate to soup kitchen operations from April 30 to May 7 (during Golden Week) at Seiyukan (a welfare facility in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture), Osawa Furusato Center, Osawa Elementary School and Yamada Town Hall (the last three in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture).

This is a report from Akiko KATOH, who worked in the soup kitchen at Seiyukan.

Delivering Food at Evacuation Centers in Oshika Peninsula for 8 Days

May 5th, 2011: AAR JAPAN's relief workers have worked hard to provide varried menus. On this day, we prepared Chinese dumplings (gyoza). 

Seiyukan used to be a facility for people with disabilities and for the elderly and is located in Ayukawa, Oshika Pensinsula. Since the earthquake, it has served as an evacuation center for around 140 people. AAR JAPAN provided lunch and dinner for the evacuees at Seiyukan throughout "Golden Week", a series of important holidays during which people usually take time off from work and travel, but this year was characterized by a massive outpouring of volunteer work in Tohoku.

The approximately 20 people who worked in these facilities worked tirelessly through Golden week to provide meals for the evacuees at Seiyukan. We woke awoke at 6 every morning to commute from Sendai and Taiwa to the rural peninsula of Oshika, our cars rattling with ingredients to be used in the soup kitchen of the day. We would usually arrive at the southern tip of the peninsula by 9, and immediately begin discussing what our plans will be for the day.

All That Work Just to Hear Them Say “It Was Delicious”


April 30thAAR JAPAN deputy director Taki KATOH (in the center) also took part in serving the food.

Staff and volunteers from AAR JAPAN shared tasks to decide on who should be responsible for preparing the main dishes and the side dishes to ensure that the meals for the 140 evacuees would be prepared on time.

Putting our efforts into preparing good food for the evacuees was no easy task, but being told “Today’s meal was delicious” and “Being served a different menu every day makes me anxiously wait to see tomorrow’s!” was most rewarding.

Before Golden Week, all the meals served at Seiyukan had been prepared by the evacuees themselves. We at AAR JAPAN were glad to give them a long deserved rest, and a chance at a Golden Week of their own.

Improving Lives at the Evacuation Centers


May 3rd – Cleaning the toilets is also important work!

During the period we delivered to soup kitchens, we didn’t just prepare meals, but also helped to clean the toilets, tend lawns, and play with the kids and help them with homework, which are all important activities to improve the lives of those living at the evacuation centers.

One boy, who was usually in the baseball team at school but didn’t have the chance to play it lately, expressed how happy he was to play catch with one of the volunteers.


May 6th - AAR JAPAN staff Takeshi IKEDA (second from right) and Tomoya Soejima (third from right) with kids from Seiyukan.

On our final day at Seiyukan, people living in the facility thanked us for coming and invited us to visit them again. The kids were sad say goodbye to the staff members they had become friends with. We had only been there for a short time, but we were glad nonetheless to bring joy to everyone there.

By preparing their meals every day, we got the chance to witness the difficulties faced by the those living in the evacuation centers, especially for the children who were having difficulty coping with the disaster.

AAR JAPAN is continuing its efforts to bring soup kitchens to various locations throughout Tohoku, and to date has provided over 16,500 meals at 26 locations. While AAR provides necessary food and supplies for these people to survive, it is in the smiles which appear on their faces upon eating a fresh meal that we see the spirit to continue living in hope return. 

Akiko KATOH, Tokyo Headquarters

(Born in Tokyo) Since April 2010, Akiko KATOH was mainly responsible for projects in Haiti and Zambia at Tokyo Headquarters. After graduating, she worked in a private company and received her Masters in Social Development from a British university. Before coming to AARJAPAN, she gained experience in governmental research institutes and foreign diplomatic missions.

May 19th
May 19th
May 30
May 30


May 10th, 2011

Leave no one behind - AAR JAPAN’s Relief Activities

AAR JAPAN initiated its Tohoku aid and relief activities on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake, with two new offices opening in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) and Morioka (Iwate Prefecture). As of April 25th, 57 people have been dispatched as members of our Emergency Relief Teams.
AAR JAPAN has been delivering relief supplies such as food, water, fuel, daily necessities and electrical appliances to facilities for people with disabilities, senior care centers, hard-to-reach evacuation centers, and isolated islands in four prefectures, including Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima and Yamagata. We have also started preparing soup kitchens, providing traveling clinics, supporting the operations of regular bus services, and aiding in the reconstruction of damaged facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Sayako NOGIWA, Tohoku Office Representative, reports on AAR JAPAN’s relief activities.
Coordinating to Support the Elderly and People with Disabilities
I have experienced emergency relief activities after massive natural disasters such as the Myanmar Cyclone, the Sumatra Earthquake, and the Pakistan Flood, but the damage inflicted by the Great East Japan Earthquake is the most extensive I have ever seen. Time and again I have been at a loss for words, overwhelmed by the power and brutality that has completely destroyed so many people’s lives.
AAR JAPAN has learned from its overseas experience that the elderly and people with disabilities are easily forgotten in times of crisis, and we focus our efforts on these groups when undertaking aid activities. People with disabilities and elderly people often have difficulty in moving or need special assistance in their daily lives, making it hard to adjust to living with others at evacuation centers. As a result, they often take shelter in facilities that are not officially identified as evacuation centers, and do not get enough support.
Immediately after the earthquake, AAR JAPAN went to the disaster zone and compiled a list of facilities in the affected areas based on lists provided by the Miyagi Prefectural Office, the Iwate Prefectural Office, the Social Welfare Council, and network groups for people with disabilities. With telephone lines often going dead, we relied on the list to visit the various facilities one-by-one, loaded with as many supplies as our cars could carry, including food, fuel and daily necessities. We confirmed the safety of the people staying in each location, distributed supplies, and inquired about their needs. We would then return with any requested supplies as early as the next day. Whenever we receive requests for such things as fuel or water, AAR JAPAN provides the supplies directly on a case-by-case basis.
May 5th – AAR JAPAN delivers food to the Yamada Kyosei workshop. In the center is Shuya FUKUDA of AAR JAPAN. (Iwate Prefecture)
Working to Improve Coordination Meetings
When undertaking overseas emergency relief activities, coordination and communication meetings called “cluster meetings” are held regularly, with participants including United Nations agencies, international and local NGOs, and other groups engaged in relief activities. These meetings are very effective for avoiding duplication and bridging any gaps in support efforts.
AAR JAPAN has been working to strengthen the function of these meetings by calling for active involvement from aid-related groups in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. In these meetings, each group reports on the previous week’s activities, and when we learn that some facilities lack supplies, AAR JAPAN offers to deliver them, including the task in our schedule from the following day.

