While supporting the immediate relief-supply needs of small communities affected by the triple disaster on 11 March, 2011, Team Sake is actively building up relationships and creating networks. In the process, as we see the vision of the future drawn from the villagers' hopes and ideas, we send it throughout the world on the internet, recruiting further assistance, to help bring these visions closer to realization. Providing such things as personnel (volunteer manpower), commodities, technical skills, and information, many people coming from across the nation, and indeed the globe, are able to use this website to assist survivors in whichever ways they themselves choose. This process in itself is considered to be the most encouraging and sustainable way of offering both short-term and long-term support for the villagers.

Aug 7, 2011

Team Sake Diary: Niranohama Village

Villagers’ needs


The Niranohama Lion Dance is appointed as one of the village's cultural assets. During the early Showa period (mid-twentieth century), an old man paid a visit to Atago Shrine on one of the village hills. Soon after, he felt a strange presence and saw a shining-eyed lion. Though he was very surprised, he went up close to have a look at it. It turned out to be the hunched up root of an old pine tree. He took it home and made a lion’s head from it. Since then, the people in Niranohama have been performing the lion dance at shrine festivals as an offering to exorcize spirits, and to pray for their families’ safety and good harvests.

There used to be about 70 households in Niranohama, yet half of them were wiped out on March 11. Villagers have been evacuating to still-existing homes. At the moment, nine villagers are staying at the local leader’s house.

Since they hadn’t received enough support from the government or private groups, they were extremely happy to see us coming to visit them. Relief goods are in short supply, in particular there is a great lack of basic daily goods. Electricity is not yet available, so they’re in need of lanterns with solar panels. Deliveries of relief supplies have not yet reached the village and there is no gasoline, so they are unable to use surviving vehicles to drive elsewhere to find them. They desperately need these basic relief goods. 

One of the three Team 5 Mission groups, comprised of five members, visited Funakoshi village in Ogatsu Peninsula. We went there to meet a villager we had met on the previous visit but couldn’t find the person. We should have asked for contact details at the time.

After that, we headed to Naburi village which we had been unable to visit the last time as there had been no way in then. When we got there, some local men were doing restoration work in the port. We went towards the upper elevations of the village so as not to disturb their work. Then, we met an old man named Mr. Shimizu who was taking a walk with his grandchild. He told us some stories.

The village is now trying to consolidate sea routes but almost all the boats were wiped out by tsunami waves. He was evacuated to the Osu Primary School and had just come back to his own house to clean it when we saw him. There’s no electricity supply yet so he can’t live in his own house. He loves fishing and had been enjoying abalone fishing in his retirement when the disaster struck.

If he moves out of the village he’ll lose his fishing license for the area, so he had hoped he could continue to live in Niranohama. However, he has decided to move to Yamagata Prefecture on May 13. When the earthquake occurred, he was driving so he was able to survive. Soon after, the roads were cut off and he had to walk home. He finally got there two days after the earthquake.

His family had been really worried about him for those two days, and so were surprised to see him when he came home. We gave him some rice wine (sake) and some Kyoto sweets for his grandchild.

After saying goodbye to Shimizu-san, we visited Sato-san in Niranohama whom we had met last time. The electricity had returned to some homes, but not all. Though random goods are now arriving daily, the water supply still hasn’t come through.

Donated Relief Goods, Sato-san’s house

There is an active volunteer group coming here who provide baths. This happens every three days and usually about 40 villagers come to bathe. Onodera-san, who had been staying with Sato-san last time we visited them, was no longer there. We were told that he had moved out after getting an electric generator. We asked Sato-san if there were enough basic supplies and goods. He said he’d been receiving enough goods to survive. It was impressive to hear him repeatedly praising “the spirit of mutual cooperation. ”

Team Sake Diary: Koharagi Village

Villagers’ needs

We first visited Koharagi on April 19. The Koharagi Junior High School has become an evacuation centre for 190 evacuees comprising 70 family units, who previously resided in Osawa area (a settlement of 4 villages). During the daytime, able-bodied people leave for work but about 40 to 50 people, mainly the old and children, still stay behind. This evacuation center is run by the villagers’ association and also holds information on all the villagers who were able to return to their homes. As such, the supply of relief goods has been well organized. We talked to one of the ladies in charge and also to the leader’s wife, and asked them what was still most needed there.

Transportation is still the problem. It would be better if there were buses available for villagers to go shopping. They also need summer clothes for the upcoming hot season. Besides Team Sake, some other volunteer groups have also been supplying goods. In this community, they have made a list of such volunteer groups for the future in case they get less support in order to keep connections. With information lines cut, there is also no means for them to know what is going on in other villages. They kindly gave us some sweet sake (amazake) and we gave them knitting kits in return.

Karakuwa Community Hall in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture

On May 6, the Team 5 Mission visited Koharagi Junior High School. We were able to talk with the mothers of some of the baseball team members. Five students were affected by the disaster because their uniforms were lost. Sportswear would be appreciated for these children so that they may practice baseball. They are not sure what happened to their spiked shoes either, so the mothers said they will find out, and get back to us if they also require donations of shoes. One of them also said that her high school-aged son also lost his Kendo uniform and bamboo sword in the tsunami. We assume that it is hard for the evacuees to ask for private or personal things that they are in need of. We have to discuss how to support them properly in these areas.

On June 6, we received a call from the villagers staying at the Koharagi Junior High School and were informed of the current situation. This is what they said: “Thank you very much for sending us supply goods. Some evacuees have been able to move to apartment complexes and the number of people staying here has been decreasing. However, about 40 to 50 people are still here as they did not win any rooms in the lottery. There is a plan to build temporary housing on the playing grounds of the local Junior High School.

Before the rainy season comes, we would like to start washing blankets. Even though we’ve been receiving enough laundry detergent, we don’t have any fabric softener. Sorry to keep asking Team Sake for donations, but you are very kind and it’s easy to ask you for such a favor. Please know that we really appreciate your support. ”

Villagers gather every Sunday to discuss how to reconstruct the village but they are still in need of long-term support. We’re glad that villagers in Koharagi feel free to ask favors from Team Sake. We would like to keep such this relationship going with them into the future.

The Trip 8 Mission revisited Koharagi, Karakuwa Peninsula on June 16. We headed to the Koharagi Junior High School Evacuation Center in Kesennuma City. We have been staying at the Koharagi Junior High School Evacuation Center along with the evacuees from the Osawa settlement.

