Keep tsunami-stricken isatomae community alive

by Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA
Jul 27, 2012

Tent is Active as Multi-purpose Community Center

Sign boards of tent shops and mountain school
Sign boards of tent shops and mountain school

During winter due to extremely cold weather, the tent for shops in Isatomae, Minami-sanrikucho, was rather quiet. Only a barbershop was in operation with several transparent and thick plastic curtains to prevent oil-heated warm air leaking out of the enclosed section. In this cold weather, despite free rent in the tent, many shops moved out to government-constructed temporary-shops with much nicer, warmer-in-winter, and cooler-in-summer environments, but naturally with a highly expensive monthly charge.

Now in summer time, not only the barbershop is there in operation as usual, but also a mountain school (Tengu no Yama Gakko) is offering mountain survival lessons to children. They rented a piece of land close to the tent to teach children not only how to survive in the nature, but also how to cultivate vegetables and construct temporary shelters. Everyday many children gather in the tent to join lessons as one of children’s summer vacation activities.

The school also brought an electric sign board to attract people to come to the tent shops over the weekend, when two additional shops are operating. The liquor shop which was previously operating frequently on weekdays is now operating only over the weekend, since the owner got a bus driver job to prevent him from opening the shop on weekdays. He, however, developed private-brank sake, named “Utatsu,” the old name of the location, attracting some customers. A food shop is also open over the weekend to attract customers to the tent. So, basically four shops are in operation in the tent.

The tent is also becoming a convenient place for diverse town events. The mountain school often holds a parents-children party, and the tent is especially helpful when it rains outside. The mountain school also created a children’s mikoshi for a summer festival, and the tent became the center of mikoshi construction as well as a practice
ground for children parading around Isatomae with the mikoshi. The government-constructed temporary-shops also hold events frequently, but when it rains this tent becomes the place of events.

Isatomae received a large number of paper-folded cranes (orizuru) after the Tsunami Disaster, and now the town government is hanging them on a side of a steep hill with a sign written, “To people in the world, thank you very much.” But, to my great surprise, preparations for this displayed orizuru by coating with plastic and piercing them through with a thread have been conducted at a corner of the tent. They still have far more orizuru to process. This is a reason why I say that the tent is becoming a multipurpose community center.

Another surprising finding is that now a Isatomae reconstruction plan is in a process of being formulated. The Central Government is showing a blue print to Isatomae people, while it is trying to incorporate local opinions in the plan. What is clear now is that the government is going to elevate the present government-constructed-shop area by piling up sand from the mountain. When this is to be implemented, these shops will be dismantled and have to be moved back to the tent until every construction (elevated land, dike, road, and shops) is completed, which will take a couple of years. Meanwhile, the tent will become the center of commercial activities in the village. Besides, one of two newly-planned residential areas to be constructed for people in the temporary housing to move in will be right next to the tent. In a sense, this tent may transform into a frequently-used community center even after the government construction plan is completed.

Although the use of the tent has been experiencing ups and downs, I think that the tent offered diverse and valuable supports to different groups of people with different purposes in different periods. I am really grateful for your donations, and without your help Isatomae people might have suffered further without a proper substituting location in diverse stages of transformation.

Thank you very much.

In front of mountain school shop
In front of mountain school shop
Barbar Shop
Barbar Shop
Mikoshi Made by the Mountain School
Mikoshi Made by the Mountain School
"Utatsu" sake produced by tent liquor shop
"Utatsu" sake produced by tent liquor shop
"Utatsu" sake produced by the tent liquor shop
"Utatsu" sake produced by the tent liquor shop
Electric sign board for tent shops
Electric sign board for tent shops
Display of Paper-folded Crane (orizuru)
Display of Paper-folded Crane (orizuru)

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Organization Information

Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA

Location: Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Yoshitaka Okada
Tokyo, Tokyo Japan
$3,750 raised of $20,000 goal
60 donations
$16,250 to go
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