April 7th – An information exchange meeting was held with 70 representatives of groups engaged in supporting survivors with disabilities in Miyagi Prefecture. To the left at the back are Mr. Hiroshi UENO, Director of AAR JAPAN, and Ms. Sayako NOGIWA, Tohoku Office Representative. (Photo provided by Japan Disability Forum)
Leave no one Behind
In addition to strengthening coordination with related aid groups and providing support focused on people with disabilities and the elderly, AAR JAPAN’s aid activities are characterized by the diversity of its supplies and speed of its distribution. While food, daily necessities and fuel remain our key supplies, we have also delivered computers, printers, rice cookers, refrigerators, fresh vegetables, artificial respirators and more, all to match survivors’ particular needs. We deliver supplies at the earliest the next day, and in most cases within 3 days of receiving a request.
We will also strengthen our efforts to support survivors in their homes. It is said that half of the disaster survivors are staying in their homes, but even prefecture offices have not yet grasped the real situation. Many evacuees are now without an income, and coupled with the slow recovery of infrastructure, many now lead difficult lives without enough food. AAR JAPAN has been engaging in aid activities with the aim that no-one will ever lack sufficient support.
AAR JAPAN will continue to support survivors who are struggling to get by, with an eye on both mid- and long-term solutions.

Sayako NOGIWA (Tohoku Office Representative)
AAR JAPAN Senior Program Coordinator
Largely responsible for AAR JAPAN's projects in Myanmar and other parts of Asia.
Involved in a number of emergency relief operations in the past, including the Myanmar Cyclone in 2008, the Sumatra Earthquake in 2009, and the Pakistan Flood in 2010. 
(34 years old, born in Tokyo.)

May 12th, 2011

Two Months Since the Great East Japan Earthquake: Activity Report

Continuing Relief Efforts for People with Disabilities and the Elderly

May 2nd - “AAR JAPAN was the first organization to deliver us relief supplies,” say evacuees from Yokoura Evacuation Center. Left is AAR JAPAN’s deputy director Taki KATO (Onagawa Town in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture). Photo by Yoshifumi KAWABATA.

Since March 13th, AAR JAPAN has been carrying out relief activities for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In addition to delivering emergency supplies, AAR JAPAN is also providing medical support and soup kitchens, operating regular buses, and engaging in efforts to rebuild local institutions.
Here we report on the progress of activities that have been made possible thanks to the efforts of our supporters. AAR JAPAN will continue to deliver relief to people with disabilities, the elderly, people taking refuge in their homes, and other hard-to-reach survivors.

Delivery Report from March 14th to May 10th

List of supplies delivered and receiving institutions from March 14th to May 10th (PDF file: 257 KB, Japanese only)