When we went inside, some women were knitting with kits Martina Umemura has been sending. They said “Once we have settled down in temporary houses, we will definitely visit Kyoto.” “Without knitting, we wouldn’t have known what to do for the last two months. The other day, Martina-san came here with her family all the way from Kyoto to give us knitting classes. She knitted socks halfway and then let us try knitting the heel parts. It was great fun!”

Martina buys the knitted goods from the Koharagi women and sells them at hand-made markets in Kyoto.

Through the assistance of the Kyoto Center for Climate Action where Mitsuharu Kawate (a Team Sake member) works, bitter gourd (goya) seedlings are being planted as green curtains at temporary houses situated on the grounds of Koharagi Primary School. It will help decrease the temperature of the houses this summer. “Goya Sensei”, a mascot for the Fukuchiyama Environmental Conference, visited Koharagi.

Ryotan Nichinichi Newspaper, June 20, 2011
“Temporary houses with 200 goya seedlings from Fukuchiyama.”
Green Ambassador “Goya Sensei” from Fukuchiyama City is going to visit Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. He will help plant goya seedlings around the temporary houses in preparation for the upcoming heat this summer.

The seedlings were grown at ESPEC Corporation in Fukuchiyama. The company also prepared planter boxes, 200 seedlings, and 120 bags containing 28 liters each of horticultural soil. The transport of these supplies requires a 2-ton truck.

The plants are going to Koharagi Elementary School in Karakuwa village, Kesennuma City. People are staying in temporary housing on the playing field. There are 5 ridges with 6 housing units each and an assembly hall too. 

In the village where those people were living 140 out of 180 houses were wiped out by the tsunami. Manami Taniguchi from ESPEC Corporation who got there earlier says it is shocking to see the big differences between the quietness of the primary school on the hill and the miserable state of the bay areas. “Seeing villager’s positive attitudes to rebuild their community, I feel very strongly that I should do something for them,” she said.

ESPEC is also donating 30 goya recipe books created by the Fukuchiyama Women’s Association.  

Goya Sensei is going to plant the seedlings with the villagers and employees of the ESPEC Corporation and then visit Minami Sanriku village to join a restoration event.

Ryotan Nichinichi Newspaper, June 25, 2011
“Goya Sensei sends green curtain to Kesennuma City”

A mascot for Fukuchiyama Environmental Conference, Goya Sensei, planted 200 bitter gourd seedlings for the villagers residing in temporary homes in Koharagi. The villagers say that they are looking forward to taking care of them and seeing them grow. They used to live in a fishing hamlet where 140 out of the 180 houses were wiped out by tsunami waves.

It was raining heavily on June 24, yet with the cooperation between Manami Taniguchi, a employee of ESPEC Corporation, and almost all of the villagers from the temporary houses, they were able to finish planting the seedlings in about three hours.

Recipe books and towels were also sent to the villagers. Manami Taniguchi says “This green curtain is just the beginning of our exchange.”

On June 23, the group from Fukuchiyama also visited the Koharagi Children’s Daycare Center in Kesennuma City to give them sunflower seedlings and letters from the Himawari Daycare Center in Izaki, Fukuchiyama.

At the Koharagi Daycare Center, 7 out of 17 children lost their homes and 5 of them are staying at the Koharagi Junior School Evacuation Centre. The children and their parents were happy to receive the gifts.

Team Sake Diary: Kobuchihama Village

Villagers’ needs

On April 12, the Team 3 Mission visited a fishing village called Kobuchihama known for its cultivation of oysters and wakame seaweed. Most of the surviving villagers had evacuated to a big shelter nearby, but about twenty of them are coming back to the village each day, determined to begin reconstruction by themselves. After the first big earthquake had struck, about fifty of the local fishermen went out to sea to protect their boats. When they came back to the land, they were very shocked to see their village completely devastated by the tsunami.

One villager is generating electricity using a private generator. Another couple created a bathtub on the first floor of their devastated home. We gave them all a chain saw the next day (April 13) to help with this kind of work, as well as for cutting firewood and removing the rubble. This tool is a necessity for them to make progress more easily.

They had numerous concerns about their future. They wanted to know more about the situation outside their village, and were seeking other helpful information, especially about Fukushima nuclear power plant and distribution impact because it was so hard to know from the radio alone. They were very happy that we came from Kyoto. One woman said, “I am so happy. Even though I haven’t found one of my relatives yet, I will take one more step.” She thanked us time and again, and welcomed us warmly with coffee and sweets even we had politely declined. We always tell villagers that we are also very thankful for these heart-to-heart connections that make both parties even stronger.

On April 17, when the Team 4 Mission arrived in the village, some villagers were building a temporary house. We gave them sake (rice wine), groceries, towels, electric invertors, and an extension cord amongst other things. It was a very cold day. We also gave everyone there belly-warmer ties (harumaki) and hats which were especially appreciated.

During the Team 4 Mission, Robert Mangold was on the way towards Sanriku area for another volunteer mission, and joined us in Kobuchihama on April 20. (He is an American carpenter living in Kyoto who set up IDRO Japan in March 2011 to assist victims of the triple disaster. He has been collaborating with Team Sake and offering assistance to some of the same areas that Team Sake are supporting.)

When Rob arrived, the villagers were just about to move a bathtub place. His donation of tools including a buzz saw, drill, handsaw, bar, nails, and hammer were much appreciated. His timing was just right! We then listened to the survivors talk about what they had experienced at the time the earthquake and tsunami hit. As it is such an arduous thing for them to talk, it’s very important for us to listen carefully. Once again, we were brought to realize how important it is important for Team Sake to cultivate proper relationships with those we are assisting.

After driving overnight from Kyoto with three drivers on traffic-free roads, we arrived in Kobuchihama again on the afternoon of May 1. Villagers had begun to work together with the target of recommencing wakame seaweed farming in the autumn. Along with some IDRO Japan volunteers, we helped by removing sludge from the main workplace. First, we moved the large machinery into the corner, and then we put the sludge into baskets and took it outside. At the same time, everyone collected scattered fishing tools. As more than a month had passed since the disaster, it smelled very bad, like rotten eggs, because the dredged up seawater had become putrid. We fully immersed ourselves in working together for about three hours, until the water came up close at high tide. Because the Oshika Peninsula sank 1.2m after the earthquake, the high tide has started to come even further up onto the land. There were still many cracks in the coastal road.

