Japan: A Sendai Report by a Supporter―Witnessing the Plight with Her Own Eyes (2)

One of the AAR JAPAN longtime supporters, Ms. Toshi Morikawa, visited Miyagi prefecture in this early August.  She describes the calamity after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the strength of the local people.

A Start from Zero with AAR JAPAN

High School Girls Showed Their Big Smile,
 Receiving New Bicycles(July 28, 2011)
I met so many remarkable people on this trip. I met a bicycle shop owner, who lost everything, and whom AAR is helping to get started again. AAR negotiated with a leading bicycle maker in Japan to sell  200 bicycles to this shop at greatly reduced prices, and AAR bought them from him at normal prices. Lack of transportation is still a  major problem throughout the region. So many cars have been lost to the tsunami and most local trains and buses are not yet running. 

I also met a businessman and his wife from Osaka. They donated several thousand towels, to pass out to people who came to take a bath, set up by AAR in collaboration with the Self Defense Forces(SDF). SDF mobilized tanker trucks to transport hotwater from hotsprings. Makeshift baths at five locations continued for two months, where a  daily average of 500 people came to bathe. How good a fresh towel must have felt, after their first bath in weeks!  The couple came to see what they could do next.

The New Role of “Oyaji no Kai”

I met some members of “Oyaji no Kai", (Papas' Club) : a tatami-mat maker, a bookstore keeper and an economics teacher at Tohoku University. The club had been formed before the earthquake and tsunami, mainly for papas to play more with children. After March 11, amidst utter confusion and lack, the club rose to the occasion to be an informal, efficient communicator, informing which schools need what and who can provide what. From just three clubs before March 11, they have expanded to 113 in Miyagi prefecture alone. Due to its informal origin, schools are sharing freely any used items or odd pieces. It was the Papas’ Club that tipped off AAR about schools wanting carts and bicycles.

A Container-Shopping Street became a New Gathering Spot

A Container-Shopping Street Warmly Welcomes
 Local People(July 1, 2011, Ishinomaki)

On August 6th, a unique shopping street had its “grand opening” in Onagawa in Ishinomaki city. Onagawa is a town of 3800 households, nearly totally washed out, leaving just 800 houses still standing. All shops are gone, too, with just one convenience  store open. Since May, AAR has provided 30 containers to be used as temporary houses. Then, the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s youth committee came up with an idea of lining them up to create a container-shopping street. Eight shops ~ a florist, clothing store, fruit store, and shops selling foodstuff and electric goods, etc., make up the shopping street, with a table in the center that serves as a café.

The shopping street is flourishing. People, particularly seniors, seem so happy to be able to get their daily foodstuff nearby. So many have lost their cars and are without a refrigerator. The chamber is delighted to see a new gathering spot forming for the community. The container-shopping street is likely to continue for quite some time, as the shopkeepers say they have no prospect of opening their real shops, not within five years. AAR is thinking containers may be useful in many other ways. 

(to be continued)