Receiving Institutions: approximately 56,200 people in 420 institutions
Miyagi Prefecture: Sendai City, Ishinomaki City, Kesennuma City, Natori City, Tome City, Higashi-Matsushima City, Onagawa Town, Tagajo City, Iwanuma City, Minami-Sanriku Town, Yamamoto Town, Shiogama City
Iwate Prefecture: Otsuchi Town, Ofunato City, Rikuzen-takata City, Kamaishi City, Yamada Town
Fukushima Prefecture: Soma City, Minami-Soma City
Yamagata Prefecture: Yamagata City
And others.
Relief Supplies Delivered to Affected Areas
Diesel oil (13,600 liters)
Kerosene (4,400 liters)
Gasoline (2,060 liters)
Potable water (13 tonnes)
Rice (2 tonnes)
Oranges (2 tonnes)
Bananas (2 tonnes)
Milk (480 packs)
Sweet-bean cakes (25,900 units)
Vegetables (Potatoes, carrots, onions, spinach, etc. – 25 kg each)
Other food (Retort foods, food for the elderly, canned food, miso, soy sauce, nutritional supplements, etc.)
Blankets (1,000 units)
Underwear, scarves and clothes (25,000 units)
Towels and hand cloths (50,000 units)
“Furoshiki” wrapping cloths (3,000 units)
Face masks  (70,280 units)
Hand warmers (5,000 units)
Sleeping bags (3,400 units)
Medicine (60 packages)
Toothbrushes (10,000 units)
Paper diapers (60,232 units)
Women’s sanitary products (17,000 units)
Batteries (80 cartons)
Baby products (Baby food, pacifiers, etc.)
High-pressure washers (32 units)
Chainsaws (30 units)
Shovels (12 units)
Boots (100 pairs)
Books and picture books (20 boxes)
Crayon sets (200 units)
Cell phone chargers (120 units)
Computers (6 units)
Bicycles (70 units)
Washing machines (11 units)
Dryers (21 units)
Refrigerators (9 units)
Care beds (1 unit)
Wheelchairs (3 units)
Power generators (1 unit)
Knives (10 units)
Cutting boards (10 units)
Small shelving units (10 units)
Book shelves (1 unit)
Clothing cases (2 units)
Disinfectant spray (500 units)
Hand soap (168 units)
Plus other miscellaneous items
Medical Assistance
On the Oshika Peninsula, we visited the areas of Makinohama, Takenohama, Kitsunezaki-hama, Sudachi, Fukkiura, Kozumihama and Kobuchihama, where approximately 640 survivors are taking shelter in their homes. Led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a local medical practitioner, AAR JAPAN’s medical team has established a traveling clinic that works to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, check up on sufferers of chronic illnesses, and offer psychological support, among other health-related activities. We examined 227 people between April 9th and May 9th.
Regular Buses
To guarantee the mobility of those who have lost their regular means of transportation on the Oshika Peninsula, in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, AAR JAPAN has prepared a microbus that circulates twice a day in the Ogihama area and once a day in the Ayukawa area. Between April 10th and April 30th, approximately 108 people made use of bus services in the Ogihama area.
Soup Kitchens
In coordination with Ingram Co., Ltd., which is responsible for the Peace Project, AAR JAPAN organized soup kitchens in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures from March 31st to May 8th. AAR JAPAN also organized independent soup kitchens in both prefectures between May 1st and May 7th.
Soup Kitchen Locations: approximately 13,150 meals in 20 locations

Miyagi Prefecture: Watanoha, Aikawa, Kitakami and Ayukawa (Oshika Peninsula) in Ishinomaki City; Wakabayashi District in Sendai City; Shizugawa and Utatsu in Minami-Sanriku Town; Niitsuki, Shishi and Omose in Kesennuma City
Iwate Prefecture: Kamaishi City, Tagajo City, Otsuchi Town, Yamada Town
Soup Kitchen Menu
Tokushima ramen, oden, beef stew, yakisoba (fried noodles), fried chicken, vegetable sticks, chukadon (Chinese-style stir-fried meat and vegetables on rice), beef steak, onion soup, tuna sashimi on rice, chanko-nabe (hot pot), apple pie, onion sauté, minestrone, ground chicken with egg and vegetables on rice, fish soup, hijiki seaweed mix, fried sweet potato sticks, cabbage rolls, mixed bean-curd lees and vegetables, autumn rice, pork soup, boiled fish, cabbage and spinach side dishes, somen noodles, minced fish soup, hand-made sweet potato pies, handmade langue du chats, samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng soup), yakitori (grilled chicken), miso soup with tofu and shimeji mushrooms, simmered meat and potatoes, boiled komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach), pasta with meat sauce, potato salad, miso soup with Chinese cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, boiled field mustard, inarizushi (fried tofu stuffed with boiled rice), cooked radish and minced meat, kashiwa mochi (rice cake wrapped in oak leaf), fried whitefish, miso soup with radish, root salad, fruit jelly, udon rice noodles, almond jelly, cooked meat with vegetables, gyoza (Chinese dumplings), borscht, miso soup with clams, marinated octopus, miso soup with cabbage and Japanese mustard spinach, clams with wasabi, seafood curry rice (with scallops, clams and shrimp), Japanese sweets and amazake (sweet mild sake), etc
Institutional Reconstruction
In coordination with local construction companies, AAR JAPAN is repairing cracks in the walls and on the grounds of senior care facilities and facilities for people with disabilities to enable these people to return to their lives as soon as possible. On April 21st, AAR JAPAN finished fixing cracks in the parking lot of the Asunaro Home, care facility for people with disabilities located in Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture.
Container Housing Project
On May 11th, AAR JAPAN installed 6 container housing units in the town of Onagawa in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture, to enable evacuees who have been enduring long-term life in evacuation centers to move into more stable housing.
“Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone!” Project 
In coordination with Manyo Club Co., Ltd. (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), Ascendia Inc. (Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo) and other companies, AAR JAPAN is carrying out the “Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone!” Project.
With the cooperation of Kanagawa Prefecture’s Yugawara Onsen (hot spring), on the first day of the project, April 9th, hot spring water was delivered to four evacuation centers in Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture: Yamoto Dai-ichi Junior High School, Ushiami Community Center, Akai City Center and Asai Civic Center.
Since April 12th, with the cooperation of Miyagi Prefecture’s Onikobe Onsen (hot spring), hot water has been delivered to facilities in two different locations every day except Sunday. Delivery points include the four locations listed above, plus Miyato Elementary School in Higashi-Matsushima City and Ishinomaki Shoshinkai Social Welfare Corporation in Ishinomaki City. These 6 delivery points enable 500-600 evacuees to bathe every day, and AAR JAPAN plans to continue to provide the service until the end of this month.
Tote Bag Project
Responding to requests from evacuation centers and senior care facilities, AAR JAPAN is collecting hand-made tote bags to be delivered to the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With the May 20th deadline drawing near, approximately 1600 bags have been received to date. AAR JAPAN volunteers will attach a strap of our mascot “Sunny-chan” to the bags and deliver them to evacuees, with precedence going to the elderly.