At night, we talked with the boss, Shacho-san, who is a leader of the fishermen, and his wife, Oka-san. He told us, “We thought about how we could repay your kindness, your great support after the earthquake. Then we realized that it could only be through the recovery of Kobuchihama. There was a moment right after the earthquake when I wanted to quit all my work. But after I met everyone from Team Sake, it brought out feelings that made me want to keep striving ahead. I really appreciate you all.”

On previous visits, they had been continually inviting us to share meals, use the bath and stay over there, but we had declined the offer each time. This time we declined the offer the first time, but when they asked us again we decided to stay. We were amazed by their hospitability. We took a bath in their brand-new bathtub and Oka-san made such a feast of homemade food that we couldn’t even finish it. They even prepared a warm sleeping space with a futon for each of us.

On May 2, we divided into a working team and a visiting team. The working team continued with sludge removal all day, cleaned big refrigerators and made a path through to the second floor. The visiting team went to Osu Elementary School, a shelter in Ogatsu-town. The school remained standing on the hill, but the center of the town was completely devastated. There were enough relief supplies there but they hadn’t been able to put them in order yet. As such, they needed to acquire a lot of big plastic boxes to deal with sorting things out, making them accessible to use, and for re-transportation. Takahashi-san, who is one of the core members running the shelter, said, “We most appreciate your long-term support in a single place. It’s hard to ask a volunteer who has just come here for the first time to do a lot of the things required, but with you, we can talk to the same people that we know and feel safe with.” Another thing he was concerned about was childcare in affected areas. He said, “There are teas and so on in the relief supplies, but there isn’t any cola. The children have been tolerating this condition with little complaint. I feel sorry for them.” Later we had an opportunity to talk to some elementary school children. They told us that they were bored with having to eat the same instant noodles all the time.

On May 4, we worked together with about sixty people removing sludge from a watercourse. Later in the day, a heavy-duty machine joined us and surprisingly, it made things much easier. Amongst the debris, there were roofing tiles, fishing tools, shutters, hoses, plants, motorbikes and many other things. In the afternoon, we managed to remove all the rubble and even made a road.

Takahashi-san’s wife, who we call Oka-san (mother), injured her wrists from doing excessive amounts of laundry by hand, but she hesitated to live in the lap of luxury. We wanted to cheer Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi up, as this couple had started taking big steps to wards restoring the village; we all decided to buy them a refrigerator and a washing machine. We were very happy to see the smiles brought by these surprise gifts.

Some of our members went back to Kyoto that night leaving four of us there. We went to stay at a parking lot in front of the Kobuchihama emergency strategy headquarters. One of us actually experienced camping out for the first time in his life. The starry sky was amazingly beautiful. We heard the singing voices of deers and frogs coming from far away.

On May 6, we cleaned up Shacho-san’s office on the second floor of their workplace. The initial clean-up and removal of sludge from the stairs and first floor had been done a couple of days before, but inside the office was all still completely messed up by the tsunami. The floor and the ceiling were deformed a bit as if they had been lifted up from underneath, and there were papers and documents stuck up on the corners of the ceiling. A locker and a couch were on the desk, and most other things were upside down. Papers and stickers were scattered everywhere mixed with rubble and sludge. Since everything was in such an awful wretched condition, we weren’t sure if we could put it all in order in a single day.

First we started by collecting and removing things from all over the place. Even the insides of the drawers were full of sludge. Masses of garbage bags started piling up. We found Shacho-san’s boat-captain’s license in one of the drawers; he was very happy to have it back again.

In the afternoon, we rearranged the furniture and equipment based on the former set-up created by Oka-san. As we proceeded, we could see the layout of a very practical office that had existed before the tsunami hit. It became even cleaner by brushing the floor. Shacho-san appreciated our efforts a lot. “Oh, it looks like I could even start working tomorrow! Thank you.” Oka-san had requested this job to be done because Shacho-san had been kept busy with other fishermen every day cleaning up the sea and the port. She was going to do by herself, but it was too hard for her to move all the big furniture and equipment. She was smiling as she looked upon the cleaned office. “Lots of memories are coming back to me. So many things happened here...”


After we had taken a bath, we were treated to a delicious dinner. It really was a large amount. We even gained a bit of weight! After six days working, we felt very sad when we had to leave. We shook hands firmly with each other and promised, “We will come back again.”

Team Sake Diary: Itabashi Village

Villagers’ needs

On the way back to Kyoto from Baba Nakayama village, we saw a sign reading “Water needed. 11 evacuees and one dog.” We decided to stop by to check out the situation. There was a house on the top of the hill. We gave them rice wine (sake) from Sasaki sake brewery in Kyoto, saying “Here is a different type of water”. Their relief goods were running out and there were few places to shop, so they were very glad to receive it along with soy sauce and seasonings, rubber boots and gloves.

While drinking some sake, the father of the house told us some stories. He is a fisherman. After the earthquake, he protected his fishing boat from damage for three days and nights by sailing it around avoiding the rubble in the sea. While telling us his stories he was smiling the whole time, yet he said “This is the first time for me to laugh like this since the disaster. I have to move forward. ”

They told us that the Nara Prefectural Police Department had been there and done so much for them. Before they went back to Nara, they had given them all the food they had. We talked to one of the ladies there too. Her daughter found seasoned powder for sprinkling on rice (furikake ) made of dried pickled plums in our supplies and was so happy. It’s her favorite. We realized the deep importance of providing this type of support to satisfy a person’s small wish. They introduced us on their blog and they also called us on the following day to see if we had arrived in Kyoto.

Team Sake Diary: Iwaisaki Village

Villagers’ needs

Looking at the sad scenery all the way, we finally got to Iwaisaki village where little groves and fields remained. We visited a house where about 70 villagers had been sleeping under the same roof since right after the earthquake. Since it was not an officially acknowledged evacuation center, they were having a tough time receiving relief goods. The ocean is in a terrible mess. The owner of the house says that he'd like to restart his wakame seaweed farming business again in two years. He still had some salted wakame seaweed stock, which he had farmed and preserved before the tsunami, and asked us to take a whole lot of it back to Kyoto. Despite our decision not to receive anything when in the affected areas, in the end, we couldn't refuse. We decided to buy it from him, and to sell it in Kyoto for them. Even so, they sold it at a very reasonable price. The owner said, “I will have to farm more seaweed for you, but not this year. ”

One of the villagers, Kiyoto Onodera, gave us some photos of Oisehama Beach near Iwaisaki village. Some were taken before and some after the earthquake. He says, “The tsunami waves took away all the life existing on the beach, even some shells that were stuck on the rocks. Nothing is left now…. Oisehama was a shoaling beach and it was a good place for children. Even I used to go there every year and swim like a child. Please post these photos on your blog so that people can see the beautiful Oisehama. ”
The Ministry of the Environment selected Oisehama (located west of Iwaisaki) as one of Japan’s best swimming beaches. Many young people and families visit the beach every summer. In winter, winter birds such as herring gulls and harlequin ducks fly to Oisehama and other parts of Iwaisaki. On top of this, it is known as a wintering spot for protected species like the beautiful Branta goose. (cited from the Kesennuma City Homepage)

Oisehama Beach Pre-disaster

Oisehama Beach Post-disaster

On May 7, we revisited the wakame seaweed aqua-farmer again. It was our third visit and they welcomed us openly. A mountain behind his house was being used as a rubble-collection point. There was a great deal more rubble piled up than when the Team 4 Mission had visited previously.

