Helping Disaster-stricken Kumamoto by Kitchen Cars

by Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA Vetted since 2011
Picture 1: Summer Festival Flier (Front Page)
Picture 1: Summer Festival Flier (Front Page)

The Kumamoto Earthquake took place only one month after the Kamaishi Kitchen Car  Team (KKCT) established the National Kitchen Car Disaster Network in March 2016. In cooperation with the Kumamoto Catering Car Association, KKCT rushed to disaster-stricken Mashiki Township to serve 20,000 food, especially in remote areas and Children’s LEC Center where psychologically-handicapped children live for treatment. They not only served food, but also promoted the use of kitchen cars for rebuilding restaurant business there. Ten disaster-stricken restaurant owners attended KKCT’s seminars, for which KKCT brought two kitchen cars from Kamaishi and donated them to entrepreneurs wishing to start new businesses. KKCT helped especially one young entrepreneurs whose newly established restaurant was destroyed completely one day before its opening ceremony. Providing valuable information and advises on kitchen car operations, several people started their kitchen-car businesses. Those who are actively involved in rebuilding their economic activities came to establish a voluntary organization, called “Revival Mashiki”.

KKCT, learning in Kamaishi how important it is to rebuild a community to redevelop the disaster-stricken area, KKCT and Revival Mashiki organized “Wai Wai Festivals” under the sponsorship of DSIA and GlobalGiving. Now, Revival Mashiki became the key organizer of diverse events, and finally they decided to develop a big Summer Bon Festival on July 28 (Sat.). It established a slogan of “Real Smile! Mashiki”, accompanied by the following Introductory statement:

“Two years have passed since the earthquake disaster. The situation of our town has not improved as you can see. We have some people doing better, but many still struggling to rebuild their lives. Town is the same as before. But we also have hope. People start smiling a little bit, and more people came back to join us to rebuild our community. This is not enough, though. We need more smiles and more people to join us. We would like to recover the scenes when we were filled with the smiles of many people and the times when grandpas and grandmos, fathers and mothers, and children really smiled and enjoyed. We would like to rebuild those good days. Let’s have a Summer Festival as we used to do at Mashiki.” April 27, 2018 by the “Real Smile Mashiki” Project Committee Members

The Project Committee consists of about ten young volunteers (age between 30 and 40). Responding to their initiatives, so far eleven companies, seven NGOs, Mashiki Chamber of Commerce, Mashiki Township Government, and Mashiki Education Committee, all agreed to provide funding and help this event. In other words, the Project Committee very much succeeded to mobilize the whole township and obtained external help to have the big Summer Festival.

A big Summer Festival will be held between 16:00 and 20:00 on July 28 (Sat.), 2018, in the parking lot of Mashiki Township Government Temporary Office (Picture 1). They are going to revive Bon Dance which has not been performed several years even before the earthquake. The Mashiki Ladies Association will provide lessens at schools and temporary housing areas to generate interactions among people. There will also be a fire work based on project mapping technology. Children from kindergartens and nursery schools and students from grade schools, junior high schools, and senior high schools will participate in drawing smiles of people on the campuses of many different-sizes (Picture 2 and 3). There will be also stage performances by fifteen groups and organizations. They are famous musicians, school children, and senior groups. Several comedians will also come to join the festival. Naturally, about 25 shops will open in a market, called “Revival Mashiki Redevelopment Market”, where people can meet each other again. (Picture 4)

Amazingly a collaboration between KKCT and DSIA funded by the GlobalGiving was the very source of igniting such movements. It will be really a big boost for redeveloping Mashiki Community, without which the recovery and redevelopment out of the disaster will not take place as quickly as we all hope.  