May 13th, 2011

Container Houses Quickly Offer a Better Living Space

May 10th – Volunteers who worked to set up the container houses. Front center is Mr. Yoshiteru HORIE, Secretary General of AAR JAPAN. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA)

In the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, there are still thousands of people living in minimal comfort in evacuation centers, risking their health due to stress and exhaustion. The government has not been able to provide enough temporary housing for all of them.
At AAR JAPAN, international journalist, Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA proposed offering the evacuees container houses, which are ready-to-assemble and easy to set up. AAR JAPAN has started sending these container houses to the affected areas.

In the town of Onagawa in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture, 6 container houses were set up for evacuees on May 10th. 24 more container houses will be set up in Onagawa in the near future, with more planned in other areas as well.
Having proposed the project, Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA reports on progress in Onagawa as of May 10th.
Virtually Unchanged Since the Day of the Great East Japan Earthquake

May 10th – Yubigahama, where the container houses were set up, remained untouched since the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA)

On May 10th, in a small seaside village a few kilometers from central Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, we set up 4 container houses at Yubigahama Kappa Farm Evacuation Center, and set up 2 more in the garden of the private residence behind the farm.
The town of Onagawa was one of the hardest-hit along Miyagi’s Pacific coast, with 80% of the town devastated by the tsunami. There are few hills, and the town has been noted on the news for its lack of space for building temporary housing. Yubigahama, where the container houses were set up today, has suffered some of the greatest damage in Onagawa, yet due to its distance from the town center government support has yet to come. I was shocked to see the area: It has been almost 2 months, but nothing has changed since the day of the earthquake. Debris has not been cleared, and the roads have not been repaired at all.
We entered an unpaved farm road from the narrow national road along the Pacific Ocean. There we were met by a mountain of debris, behind which stood a hilltop house that has become an evacuation center. The house is not at all big, but 4 families now live there together. Neither water nor power has been restored. We set up the container houses in front of this private residence. 

Houses Full of Consideration

May 10th - The container houses were imported from China and Italy. Used in war zones and under harsh conditions, they are very sturdy. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)
Staff from Osaki Yahata Shrine, one of Sendai’s national treasures, first practiced assembling the container houses. They checked the equipment and set-up procedure, and any parts that were damaged in the process were repaired thanks to the superlative skills of the metal workers at Chikurin Sha.

More than 15 volunteers joined us in setting up the houses on the 10th and 11th, including four workers from Tohoku Grader, a prefabrication company in Sendai; the head priest of Osaki Yahata Shrine, Mr. ONOME, and 6 shrine staff; Secretary General HORIE of AAR JAPAN; 2 staff members from Zempro, an advertising agency in Fukuoka; Mr. NARITA from Konishi Arts and Crafts; and my friend Mr. Dylan MONAHAN from the US military.
At first the evacuees only watched from afar, but later they helped us unpack the components. I asked one of them nervously, “What do you think of the house?” Honestly, I was afraid to hear the answer.

May 10th - In the completed container house. “I’m really happy to have some private space,” says Ms. SUZUKI, who has been living in the evacuation center with her 4 family members. “To be honest, living with others for 2 months is a little tiring.” (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)
“It’s larger and better-built than I expected,” I was told. “I thought only a box would come.”
“Right now, four families are living in this evacuation center. I never thought I would care about the lack of privacy, because we have known each other for so long. But living together for 2 months has been mentally exhausting. We don’t have any space to discuss family matters privately. I’m really thankful just to have a space for our families to sleep on our own.”
I almost cried. I know that it would be better to offer a larger space with better facilities like the government’s temporary housing, but government support has not yet reached this area. We started this project in the hope of reducing the stress on evacuees while they are waiting.
With many people’s support, we were able to overcome a variety of obstacles and set up our first container houses. Filled with a sense of consideration, I was able to feel that the houses were helpful to the survivors.
We are planning to assemble 24 more container houses in Onagawa, and we have also had requests to build container houses in Minami-Sanriku and Ishinomaki.
We have just started this project, but from here on we would like to set up as many container houses as quickly as we can. We will try our best to aid in recovery efforts, and I beg your warm support for the survivors of this disaster.

International political analyst and international journalist. Born in Tokyo in 1969. Graduated from Chuo University with a degree in political science. Received a master’s degree in international relations from Universiteit van Amsterdam (University of Amsterdam). Has written for magazines and published books on international affairs as a freelance journalist.
Assembleable container houses are easy to transport and take only a few hours to set up. The container house project was proposed in the hope of providing comfortable living spaces quickly and efficiently while the government sets up temporary housing. We have been actively engaged in this project, from obtaining and importing the container houses to setting them up on the ground.