We met a couple who were visiting the aqua-farmer. The husband used to own a car company in front of a neighbouring beach but it had been wiped out by tsunami waves. As soon as the earthquake struck, he had gone to the upper storey of his factory to escape from the tsunami attacks. The earthquake was huge, and he was naturally worried about his children, so he went to their school. When he arrived at the school, all the children had already escaped to another place. On the way back, he saw the huge tsunami waves and villagers still walking in the streets, but he couldn’t help them. He says, ”Those people must have been taken away by the waves. I can’t help but drink when I think of it. ”

The wakame seaweed farmer said, “Come stay with us during the summer vacations.” He continued, “The yokozuna (highest sumo wrestling rank) statue in the head of the peninsula remained even after the earthquake and tsunami attack. It is such a strong yokozuna. It’s worthwhile having a look at it. ” We went to see it on the way back and found there was indeed a strong and dependable yokozuna there.

Yokozuna Statue
Kahoku Shimpo News Network, June 6, 2011
A family-run guest-house (minshuku) in Iwasaki village (Kesennuma City, Miyagi) that had escaped damages from tsunami waves has been accepting victims of the disaster. Right after the disaster, it accepted neighbors for two months, and now a second group of survivors is staying there. The owner has been supporting the villagers in the hope that the village will be reconstructed very soon.
This minshuku, called Sakino-ya, is located on the higher elevations of the village. Masaaki Hatakeyama and his wife started Sakino-ya in 1973 and are now running it together with their son and daughter-in-law. On March 11 when the earthquake struck, Mr. Hatakeyama was at home at his minshuku with his wife. The minshuku is located at 11meters above sea level. They saw the water level rising and became temporarily isolated. They witnessed houses in the neighborhood start to scrunch up and fall apart.
The two roads that had led from there to the city center were cut off by rubble. On the night of the 11th, with only candles for light, about 50 neighbours and city workers stayed at the minshuku.
The Hatakeyamas provided them all with food using stock they had prepared for customers. He looks back on those days and says, “Even though lifelines were not available, we co-operated with the neighbors.”
The first group of evacuees stayed until May 18 and there are currently 16 villagers still staying with them. Amongst them are Teruo Miura and his wife who lost their house. They were previously staying at different evacuation centers from each other, but thanks to Sakino-ya they could start lodging together again. His wife requires dialysis so she appreciates the well-balanced food there.
The other 10 minshuku in Iwaisaki were all destroyed. Mr. Hatakeyama says, “I hope that they will come back to restart their businesses and Iwaisaki will become a popular tourist place once again.”

Team Sake Diary: Hongo Village

Villagers’ needs

We visited Hongo on April 20th. In Hongo, 50 out of the 169 houses were wiped out by tsunami waves. 22 of the evacuees have been staying at the Hongo Community Center. We met some of the villagers who were waiting for a bus to go to a public bath. They said that there was a relief supplies distribution office not to far away, trying to distribute necessary commodities whenever villagers asked for them, and they added that delivery services were also getting back to normal. There are three areas we were visiting; Hongou, Ofune and Sakuratouge. Hongo was especially devastated.

We visited Hongo again on May 4th. Some evacuees have moved into temporary housing or prefecture-run apartments, but 16 evacuees still continue to stay at the Hongo Community Center. As we went there during the Golden Week (National Holidays), many were out of the town, but we were able to see the leader of the town as well as two ladies. Two months on, and what villagers mainly need are daily commodities such as soap and toothbrushes; and at the evacuation center, seasoning for cooking would be especially appreciated. Some relief supplies have been delivered, yet it is still hard to get certain things. They were happy to receive sesame oil, and tubed mustard, garlic and ginger from us. It’s also tough for larger items to reach the village. While talking to them, it turned out that the things most in need are: irons, laptops, printers, bicycles, sneakers for women, sandals for men, and large-sized (4L) jersey pants. The leader told us that they especially need laptops and printers to do administrative jobs for the town. We went to Kamaishi city center to purchase those requested items but could not find any large-sized clothes. A shopkeeper told us we had to go to a special store for those specific sizes of clothes. Nonetheless, we were able to buy and deliver sandals and sneakers, irons were sent later by someone who saw the blog. The villagers realized that bicycles weren’t a total necessity, though they are still (as of July) patiently hoping that computers and printers will be donated.

We talked to one of the villagers, Mr. Koike, on the phone. As of June 7th, everyone had moved out of the Community Center into temporary housing or prefecture-run apartments. He said that he was finally able to think about the future. People have been discussing their ideas on how to reconstruct the town, and presenting them to Kamaishi city. Some ideas include: filling in lower elevated zones, living on hills, building 10m-high walls by the sea and putting up solar street lamps. Mr. Koike said that villagers were particularly appreciative of all the positive support they have been receiving, and specifically thanked one of the Team Sake supporters for having sent a digital camera. They have enough food and basic supplies now, but they are still in dire need of laptops and printers.

Team Sake Diary: Hakozaki Village

Villagers’ needs
We first visited the Nishiyama family on April 21. Walking along a muddy path, we saw a house in the distance and smoke coming from a chimney. Then, we saw a sign which read “Nishiyama Evacuation Center”, there in the midst of such deep, extensive rubble.

On the night of March 11 when the earthquake and tsunami struck, the Nishiyama family heard people’s voices from the mountain above their house. They went up to the mountain and saw about 30 people evacuating to the mountain, so they invited them into their home. Though the Nishiyama’s house was also flooded and damaged, they all spent the first 3 days together there. They could see piles of rubble in the neighborhood, and in the fields, a few upper parts of houses with the lower parts gone.