Picture 2: Children Drawing Pictures
Picture 2: Children Drawing Pictures
Picture 3: Adding a Special Tough to His Drawing
Picture 3: Adding a Special Tough to His Drawing
Picture 4: The Details of Summer Festival Event
Picture 4: The Details of Summer Festival Event

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Picture 1: Shops in the Event
Picture 1: Shops in the Event

“Mashiki Yataimura”, a temporary shop arcade in Mashikicho was established in June 2016, two months after the Kumamoto Earthquake. There, many heart-warming human stories were born. Through interactions among local people and outside supporters, they had opportunities to relieve themselves from pain, sorrow, and bewilderment about their lost family members, today’s living, and future one. But interactions among villagers nurtured community bonds and created new energy and a sense of solidarity as a community for redevelopment. Through the disaster, amid enormous destruction, they found new space for creation, deepened bonds among people, and new movements for redevelopment. Heart-warming stories occurred in Yataimura became a movie, titled “Walking Together, Salon Yataimura” (see the web address) which was just released by Tokyo Cable Network this April. Many Kumamoto Kitchen Car members provided stories and were even in the film. It clearly sent a message that destruction follows creation when new bonds and human interaction take place. As shown in this movie, community movements with deep human bonds, such as those found in Revival Mashiki organized by the Kamaishi Kitchen Car members, are vital for persevering through a disaster and redeveloping a community. They are one of key engines of redeveloping the Mashiki Community in Kumamoto Prefecture, and are pleased to have their contributions recognized in a movie.

To sustain their bonds, Revival Mashiki continuously organize diverse events. The most recent one was organized on February 11 (Picture 1), amid very cold temperature of three degree centigrade. Revival Mashiki dared to choose this cold day to show that they are seriously engaging in community building, since such events during winter are not frequently organized. They distributed 600 fliers and spread the event information through SNS. Owing to the cooperation of Self-Governing Organizations in the Mashikicho Techno Temporary Housing Area, quite many people from the old generation came to attend (Picture 2). Although the attendance of 183 people was a little bit less than expected, they came to know that many old people and young children had been waiting for this event (Picture 3 & Picture 4). There was also a live stage of two very popular musicians, which was kept secret fearing that the place may be uncontrollably jam packed (Picture 5). Flags used in the previous event and placed in conspicuous places also helped to bring many new visitors to this event. Ladies in the Self-Governing Organizations demonstrated how to make “Noppe Soup” in front of visitors (Picture 6). For the first time, Self-Governing Organizations participated, suggesting that they themselves came to recognize the importance of such events for building bonds in communities. The outcome clearly shows that efforts of Revival Mashiki are generating significant impacts to the community and are contributing to nurturing deeper bonds and community identity.

Picture 2: Old People from Temporary Housing Area
Picture 2: Old People from Temporary Housing Area
Picture 3: Children Enjoying the Event
Picture 3: Children Enjoying the Event
Picture 4: Many Children at the Event
Picture 4: Many Children at the Event
Picture 5: Live Performances
Picture 5: Live Performances
Picture 6: Cooking Demonstration
Picture 6: Cooking Demonstration

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Waiting for the Opening of the Event
Waiting for the Opening of the Event

One year and eight months have passed since the Kumamoto Earthquake. But redevelopment in Mashiki-town is still at the stage of repairing infrastructures. Since many damaged roads are still in the process of repairs, the rebuilding of residential houses needs to wait for one or two years. Consequently, people are moving out to Kumamoto City located about half-an-hour drive. Population in Mashiki-town is declining. Besides, at present only a few roads from Mashiki-cho to Kumamoto City are available. The aggravated traffic jam in the morning is becoming not only a serious concern for commuters to the city, but also another reason for moving out of the community.

 Disaster-stricken shop-owners established a volunteer organization, called “Revival Mashiki (RM)” represented by a young entrepreneur in Yasunage Area in Mashiki-town. The area has an active fault line below their residences. People there, especially children, still suffer from the trauma of earthquake and have lost their smiles. The goals of RM are to bring back smiles to children’s faces and prevent the disintegration of the community by preventing disaster-stricken people from leaving the community. In Fall 2016, six months after the disaster, RM borrowed a small piece of private land, cleared debris, and organized the first “Mashiki Yasunaga Wai Wai Square (MYWW Square),” a starting point of organizing community activities. They had such events four times in 2016 in cooperation with Kamaishi Kichen Car members. On December 17, 2017, they organized a Christmas event in MYWW Square from 11:00 to 16:00 (Picture 1: Waiting for Opening of the Event).