May 4th, 2011

Entertainers Nekohachi and Koneko EDOYA Visit the Disaster Zone

The Oshika Peninsula rings with animal sounds and children’s laughter


On April 27th, AAR JAPAN visited an elementary school and evacuation center in Miyagi Prefecture’s Oshika Peninsula. We were accompanied by Ms. Natsuko HAGIWARA, Rikkyo University professor and managing director of the Japan NPO Center, and entertainers Mr. Nekohachi EDOYA IV and Mr. Koneko EDOYA II.
Our first event was at Higashihama Elementary School in Ishinomaki City, where classes resumed this week. 26 students and nearby evacuees gathered for the event.
Beginning with the cry of a Japanese bush-warbler, “Hō-hokekyo!”, the entertainers brought smiles to the children’s faces with imitations of various animals, including dogs, horses, zebras, suzumushi and matsumushi crickets, rhinoceroses, frogs, and more. The children laughed uproariously while practicing a frog’s croak with all their might. The finale, a chorus of animal and insect sounds arranged to the tune of the song “Furusato” (“Hometown”), filled the evacuation center with a feeling of warmth, and even brought smiles to the faces of the grandparents sitting at the back.
April 27th – Mr. Nekohachi EDOYA (left) and Mr. Koneko EDOYA (right) imitate a Japanese bush-warbler’s cry. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
“It’s the first time I’ve seen children with such bright smiles since the earthquake.”
After the event, the children told us enthusiastically, “It was great!” and “Now I can make a sound like a rhinoceros!”
The school principal, Mr. TSUNODA, said “It’s the first time I’ve seen children with such bright smiles since the earthquake… There is nothing that encourages us like the voices, songs, smiles and cheers of children.”
I could only hope that the Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture, the Tohoku area, and all of Japan will be filled with such smiles as soon as possible.
Driving along the seaside mountain road on our way back, we heard the distant bush-warbler’s cry, “Hō-hokekyo!” I guess the bush-warblers of the Oshika Peninsula welcomed the entertainers, too.
April 27th – Asked, “Does anyone know the Japanese bush-warbler?” children cheerfully raise their hands. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 27th – Firmly gripping Mr. Nekohachi EDOYA’s hand (right), an evacuee declares, “I’ve been your fan for a long time!” (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)

April 27th – At a meeting before the event, Principal TSUNODA (center) said, “Some students still have dulled expressions for fear of aftershocks, but by playing with friends they are gradually getting better.” Sitting at the right is Ms. Sayako NOGIWA of AAR JAPAN. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture) 
Sayako NOGIWA (Tohoku Office Head) - AAR JAPAN Senior Program Coordinator
Largely responsible for AAR JAPAN's projects in Myanmar and other parts of Asia.
Involved in a number of emergency relief operations in the past, including the Myanmar Cyclone in 2008, the Sumatra Earthquake in 2009, and the Pakistan Flood in 2010. 
(34 years old, born in Tokyo.)

May 6th, 2011

For the Sake of Survivors on the Oshika Peninsula

AAR JAPAN delivers a washer and dryer to the Oshika Peninsula
On April 30th, AAR JAPAN delivered a washing machine and dryer to Higashihama Elementary School and Koamikura Evacuation Center on the Oshika Peninsula, Oshika Ward, Miyagi Prefecture. Taki KATO, Deputy Chairperson of AAR JAPAN, accompanied the delivery.
The Director of Emergency Headquarters at Higashihama Elementary School, Mr. TOYOSHIMA, told us that he wants to place the washer and dryer where they will be accessible to all residents in the area, while also taking into consideration access to water and electricity. On the Oshika Peninsula, local roads have been damaged by the March 11th earthquake, and water and electricity have still not been re-established in some areas.
April 30th – A washing machine and dryer are delivered to Koamikura Evacuation Center. Ms. Taki KATO is on the right. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
When KATO asked Mr. TOYOSHIMA about the state of recovery operations in the area, he replied, “We received a lot of supplies immediately after the earthquake, but these days the quantity is decreasing.” Although they are getting enough food to survive, today they received only water and retort foods. They have asked the Self-Defense Force to provide them with vegetables at least once every four days, but they are seldom delivered.
At the same time, school has resumed, but only milk and a piece of bread are served for school lunch each day. Students have six hours of class every day, and Mr. TOYOSHIMA wants to provide them with bento (meal boxes) or onigiri (rice balls) at least once or twice a week. I felt his deep devotion to the children, who will all play a leading role in the future of the region.