About 10 people are still staying at the Nishiyama’s house. Donations of basic survival goods, such as food, seasoning, and daily commodities are appreciated. The villagers appreciate alcohol, too. We were told that a man who doesn’t usually drink had had some alcohol to warm his body up as it was just too cold to fall asleep. There are no shops around the house. Access to electricity was restored just the day before we arrived (April 20). There is still no water supply. They have been getting water from water trucks or from people staying here who have been bringing it in for them. As the electricity returned back to normal, they were able to start using a well for their water supply.

The massive tsunami waves wiped out the roads, so the only way for us to go back was on the same road we had taken to get there. 30 people are still missing. Even though the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) have come to search for them, no-one has been found yet. Male villagers are also helping them. The Nishiyama’s fed us sweet-red bean soup with rice cakes, sent by their family friend, and pickles, too. The local fishermen really thanked us for visiting from so far away, and asked us to give our contact information to the Nishiyamas so they could send us some fish when they started fishing again.

When the Team 4 Mission had visited them in April, even though one month had already passed since the earthquake, they didn’t have enough basic necessities such as blankets. Since the last diary entry, the Nishiyama family has been receiving a lot of relief goods from all over Japan because of the extended efforts of Team Sake’s networks. Thank you all for your support.

The Team 5M Mission left Kyoto and headed to Hakozaki Peninsula on the night of May 2. On May 3, the traffic was slow on the Tohoku highway due to the Golden Week National Holiday. We finally arrived at the Nishiyama’s house at 11:30am. Nishiyama-san welcomed us and introduced us to her daughter’s and son’s families who were visiting them.

As we had phoned her ahead of our arrival, and knew what was needed in the village, we started clearing rubble as soon as we got there. When we were preparing to start working, we met one of the volunteers who’d been helping out. He told us that only 45 out of 275 houses had remained in Hakozaki village. Although he was volunteering mostly with the police dogs, on that particular day he was searching for missing people with the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). He was appreciative of us coming from afar and wanted to introduce us to everyone at the evacuation center. The JSDF and/or other support vehicles were clearing houses and rubble. As Children’s Day National Holiday was coming up on May 5, a large number of flying carp streamers (koinobori ) were seen in Hakozaki as well as in many other villages.

After one hour of work, Nishiyama-san prepared lunch for us, whereby we gave her alcohol and Kyoto sweets in return. While having lunch, we saw the remains of unstable houses being taken down. Some people were watching their houses being cleared away, while others were looking for things in the rubble. We talked to a couple who were visiting the hometown from Tokyo. They told us that they didn’t know what else to do but just look on at what was happening.

Cleaning up the rubble was tougher than expected. Some timber was wet and too heavy to move single-handedly. We cleared one block and ended the day’s work at 4pm. We went out to the east side of the village to see some other villagers. We talked to some women and it seemed like people were now receiving enough supplies. After giving a cooking pot and some pepper to them, we talked to the leader of the village. He said that food was being sufficiently supplied and appreciated all the support from all over Japan.

This is an article on a volunteer working in Hakozaki village.

The Mainichi Daily News, May 18, 2011
“Trainee Police-dog “Clala” finds Six Bodies with her Amazing Nose.”

Nobuaki Konno from Hakozaki village in Kamaishi city has been searching for missing people with his police dog in training and found 6 villagers. “Thanks to her nose!” he says.
On May 11, Mr.Konno was driving home from work when he saw the approaching tsunami waves. He turned around straightaway and was able to escape from them. His house was safe as it was on a hill, yet he still evacuated to his friend’s house.
As they were on hills, 45 houses were safe out of 275 in the entire village. As of May 16, 49 villagers have been confirmed dead and 22 villagers are still missing. Mr.Konno started searching for villagers 5 days after the earthquake. On March 18, 12 of his friends and their police-dogs from both inside and outside Iwate prefecture joined him.

Since 1983, Mr.Konno has been engaged in police investigations and in missing person searches as a police-dog trainer. He just lost the police-dog he’d had for 5 years, and had to search with one-year-old Clala who is still in training. He told Clala to look for villagers and when she could smell something she barked or pawed the ground. He then wrote “Dog” as a sign for the JSDF to search the spot further.

Mr.Konno lost his job with the company he worked with for 40 years because it was damaged by the earthquake. However, he helped in the search for missing people and contacted their families. He is now employed to help clean the affected areas. “I appreciate all the friends I’ve met as a police-dog trainer and all the police-dogs, including Clala.”

We would like to introduce some articles on Hakozaki village.

The Mainichi Daily News, June 24, 2011
“Citizens’ Future Town Building Plans in Four Villages of the Hakozaki Peninsula.”

Survivors in 4 villages of the Hakozaki Peninsula (Kamaishi City jurisdiction) have started working together on future town building plans which consider minimization of potential damage from natural disasters. After the earthquake, the road that connects the peninsula to the city center was cut off and the peninsula became isolated. They are discussing the possibility of building new roads which connect the 4 areas on the peninsula. “We would like to assemble ideas on the peninsula and tell the government,” they say. At the time of the disaster, “there was no means to contact the city, and it wasn’t until three days after the earthquake that I could make contact.” “I’m afraid that villagers will not come back to the peninsula.”
On June 6, 20 representatives of each village in the Hakozaki Peninsula (Ryoishi, Nehama, Hakozaki and Kuwanohama) gathered in a junior high school in Kamaishi City. It was the first gathering after the earthquake and they pointed out some problems regarding disaster prevention.
A 19m-high tsunami wave hit the Ryosei Bay area. About 200 villagers died and all the fishing grounds were destroyed. A part of the road along the coast was devastated and each village was temporarily isolated. The famous Negishi beach lost its sandy foreshore due to the ground sinking into the sea.
Mr. Matsumoto from Ryoishi village had called for people to participate in that meeting on June 6. Villagers had been discussing how to reconstruct their village since March, but he thought it best that all the villages in the peninsula should co-operate together.
At the first meeting, all the villages agreed to build another road in the mountainous area. They also discussed how villagers living in shelters could come back to the villages as soon as possible, and how beach-focused reconstruction should commence. Mr. Matsumoto says “I was a little bit nervous how the meeting would be, but found out that all the villages’ stances were the same. I would like to have some more meetings and gather opinions.”

The Mainichi Daily News, June 20, 2011
“280 Flying Carp Streamers in Hakozaki, Iwate, Symbolize Everyone’s Wishes for All Villagers to Return.”

Responding to the calls by some volunteers, 280 carp streamers (koinobori) were gathered in Hakozaki and hung up on the roof terrace of the old Hakozaki Elementary School.