Many people of diverse generations from Mashiki-town participated to the event as volunteers. They are children from the town, disaster-stricken shop owners, people from neighborhood temporary shops, township officials, wives of fire station workers. The total number of participants is estimated to be about 220.

Some children were busy preparing for shops and some calling for donations to repair a local shrine (Pictures 2 and 3). The Head of the local community proposed to have children experience mochi-pounding, one of typical year-end activities in Japan, and rented his mochi-pounding stone. The mochi-pounding became the opening event at 11:00. The Head was actively cooperating with MR, even to solicit the participation of town people. But it is also true that after four past MR events, people came to recognize its activities.

As a Christmas event, established was a Marche where local vegetables and food were sold. Several participants came from all over Kyushu, performing dances, playing music, and singing Christmas Carroll. Two groups of 30 children, one elementary school children and the other pre-school children from the community, performed dances, attracting attentions of many participants, especially parents and community residents watching them dance with heart-filling smiles on their faces. Children who participated to dancing with Christmas costumes were also given special sweet treats. Three amateur bands played as volunteers, and four group belonging to Christian Churches Association performed Christmas Carroll and Gospels. 

In Mashiki-cho, there has never been any community-based event, such as mochi pounding or bon dance festival. MR also produced fliers, created banners, and sent announcements through SNS. They even made two public announcements of this event through the public emergency radio system, which enabled to reach many senior people. This type of announcement is extremely unusual. It is simply because, for the first time, people came to recognize the importance of building community activities, and the earning of this event will be donated to rebuilding the local shrine. Naturally, local newspaper was reporting this event by interviewing participants.

Many people attending the Christmas Event came to enjoy, especially the first two hours. For the first time, all shops were organized by local people without any Kamaishi Kitchen Car team, while the representative from the team participated as advisors to many aspects of organizing such a big event.

One suggestion made by the Kamaishi Kitchen Car team was to create banners, so that the festival location can be easily identified. Most of cars going by the Festival slowed down, wondering what kind of events were taking place. The more information people have, the more people come to attend. However, the location where the Festival was held was not big enough to accommodate a large size of people. There is no alternative space. Besides, the two-lane road which this location faces is now planned to be expanded into a four-lane road, which makes it dangerous to organize an event due to a large number of cars on the road. This is a serious problem, since RM plans to expand activities by involving a larger number of community people and participants. Shops along the road will not be able to rebuild until the four-lane road is completed, delaying the process of shop redevelopment to a much later time. The idea of RM is very nice, while the reality is much tougher than what they originally thought. 

The Kamaishi Kitchen Car team this time committed simply to advise young entrepreneurs of RM, since it is about time for them to carry their own ideas forward by themselves. Providing free food and support is not difficult, but the real difficulty is when to shift responsibilities to the local and to charge money to people instead of free food. This transition is not easy, requiring the right understanding of people’s willingness to contribute to community activities, entrepreneurs’ motivations to take initiatives, and watching other young entrepreneurs’ movements who have not joined RM.

The key of the present movements is whether young local entrepreneurs think about their own community, take initiative, and lead the movement. In a disaster-stricken area, community leaders, in many cases, come from formerly non-active members. People from RM should lead such movement, though supports from Kamaishi Kitchen Car team and Mashiki-Kamaishi cooperation undeniably remains as supporting elements.

One male in Picture 4 was to have his shop opened on the very day the earthquake took place, and the newly built shop was destroyed completely. Now, he is operating a kitchen car, whose idea was given by the Kamaishi Kitchen Car team. He was actively participating in organizing the event, dreaming of a day when he can establish his own shop.

In Kumamoto, there is a word pronounced, “Dekusshiko.” It means that you do things you can or you do start things from what you can do. It seems that everybody is actively participating by doing what they think they can do for the development of the local community, despite many problems they personally have. The next event is scheduled to be help on February 11 (Sun.), 2018, at MYWW Square.