April 30th – Mr. TOYOSHIMA, Director of Emergency Headquarters at Higashihama Elementary School, talks with KATO (left), Deputy Chairwoman of AAR. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
Hoping for the healthy growth of a new life
The same day, KATO accompanied AAR JAPAN’s traveling clinic on its rounds of individual residences on the Oshika Peninsula. We looked in on a woman in Obuchi Ward who was four months pregnant. Her health had declined after the earthquake, and although she told us she was all right when we visited her last, she had looked visibly strained. This time Dr. Tomoko KANTO, an obstetrician introduced by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a member of the AAR JAPAN medical team, accompanied us on our visit, and she examined the expecting mother with a portable ultrasound device. When the healthy baby was seen moving on the screen, the expecting mother, her family, and Ms. KATO all cheered for joy. The expecting mother promised us that she would do her best to give birth to a healthy baby. The wonderful moment brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
We have been visiting individual residents of the Oshika Peninsula to check on their physical condition, to listen to their stories, and to take their requests. On that day one survivor told us, “I felt totally isolated after the earthquake. But I’m truly happy that you’ve visited my home so many times to check up on my health. When I think that I have someone who is concerned about me, it gives me the strength to keep going.” I was really glad to know that someone felt that way. We will continue in our efforts to ensure that everyone can live in good health and with a smile in their hearts.

April 30th – Dr. KANTO (center) examines a woman in her fourth month of pregnancy. They cheer upon seeing the image of her healthy baby. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
Mizuho SEKII: Emergency Relief Team (nurse and medical officer)
Worked as a hospital nurse for six years after graduation from university.
(Born in Ibaraki Prefecture.)
May 9th, 2011 

Elementary School Students in Minami-Sanriku Celebrate their Graduation

Presents for graduating students in the disaster area 
On April 29th, students at Isatomae Elementary School in the town of Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, celebrated their long-delayed graduation ceremony. Postponed over a month, a total of 40 students from Isatomae Elementary School and Natari Elementary School attended the ceremony. Located 2 km away near the Pacific coast, Natari Elementary was unable to host its own ceremony due to extensive damage from the tsunami.
AAR JAPAN staff presented teddy bears and candy to the graduating students. As the ceremony ended, the students were led out to the schoolyard, where the tsunami-ravaged landscape of Isatomae and Utatsu lay before them. “Never forget this view,” their teacher told them. “This is your town, and you are the ones who will rebuild it.”
After the graduation ceremony, AAR JAPAN and Peace Project held a soup kitchen at Utatsu Junior High School.
Located next door to Isatomae Elementary School, approximately 250 people are using the junior high school as an evacuation center, including graduates from Isatomae Elementary. The soup kitchen offered a special menu of steak, minestrone soup and oden to celebrate their graduation.
At the ceremony, one of the graduating students said, “After the earthquake, I always felt afraid. But in a few days, volunteers came with help and relief supplies. When I become a junior high school student, I want to be the one to help others who are scared.”
Youth takes the first step into the future—the path may be long, but they have started walking toward recovery.
April 29th – Graduating students are presented with Rirakkuma teddy bears. AAR JAPAN’s Tomoya SOEJIMA stands to the left. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)

 April 29th – Before “leaving the nest” graduating students engrave the memory of the scene into their hearts. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 29th – Steak from the soup kitchen in the Utatsu Junior High School evacuation center. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 29th – Congratulations on your graduation! (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
Photo credits: Yoshifumi KAWABATA


April 22nd, 2011

AAR JAPAN Provides Healthcare to Survivors

Reaching survivors in their homes on the Oshika Peninsula
AAR JAPAN has been making regular visits to provide medical treatment to earthquake survivors on the Oshika Peninsula, an isolated region of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The Oshika Peninsula suffered tremendous damage in the earthquake. Medical teams from Tokai University and the Japanese Red Cross Society are taking care of patients in the northern part of the peninsula, while a Self-Defense Force medical team is working in the south. However, at present their support focuses only on people at evacuation centers, and does not reach survivors who have chosen to remain in their homes.
Some residents cannot travel to receive health care at evacuation centers due to old age or problems with their legs, while others have not been able to obtain information on where to go. Health workers from all over the country have been assigned to visit homes in different areas of Ishinomaki City, performing check-ups and inspecting damage, but the system has not yet been able to reach the Oshika Peninsula.
To meet this need, AAR JAPAN formed a medical team led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a long-time medical practitioner in the area. Dr. YASUDA is supported by two nurses, Moeko NAGAI and Mika SEKII, with Eijiro MURAKOSHI serving as administrative staff. The team began making regular visits to provide medical treatment in homes and evacuation centers on April 9th.
Many survivors remain in their homes on the peninsula, where our team is working with about 640 people in the Makino-hama, Takeno-hama, Kitsunezaki-hama, Sudachi, Fukiura, Kozumi-hama and Kobuchi-hama areas. In coordination with the Red Cross Society and governmental agencies supervising medical support in Ishinomaki City, Dr. YASUDA has been making regular medical visits on weekends, while providing services such as care for chronic illness, prevention against infectious diseases, and mental support on weekdays.

April 10th – Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA (left) examines a man in his sixties who is living in an evacuation center in Ogihama Junior High School. The man was relieved to receive a careful examination and a medical prescription.
Providing detailed care to each person
When visiting homes and evacuation centers, our team first coordinates with the regional Emergency Headquarters, or visit homes that have been introduced by other survivors in the area.
On April 16th, our team visited an elderly couple sheltered in their home in the Makino-hama area of the Higashihama ward. Though both were in good health, the wife was worried about her blood pressure, and they were both relieved when no problem was found.
In addition to performing check-ups, we listen to survivors’ concerns, ask about difficulties they are having, and inquire about any supplies they may need. In one house the toilet was connected to a septic tank, and the pump truck had not come since the earthquake. When a truck came to the evacuation center nearby, the homeowners were told that the truck could not come to individual houses. While the tank did not pose a threat to hygiene when we visited, we informed the staff in charge of the evacuation center of the situation, and asked for appropriate measures to be taken before the problem worsened.
We informed survivors that we would visit regularly to provide check-ups and ask about any difficulties they were having. When one survivor replied with watery eyes, “That will be really helpful. Thank you,” I realized just what kind of terrible anxiety these people are living with every day.
Despite of the enormous difficulties they are facing, the residents of the Oshika Peninsula have been cheerful and warm-hearted, supporting one another in their daily lives. When we visit, they prepare tea and express their thanks, and we find ourselves as much cheered by them as they are by us. We will continue to listen to their appeals, and will endeavor to understand their feelings as we work to maintain their health.

