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.
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.
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)
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