Children Calling for Donation
Children Calling for Donation
Children Helping to Operate Shops
Children Helping to Operate Shops
Reviving Mashiki through Kitchen Car
Reviving Mashiki through Kitchen Car

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A Kitchen Car at Revival Mashiki Festival
A Kitchen Car at Revival Mashiki Festival

More than one year has passed since the Kumamoto Earthquake, and people in Mashiki-cho, the worst hit area of the earthquake, came out of the phases of emergency responses and initial rebuilding. Now, rebuilding is providing some future prospect of the area and is relieving people. However, economic activities of residents have not yet been redeveloped, forcing people to leave the Mashiki-cho to Kumamoto City or to some vicinity areas where employment is available. The Mashiki-cho Community is facing many serious problems, because the crucial shift from the initial rebuilding stage into full redevelopment is not well taking place. People in the community are not fully addressing vital issues to rebuild their community. The biggest cause of these problems is the population decline, because residents are moving out of Mashiki-cho, stalling diverse community activities. Having less number of people taking leadership is increasingly discouraging people to remain in the community. People are losing their community identity, and are becoming hesitant to take serious leadership. The Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA is doing an inadequate work to generate changes in the post-redevelopment phase. Now, we need to restart a new phase of our struggles to rebuild the Mashiki-cho redevelopment.

After the East Japan Earthquake, DSIA helped Kamaishi Platform (KP) to develop the Kamaishi Kitchen Car Project and rebuilt Kamaishi Community, believing that the redevelopment of an area requires first the rebuilding of a sense of community to make any projects to be effective. Without community identity, economic rebuilding will not have its coordinated effects, making people less happy to have stayed in the community. Because of KP’s success in developing the Kamaishi Kitchen Car Project and rebuilding the Kamaishi Community, the project was designated as the most effective rebuilding example in 2012 by the ‘s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Though it is taking a long time, the Kamaishi Community is now enjoying their redeveloped life.

Given KP’s experiences in the disaster situations and success in community rebuilding, KP decided to help the Mashiki-cho Community by donating kitchen cars and organizing people willing to engage in kitchen car activities. Hence, KP again requested a support from DSIA, which decided to continue helping KP to build the Kumamoto Kitchen Car Team (KuKCT). Key members are young entrepreneurs in Mashiki-cho, who cherishes to make Mashiki-cho prosperous as entrepreneurs in the community. These entrepreneurs even took an initiative to establish a community redevelopment organization, called “Revival Mashiki (RM).” However, coming to the second year of their efforts to rebuild Mashiki-cho Community, they are finding themselves not generating adequate community movements. They requested KP to advise on a new phase of KuKCT’s activities under the name of RM organization to advance their movements to a higher level to be more effective in developing Mashiki-cho Community. After consulting with KP, young entrepreneurs of RM developed the following project to further advance their activities to the second stage.

Now, it is the turn for DSIA to respond to their urgent need of people trying to rebuild Mashiki-cho Community.

Their planned activities are twofold: One is (A) to reopen “Mashiki Wai Wai Square” and the other is (B) to revive a traditional bon festival to regenerate community identity. The details are as follows:

(A)To Reopen “Mashiki Wai Wai Square” to Offer Local People to Sell and Buy Local Products: With the financial help of GlobalGiving, KuKCT organized three Mashiki Wai Wai Square in cooperation with local shops and local associations from August 2016 to August 2017, which successfully provided a place where local people come together in a market with some festival-type activities. Their activities were well appreciated. Now, given the second stage, KuKCT under the name of RM (KuKCT/RM) felt needs to continue with this activity to further rebuild a sense of community, especially because the slow redevelopment process is generating the declining of the local population. Young people especially started moving out of temporary housing in Mashiki-cho to look for employment and decent living conditions in other areas. KuKCT/RM are now feeling needs for developing stronger movements to retain these departing people in Mashiki-cho. This issue is also a quite critical issue, since young entrepreneurs’ business is very much dependent on the prosperity of Mashiki-cho Community. Hence, KuKCT/RM’s plan is to reopen “Mashiki Wai Wai Square” every month for nine months, organizing small-sized Square six times attracting about 300 local people and three times of large-sized Square with big events attracting about 1,000 people in-between these markets. This will be important activities presently, since almost all temporary commercial locations to accommodate disaster-stricken retail shops have been already closed, forcing disaster-stricken local retailors finding it necessary to move out of Mashiki-cho. This “Mashiki Wai Wai Square” will generate important opportunities for local people to meet and intermingle together. Actually, they have already organized "Mashiki Wai Wai Square" at Kuramoto Flower Shop, which leads the RM entrepreneurs (Picture 1).