April 16th – When visiting patients, we inquire about their health and daily lives. Nurse Moeko NAGAI (left) measures a patient’s blood pressure.


Moeko NAGAI: Emergency Relief Team (nurse and medical officer)
Worked in hospital for three years after graduation from university
After studying in the United States for one year, she worked as a nurse at kindergarten in Japan for two years

April 28th, 2011

AAR JAPAN Provides Buses to Hospitals and Schools

AAR JAPAN operates regular bus services for residents
AAR JAPAN has been supporting the operation of regular bus services in the Oshika Peninsula, an isolated region of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. AAR-supported buses are operating in Ogihama Ward, which lies at the entry to the peninsula, and Ayukawa Ward in the south.
Prefectural Road No. 2 cuts through the Oshika Peninsula, forming a thoroughfare to hospitals and shopping centers in Ishinomaki’s city center. Regular bus services once ran along the prefectural road, with mid-sized buses connecting residential areas to the main line. However, roads leading to the prefectural road have cracked or subsided due to the March 11th earthquake, making it impossible to operate mid-sized buses. With so many cars swept away by the tsunami, it is now difficult for people in Ogihama Ward and Ayukawa Ward to go to the hospital, go shopping, or go to school.
April 26th – A road along the sea in Ogihama Ward. Side roads connecting to Prefectural Road No. 2 are still so narrow that only one car can go through. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
“I went to the city for the first time since the earthquake”
In cooperation with Miyakou Bus Co., Ltd. and Oshika Public Service, AAR JAPAN started operating regular buses on April 10th, using 10-seater mini-buses that are capable of navigating the narrowed roads. Services have been provided twice a day, with two buses operating in Ogihama Ward and one bus in Ayukawa Ward. All services are provided for free, with the beginning of operation announced by radio and at evacuation centers.
In Ogihama Ward, buses run from the peninsula’s Fukiura area to the Japanese Red Cross hospital in the city center. The trip takes one and a half hours, with two round-trips provided daily. On the way, the bus also stops at convenient locations such as elementary schools, junior high schools and shopping centers, as well as at Ishinomaki Station.
Speaking with watery eyes, a 75-year-old woman who used the bus told us, “I hadn’t been able to go to the city center since the earthquake. When I heard about the bus service on the radio, I was overjoyed.”
At the southern end of the peninsula in Ayukawa Ward, mini-buses travel in and out of the ward’s residential areas to bring people to the bus stop on Prefectural Road No. 2. As more and more people return to their homes from evacuation centers, buses accessible to individual residences are increasingly important, particularly as many elderly people live in the area.
In addition to normal twice-daily services, the mini-buses are also used as school buses. AAR JAPAN will continue to provide bus services to enable people in the affected areas to get back to their regular lives as quickly as possible.
April 26th – Children getting on the mini-bus to go home from Higashihama Elementary School. Classes resumed on April 21st. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)

April 16th – When visiting patients, we inquire about their health and daily lives. Nurse Moeko NAGAI (left) measures a patient’s blood pressure.

Moeko NAGAI: Emergency Relief Team (nurse and medical officer)
Worked in hospital for three years after graduation from university
After studying in the United States for one year, she worked as a nurse at kindergarten in Japan for two years
April 29th, 2011

Hot Springs are Fantastic! Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.

