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
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.