(B)To Search for Opportunities to Strengthen a Sense of Community by Redeveloped a Traditional Festival: In August 2017, KuKCT members visited Kamaishi City under GlobalGiving funding and thanked the Kamaishi Mayor for his support to Mashiki-cho during the Kamaishi Yosakoi Festival. There, they found that a traditional festival is highly effective to bring community people together and generate a strong community identity. Since their return to Mashiki-cho in August, they have been discussing if they could revive a traditional festival. In the town, Yasunaga Shrine established in 1602 has been organizing a summer festival every year attracting a large number of local people and children. However, they stopped operating the festival since the disaster. It has been a very attractive event organized in Mashiki-cho, and allows to bring young and old people together without any hesitation. KuKCT/RM thought of taking an initiative to revive the summer festival to bring a stronger sense of local community. To take such an initiative, it is highly important to understand the needs and willingness of people to participate in the festival. Hence, KuKCT/RM also expressed their carefulness that they will not proceed with this program unless they obtain supports from the local community. Hence, they would like to make an initial movement to see if the summer festival can be revived. Now, they are already discussing how they can revive the festival with the Head of Yasunaga Shrine (Picture 2).

In this new stage of redevelopment in the second year, young entrepreneurs with the help of Kamaishi people are really in need of your support to bring back what Mashiki-cho Community used to be. They are very eager to work for their community people, only thing not adequately coming is funding. The DSIA sincerely wish to have your support to these activities which young Masihiki-cho entrepreneurs are organizing. They are the key members of rebuilding the future of the community. Thank you very much for your attention.  

Initiating to Revive Festival with H of Shrine
Initiating to Revive Festival with H of Shrine

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Picture 1: Praying in front of Otsuchi Town Hall
Picture 1: Praying in front of Otsuchi Town Hall

With the funding of DSIA financed by GlobalGiving donations, Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team (KaKCT) visited the Mashiki Town Earthquake Disaster sites three times in the past year and provided diverse services of delivering free food, becoming a part of event activities, and helping the Kumamoto Kitchen Car Team (KuKCT) to start their kitchen-car businesses. Following the Kamaishi example and KaKCT’s advises, KuKCT developed an organization, called Revival Mashiki (RM) in order to generate diverse redevelopment activities. As the final part of KaKCT support, the key members and their families of RM were invited to come to Kamaishi City. They came into Kamaishi at 14:00 on August 5 (Sat.), 2017, and left there around 14:00 on August 6 (Sun.), by driving 3,400 km round trip.

The purposes of the invitation were diverse: (1) to show the seriousness of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster, whose remnants are still there even after six years; (2) to learn about diverse activities developed by Kamaishi City for its recovery and redevelopment; (3) to give the appreciation letter of Mashiki Town Head to the Mayor of Kamaishi City for providing diverse help to Mashiki Town; (4) to participate into the evens of “Kamaishi Yoisa Dance Festival” held in the evening of August 5, which played highly vital roles of keeping the identify of Kamaishi residents and encouraging them to continue to struggle for redevelopment; and (5) finally to give RM visitors, especially their children, a chance to enjoy a relaxed moment in a beach. Although the stay was just an overnight event, it was full of interaction with local people, learning, encouragement, emotionally moving scenes, and enjoyment. This event meant a lot to the leading members of RM and their families.