Before the earthquake there were 280 houses here, yet 90% were swept away by tsunami waves and only 70 people remain living in the village.

A local fisherman, Akihiro Nishiyama, suggested putting carp streamers up to send the message to the missing villagers to come back; koi has two meanings in Japanese - “carp” and “come”. Seiichi Watanabe, who visited the village in May as a volunteer, wrote about Mr. Nishiyama’s idea on an online message board, asking people to send carp streamers to the village for free.

A cheer arose from the villagers when those colorful carps were hung up. There were messages from the senders on some. One was, “I hope that this carp that was flying in the sky in Saitama Prefecture will fly in the North and watch over the reconstruction.” Gazing up into the sky, Mr. Nishiyama said, “I was feeling sorrow but it’s gone now thanks to everyone’s encouragement.”

Excite News, June 8, 2011
“Comic Artists (mangaka) Volunteer in Affected Area.”

From May 26~28, mangaka volunteered in Hakozaki village, Iwate Prefecture clearing rubble. As we are known to be night people, it was surprising that all the mangaka participants gathered at 5:50 a.m. at a hotel lobby in Morioka City. It took over 2 hours to drive from Morioka City to the volunteer center in Kamaishi City.

In Kamaishi City, we saw a temporary used car store set-up in the car park of a ramen shop. It was hardly surprising, considering the great number of cars which had been swept away by the tsunami waves in a suburban city where people had relied so much on cars. The primary school play ground was being used as the Self Defense Force base; dark green cars were all parked in row. Leisure facilities by the sea were being used as storage buildings for relief goods. The inhabitants seemed to be trying their best to reconstruct the village using whatever was left there.

While driving on, we sometimes saw messages hung up by locals, stating “Thank you for your support”, “Never give up!” or “We appreciate your encouragement.”

A while later, we got to an apple farmer’s house that was in a closed-off section of the bay in Hakozaki. That area had also been affected by the tsunami and most of the houses had been swept away. Luckily, the apple farmer’s house was on a hill and had escaped damage. However, the house was trapped in by mountains behind it, and by piles of rubble by the sea in front of it, isolated from the outside world for two weeks. Even after the clean-up of the rubble by the sea, relief goods continued to be in short supply, so they were living off the food sent by relatives.

Rubble by the sea had been cleaned up using heavy equipment, but as yet their apple fields still required attention. Since they’re on a higher elevation and there is rubble in between the trees, it is difficult for heavy equipment to gain access. Villagers have to clean the rubble away by hand and they lacked the manpower. We came here for this reason.

Through this work, we saw the wreckage brought on by the tsunami close at hand for the first time: concrete, mortar, parts of broken houses, smashed glass and wood. Wires were coming out of pieces of concrete and rusted nails were sticking out of bits of timber. We had to wear rubber gloves over normal gloves and put iron plates in our boots.

We had to move the wreckage to a place where heavy equipment could come in. Us mangaka usually don’t carry anything heavier than a pen, but we were working so hard. Among the rubble, things one could feel had made up the villagers lives were blended in together: photos, letters, bankbooks, certificates… Those things should not be thrown away as it may be possible to find out who the owners are at a later date.

We don’t remember how long we were working for but in the late afternoon, the dusk settled. It was not perfectly clean, but for us, desk workers, we did quite well. We will never forget the sweetness of the food offered to us by the apple farmer’s family.

Team Sake Diary: Funakoshi village

Villagers’ needs
Photos: Funakoshi, Ogatsu town, Ishimaki city, Miyagi prefecture

The third mission out of Kyoto started heading for the Ogatsu peninsula, near Ishimaki city, on April 11.

On the way, we discovered the overwhelming destruction while we were driving along the coastline. There were trace-marks where the tsunami had come up to the mountain. The houses and other buildings of these coastal areas were all gone. Hideous scenes continued even when we came away from the coastal areas and into the valley. We could really feel how fearful the tsunami had been.

As we went through the ruins and rubble, we found the remains of a fisherman’s village called Funakoshi and a lone villager. Most of the surviving villagers had evacuated to the Osu Elementary School (about 200 evacuees), or left the area to stay elsewhere, but there were still about ten villagers remaining in five houses. One couple had decided to stay in the village, even though their children had gone to Sendai because they were too scared to look at the sea. They believe that if they keep making efforts to restore the village, their children will be able to come back whenever they want. There was no electricity and not enough fruit and vegetables, but they told us that there were enough supplies to sustain life. We gave them miso, umeboshi, sake, and yatsuhashi (soybean paste for soups, pickled plums, white liquor and sweet soft rice cakes) from Kyoto.

These villagers took only an optimistic, forward-looking attitude. We would really like to support them.

On May 5, we finally met one of the leaders of Funakoshi, Mr. Koichi Nakazato, and he explained some things to us about the current state of the village. There were twenty-six people still living in the village, and the electricity was to be restored on May 10. The water supply was not yet restored, but there was spring water to drink. Since the road had been repaired, they were able to go shopping again. Nakazato-san is a fisherman specializing in salmon (sake). He told us what he saw from a hill and how the tsunami swallowed the whole village. There were more than a hundred fishing vessels docked or out at sea, but the tsunami took them all away. They really need volunteers who can help with cleaning up the village, and especially extra hands to repair the boats in order to recommence their working lives. They were also very concerned about the explosion of Fukushima nuclear plant. He gave us a swordfish beak, and a Japanese glass fishing-float as a gift, even though we declined the offer again and again, he insisted. He wanted to let people know how much he appreciated such a lot of support after the earthquake.

After receiving a phone call from Nakazato-san, we went to Funakoshi village again on May 16. He showed us around the village and told us more stories about what had happened at the time the earthquake and tsunami hit. There were 9 lives lost out of 350 villagers. Young people had helped elders, and also delivered blankets and food to an emergency evacuation area, a shrine at the top of a mountain. One person, who had a key for one of the evacuation centers, instantly realised that the center was too low to remain safe in the face of such an enormous wave, and shouted to others to go up to a higher place. A monk, who had stayed in a temple that had also been one of the designated evacuation centers, was swept away.


One villager, who lost his son’s family, said, “At first I didn’t want to see the awful sea again, but now I want to live in the same wind and the same season as my son’s family. I’m going to concentrate all my energies on recovery. I don’t wish for anything more than before. After I suffered loss, I learned the importance of family, my boat, friends, and the former abundance of Funakoshi. I want to live fully again. Although the sea is hateful, we’ve tremendously benefitted from it. I want to live with the sea again.”