Delivering hot spring water from Onikobe Onsen to evacuation centers
In cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd. (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), Ascendia Inc. (Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo) and others, AAR JAPAN has been implementing the project “Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.” Since April 12th, we have provided hot spring water to Miyako Elementary School on Miyako Island, Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Around 900 residents of the island evacuated to the gymnasium of Miyako Elementary School immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. About 20 residents of Ohama, one of the island’s villages, remain there now, and it has been only two days since 24-hour electricity was re-established.
In cooperation with Onikobe Onsen (hot spring) in the Naruko Onsen area of Miyagi Prefecture, hot spring water has been delivered by tank truck to a bath in the elementary school playground prepared by the Self-Defense Force. Hot baths are offered from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, with access rotating between men and women each day.
April 27th – There are two bathtubs in the tent. The rear tub is used for washing and rinsing, while the tub in the foreground is for soaking. The space in front is used for changing. (Higashi-Matsushima city, Miyagi Prefecture)
Giving people a little chance to relax in the bath
People arrive promptly to enjoy the hot spring water at 4:00. The bath is open to anyone, not only those in the evacuation center, so residents come on foot, by bicycle and by car, with about 80 people visiting each day.
Today is men’s day. Mr. Toshiaki HIYAMA comes every day the bath is open, riding 1 km from his home. He told us, “I’ll pedal as far as I have to to get into this bath!” Mr. HIYAMA lives alone, and has been living off meals at the Self-Defense Force soup kitchen or eating bento (meal boxes) that are provided for survivors. “There are no shops near my house, so I have to go a long way to buy even little things,” he said. “It’s not easy, but everyone is having a hard time. At least I can live in my own house, so I can’t complain.”
After soaking in the bath, people can receive supplies such as coffee, biscuits, and popcorn in front of the tent.
Although people in the affected areas are still experiencing significant difficulties, they seem relaxed and comforted by their time in the hot spring water. We will continue this project until the end of the Golden Week holiday in May.
April 27th – “The water temperature is fantastic!” says Mr. HIYAMA, who comes to enjoy the hot springs by bicycle every day. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 27th – “Bathing is great. It’s refreshing,” says Mr. ONO, holding supplies of distributed coffee. He is staying at the evacuation center in Miyako Elementary School. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 27th – This specialized tank truck, provided by Manyo Club Co., Ltd., Kanagawa Prefecture, can maintain the temperature of hot spring water over long distances. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)
April 27th – Members of the Self-Defense Force set up and manage the hot springs. Here hot water is stored in a container outside the tent so that it can be added to the tubs later. Miyako Elementary School can be seen in the background. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)
*This project has been carried out in cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd.; Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture; Ascendia Inc.; Naruko Tourism Research Institute; Yamagakko Council; and AAR JAPAN.
Yoshitaka SUGISAWA (Tokyo Office)
Has been working at AAR since May 2010, in charge of domestic activities.
Worked in a private company after graduation from university before joining AAR.
Engaged in emergency assistance for flooding in Pakistan in 2010.
(Born in Ibaraki Prefecture)
April 30th, 2011

People with Disabilities and their Families – Lost to Evacuation Centers

AAR JAPAN has been engaging in relief activities in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. This is a report from Ayumi YASUDA of the Emergency Relief Team.
We received a phone call from Ms. Miyako SAITO in Ishinomaki City, whom we had previously visited to provide relief supplies. She told us of three families that had children with disabilities staying at an evacuation center nearby, and they needed supplies. The next day, on April 22nd, we visited the families with food and daily necessities at a house on the premises of Hitakami-en, a rehabilitation facility for people with mental disabilities.
All three families lost their homes in the earthquake and moved to public evacuation centers. When their children had difficulty living with other evacuees, the families were introduced to this house by the Ishinomaki Shoshinkai Social Welfare Corporation, and they have been living here in obscurity since.
Can’t go to evacuation centers, can’t go to buy things
Ms. Yuko SAITO (58) lives with her two sons, the younger of whom, Kazuya (21), has severe mental disabilities. After the earthquake, they initially moved into an evacuation center at a high school before moving into the present house. For a time Kazuya didn’t speak due to the stress of the moves, but recently he finally began to find his voice. When I was talking with his mother, Kazuya tried to tell me that they had lost their house, saying, “House, bye-bye.”
Kazuya requires continuous care, and Ms. SAITO can rarely go out. When we gave her not only food but also nail clippers and ear picks as requested, she looked pleased and said, “We’ve received some urgently-needed supplies, but still lack some of the little things that we always took for granted before the earthquake. I feel unsettled without these things.”

April 22nd – When we gave her nail clippers and ear picks, Ms. Yuko SAITO (center) said, “The truth is that we lacked daily necessities like these.” Her son Kazuya has Down’s syndrome. (Left: Ayumi YASUDA, Emergency Relief Team, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
“I though about covering her mouth with tape.”
Ms. Hatsue NITTA (69) now lives in the same house as Ms. SAITO, along with her daughter Chihiro (39), who has severe mental disabilities. They received mattresses and blankets at an evacuation center, and we provided them with sheets and covers. They had no choice but to leave the evacuation center where they had been staying after the earthquake because Chihiro yells every night. I got a sense of the immeasurable difficulties they had faced when Ms. NITTA told me, “I even thought about covering her mouth with tape.”
Ms. NITTA told me that she had just recovered from an illness herself, making it particularly difficult to live away from home while looking after her daughter. She said, “Those of us taking care of family members with disabilities are facing far greater difficulties than other families. We can’t stay in evacuation centers, but there’s no other place to go, either. We don’t know how long we can stay in this house, and I feel anxious every day.” I couldn’t say anything in reply to her words.

April 22nd – “We don’t know how long we can stay here,” Ms. NITTA says anxiously. Her daughter Chihiro (second from right) has severe mental disabilities. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
We hope to quickly deliver supplies to people who can’t go out
I’ve been visiting many evacuation centers over the past month, but seldom see people with disabilities in the big public evacuation centers. Finally driven out, they go back to their half-destroyed homes, or timidly shelter themselves in their relatives’ houses. Families cannot leave their children alone, so it’s difficult for them to go shopping or to get relief supplies.
I deeply feel that AAR JAPAN should provide support for these people above all. We will continue to make efforts to quickly meet the needs of people with disabilities and their families.

Worked in Nepal as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer after graduation from university,
then joined AAR. Born in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.



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Organization Information

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Location: Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​​english/​
Project Leader:
Yuko Ito
Program Coordinator
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Japan

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