They stayed overnight in Otsuchi Town, which is a neighboring town to Kamaishi located 12 km away. The Otsuchi Town Hall remains as a heart-breaking remnant of the disaster, since about 40 out of 60 Town Hall staffs, including the Town Head, died because of tsunami. They all moved out of the building, because of broken lights inside the building, trying to work out strategies to cope with the earthquake in large tents set on a parking area. Then, the tsunami came and took away the lives of all administrative staffs above and including the rank of section chief. Only 20 succeeded to go up to the top of the Town Hall Building to stay alive. Consequently, the town became completely paralyzed, delaying its redevelopment. RM members and their children went to pray in front of the statue (Picture 1), and were really surprised at the height of tsunami wave and understood the severity of the disaster.

Right before the “Kamaishi Yoisa Dance Festival,” KaKC and KuKC members all gathered at a restaurant, called Becks, which used to operate a kitchen car after the disaster and successfully earned enough money to rent a space in a newly established shopping arcade. There, over soft drinks, they had a chance to hear experiences of its kitchen car operation and also KaKC operations from its administrative staff. Then, they all changed into RM’s sweat shirts with the design of Kizuna (bondage), stating “Hand in Hand, One Love-One Heart, Mashiki,” and waited for their turn to be on the stage of “Kamaishi Yoisa.” Everybody including children went up to the stage, and the representative of RM read the letter from the Town Head of Mashiki-cho to the Kamaishi Mayor (Pictures 2 and 3). It was really an important moment of showing a sense of cooperation and bondage which KaKC has been working hard to develop.

Then, all members joined a team of volunteers from UBS in Tokyo to participate in this dance festival, one of whom was from Mashiki Town and some from foreign countries. Not having time to learn how to dance, RM members including children were dancing freely and really enjoying it. It was quite a heavy exercise of two hours, getting sweaty and hungry (Pictures 4 and 5). Then, back to Becks, everybody enjoyed eating and drinking till late at night, while children went to their hotel after eating.

The next day, all went to another restaurant alongside a beach for breakfast, which is operated by another graduate of the kitchen car operation. Then, they all went to a beach to enjoy swimming and play with beach sand (Pictures 6 and 7). This trip was really memorable for RM members to see Kamaishi and deliver the letter from the Mashiki Town Head to the Kamaishi Mayor and was really enjoyable for children, dancing in Kamaishi Yoisa and swimming in beach. Their visit was even reported the next day in the front page of Kamaishi Newspaper dated August 9, 2017 (Picture 8).

Since the fund to support KuKC is running out, this trip could be the last time that DSIA can offer to help people in Mashiki Town. But at least, DSIA’s supports enabled to establish a special organization in Mashiki Town for redevelopment and create a ground for mutual support and help between Mashiki Town and Kamaishi City, especially through kitchen car operations which DSIA has been supporting since 2011 in Kamaishi. DSIA is highly appreciative of GlobalGiving and its donors for enabling DSIA to develop a system of mutual help in disaster recovery and redevelopment. We express our deep gratitude to many who helped us to provide helping hands to many disaster-stricken people in Mashiki Town and Kamaishi City.

Letter from Mashiki Town Head
Letter from Mashiki Town Head
Picture 3: Reading the letter on the stage
Picture 3: Reading the letter on the stage
Picture 4: Dancing in Kamaishi Yoisa
Picture 4: Dancing in Kamaishi Yoisa
Picture 5: Joining volunteers from UBS in Tokyo
Picture 5: Joining volunteers from UBS in Tokyo
Picture 6: Breakfast at ex-kitchen car operator
Picture 6: Breakfast at ex-kitchen car operator
Picture 7: Enjoying swimming
Picture 7: Enjoying swimming
Picture 8: Article in Kamaishi Newspaper
Picture 8: Article in Kamaishi Newspaper

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Organization Information

Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA

Location: Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​socialinnovation.jp/​
Project Leader:
Yoshitaka Okada
Tokyo, Tokyo Japan
$2,905 raised of $46,000 goal
 
18 donations
$43,095 to go
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