All the villagers are truly committed to working for the reconstruction towards recovery and they asked us to help them with networking and ideas.

As of May 26, fifteen out of eighteen rescued boats were found to be useable, if only they could get some repairs. The villagers contacted us each time they found out something new about the sea: “the sea is more beautiful than we thought”, “sea-food has been growing well”, and so on. They are true fishermen. They have been spending most of their time cleaning up the beach or the land.

Robert Mangold (a carpenter from Kyoto who set up IDRO Japan), has been collaborating with Team Sake and offering assistance to some of the same areas that Team Sake are supporting. He and IDRO volunteers delivered some appliances to the Funakoshi Elementary School (evacuation centre) including refrigerators, 2 washing machines, blow-fans, and microwaves for community use. As the rubble of the school was gradually removed, clean rooms were created one-by-one for volunteers and villagers who might come back from evacuation shelters further afield. Additionally, twenty-nine villagers had started to clean up the rubble and the beach area. They are being paid for their efforts, which is a great relief. As well as the loss of human lives, homes, and material possessions, most survivors here also lost their jobs and have not had much compensation yet.
There were three carpenters present, but they hadn’t yet been able to repair the houses because there were so many other things to do. Visits by volunteer carpenters, both short-term and long-term, would be much appreciated.

The day starts around 4:30am for villagers. After their morning work, they have breakfast and finish before 7:00. Around that time, about thirty evacuees arrive by car from other areas: Ishimaki, Tomai, or Sendai. They don’t have houses or any other possessions in Funakoshi. They commute for a couple of hours and help with the clean-up, looking for things and still searching for missing people.

As the time living in evacuation shelters lengthens, it becomes harder to keep the heart together, especially for long-term evacuees who don’t have any easy access to know the situation outside. In Funakoshi, when they closed down an evacuation shelter in the village on April 10, villagers began living at separate locations. At a meeting on April 1, it was decided that meetings for all the villagers would thereforth be held on 1st and 15th of each month. There is no way of knowing how many people will come to each meeting. On June 1, we joined a special meeting aimed at informing everybody of the images of the recovered parts of the village. It also served to ask people for a show-of-hands as to whether they want to live in Funakoshi again or not. The meeting was held on the third floor of the elementary school. A hundred people gathered there. It’s impossible to explain all the details in this blog, but we were at a very important point of their history. There were powerful, touching and grateful scenes of love, but there were also such sad scenes that we couldn’t hold back the tears. More than anything else, we could really experience the nature of humanity and what it is to be human. It was anticipated that there would be many people present again at the next meeting. On the phone, Nakazato-san told us “After the tsunami, there were lots of situations where we saw each other’s bad sides. I don’t think they were caused by humans, but rather by the tsunami. A big tsunami won’t come again. The human heart will return. We don’t want to blame each other again. We just want to live again with everyone”.

On June 6, the natural wakame (seaweed) harvest began. Before the tsunami, there were more than eighty vessels, but this year, everyone shared the available boats and tools. Including two repaired boats, there were now five useable vessels. On June 10, Funakoshi started selling wakame and had good sales on that day. We also started selling excellent quality Funakoshi kombu (kelp) at several shops in Kyoto.

Despite the fact that people have been living at the elementary school, one of the effects of the disaster on March 11 was that the glass in all the windows was shattered and the frames alone could not keep out the elements. The last time Robert (IDRO Japan) was in Funakoshi, he searched for and found frames in the rubble, as well as removed some from the building. In all, he trucked eighteen broken frames back to Kyoto to be repaired. With assistance, he had each window repaired with new glass and as of June 15, we brought back them to the elementary school. Some frames were replaced with blackboards, instead of glass, which will also be very useful. By mid June, the school had been cleaned up and repaired using recycled materials from the rubble. It looked very stylish. We attended a meeting there, at which a Team Sake-introduced architect brought a 3D-model of Funakoshi. It acts as a tool to help construct the future village. As humans, we always want to reach our goals quickly, but it is important to think, share and listen to opinions, and then to think again.

As of June 30, we collected \400,000 in donations (within a day of our announcement!) in order to purchase necessary fishing tools. Thank you all very much. Since most of the boats and fishing tools in Funakoshi were swept away, we were able to assist by buying the equipment listed below and could send them directly to the village.

fishermen’s waterproof coats \11,700×20=\234,000
knives \2,600×30=\78,000
boots \5,000×14=\70,000
scissors for cutting ropes \3,410×10=\34,100
arm covers \1,050×10=\10,500

Here is the Funakoshi village blog
“Path toward recovery in Funakoshi”

Please keep checking out “VILLAGERS’ NEEDS.

Team Sake Diary: Baba-Nakayama village

Villagers’ needs

Our former name was “Team Saru”. It can mean monkey, and is part of the forename of our founding member. When the Team 1 Mission visited Baba-Nakayama village for the first time, nine day after the earthquake, one of the villagers pointed out that “saru” can also mean “leaving” in the Japanese language, but that if it were changed to “sake (salmon)”, it would imply that the Team would naturally come back again. They also very generously gave us some choice parts of their precious salted salmon, which gave us a lot of motivation as we were starting out with our relief work. Thus, Baba-Nakayama village is Team Sake’s Godparent. This village is one of the special villages for us. For more details of Team SAKE and our thoughts, visit Objectives and Background

On April 2, the Team 2 Mission headed out of Kyoto for Miyagi prefecture loaded up with relief supplies. The following day before the sunset, we arrived in the first village, Baba-Nakayama. They were very happy to receive these supplies, including items which they had specifically requested. They were especially appreciative of large-sized boots, fermented soybean paste (miso), pickled plums (umeboshi), cotton-buds, nail clippers, and sleeping bags.

While they were able to look for and find large things to use from the rubble, they told us that they also wanted small things to fulfill even the finest wishes. For example, a sewing kit to change the size of relief supplies for redistribution, and earplugs to block the noise at night. They were sleeping in large numbers at Baba-Nakayama Seikatsu Center (http://babanakayama.client.jp/index.html). We heard about many things that they needed.

We couldn’t find words to explain the scenes that we’d seen on the way, but we felt all much better surrounded by pleasant local people under the star-fiilled sky. Here, everybody was helping each other. Although they didn’t know when utilities such as electricity, gas and water supply would be restored, they had decided to live in the village again as best as possible.

On the morning of April 8, the Team 3 Mission left Kyoto by truck for Sanriku area, once again loaded with mountains of relief supplies. We visited Baba-Nakayama village on April 10. The villagers were all happy that “salmon (sake) have come back,” despite the fact that the Team 3 Mission members were different from before, and it was the first visit there for all of them. We brought them the requested goods, such as earplugs, sun visors, and sandals etc.

The villagers were so full of energy. One man had taken on the role of reliable leadership by bringing everybody together, while each villager was performing their designated role for their community without any stress. It was very impressive to see the good aspects of traditional Japanese village culture through their acts. We acknowledged that Japan is strong enough to survive in times of disaster.

We asked, “Is there anything more you need?”
The villager replied, “There is nothing for now.”
Then we asked, “Do you need manpower?”
The villager replied, “No, we don’t need that either.”

We interpreted their great answers as a sign that they were working well together by themselves for the reconstruction effort. They told us that if they needed something, they would contact us. We think this is the ideal situation - that villagers are not dependent on us in terms of independence-recovery. Since it seemed like we were not really needed at that time, we left the village for the time being.

On April 13, the Team 3 Mission paid Baba-Nakayama a second visit (fifth visit overall as Team Sake). We brought some printed documents reagrding insurance coverage and legal advice that they had requested last time. (http://www.nichibenren.or.jp/ja/special_theme/data/soudanQ&A.pdf) They were very happy with our visit and asked us to stay in their house. They asked us where we had been sleeping and when we answered “in the car” they said, “It’s even worse than the victims!” and insisted that we stay. We declined the offer repeatedly, but they arranged everything anyway, as if we’d already decided and accepted their offer. In the end, we were treated to dinner and drinks and stayed for a night.

One of our principles is to do our business by ourselves as best as possible without relying on, or accepting anything from, the affected villages. However, if this principle goes too far, the relationship risks becoming just a one-way thing from “the supporters” to “the supported”; to see these villagers simply as victims of the tsunami and earthquake could mean not accepting the diversity of their human nature. So, if we’re too rigid with this principle, would it really be possible to nurture a good relationship with villagers in terms of long-term support? This issue didn’t arise before we had actually been into the villages and gotten involved in the communities. We now realize that it’s also a very important factor to accept what we are offered by villagers, especially those with great resilience like the people of Baba-Nakayama, in order to build up a reciprocal relationship.

When we were talking with the villagers and having a drink around the fire at night, one of them said, “If an earthquake were to hit Kansai area, we would carry a full load of supplies in a ten-ton ship and come to you.” Another said, “I wonder how far it would be from the Maizuru Port (the nearest port from Kyoto city) to your place.” “A ship of ten tons would be too small!” and so on. Laughter continued throughout the conversation. We were so grateful for this precious moment and appreciated their kindness and great hospitability. In the face of their trying to overcome such a situation together, their forward-looking approach was just beautiful.

On April 17 the Team 4 Mission went to Baba-Nakayama. The villagers were happy we came to visit continuously. We learned that the amount of relief supplies coming to the village had been gradually decreasing. We heard about their concerns regarding the nuclear power plant, the future of fishery, future housing (including the issue of temporary housing), subsidies, and other things. We were treated to dinner, drinks, an open-air bath (although only for men), and a place to sleep for the night.

They are such well-disciplined people that they have their meals in order from the young and old first, to the men and women afterwards. Both the men and the women seemed very busy with not so much time to spare or to dwell on their own personal issues. We asked after the necessities required, such as sauces and seasonings. They said, “Some dressings would be nice as we’re running out,” but unfortunately we didn’t have any with us. The situation has been changing moment by moment. As electricity poles had just been installed nearby, they were expecting to get the power back in about ten days. One villager said, “It would be very nice to have music, but the evacuation center (Baba-Nakayama Lifestyle Center) is not of that atmosphere. But if there is a computer, we can play music or DVDs when electricity is restored, even though I am not sure when there would be an internet connection.” This time an information representative asked us to fill out the list of relief supplies we had brought in. On the list, there was even a checkbox for whether the goods had been distributed for free, or had required payment from the villagers.


On May 7, while we were preparing to apply for a subsidy for Team Sake, we suggested to the Baba-Nakayama village representative that they also apply for a subsidy for themselves. He said, “Honestly, what we want right now is a ship! There is not even a single ship remaining in this village. But the fact is we can’t use a ship unless we finish cleaning-up the area inside the sea. We have been able to borrow a jumbo (heavy machinery) for two months free of charge. Today is actually a day-off, but we’re working with the jumbo because we don’t want to waste the limited time. Since we can’t decide about a subsidy application only for Nakayama village, we’re going to talk with Baba village and exchange views and opinions.” We told him that we would be willing to help them out for the application. “There have been lots of volunteers coming to help Baba-Nakayama village. Thanks to them, we’ve been getting through. We have been okay so far without relying on government administration at all. But in terms of temporary housing and things that may come to us from now on, we’ll eventually need to receive a favor from them.”

Later, we gave a simple telescope (10×25 magnification) to one of the villagers who had wanted it to look at the sea to know what was floating on it’s surface. Although he could see better with this simple telescope, he actually wanted a standard telescope with which he would be able to see three times more than with this one. There had been an overturned boat floating on the surface of the sea, but later the waves moved it elsewhere, so he wanted to confirm where it had ended up. It would be very helpful for him to know what is floating on the sea for when he goes to salvage things.

On this blog, Villagers’ needs are only listed in Japanese, as these lists are constantly changing and high-maintenance to update. If you would like to send goods, but unable to read Japanese, please contact Team Sake directly. Please provide your information including an estimate of how much you would like to donate, and where you live.

If you are able to read Japanese and have decided what you would like to send, please contact us to double-check the goods you have selected are still required, and then, once posted, contact us again to inform us that they’ve been sent. Please write a short note to the villagers to accompany the donation (English and pictures are okay).

On the same day, the town office released information about temporary housing. We had actually talked with villagers about future housing before. We had gotten to know that there were more households who want to move into temporary housing immediately (even though they’re located a bit far away), than those want to stay in temporary housing in the village; the number of households that want to stay in the village are fewer than the number of temporary houses planned to be built in the village. Because villagers had discussed and considered this before, it seems that confusion could be avoided. We were very happy that the information we had provided seemed helpful for them.

This is an article on the Team 1 Mission volunteers to Baba-Nakayama village. At that stage, we hadn’t yet become known as Team Sake.

The Yamaguchi edition of the Mainichi Daily News, May 15, 2011
“Walking in a Stricken Area: the Tohoku Earthquake, Strong Realization of Face-to-face Support”, by Kazuyuki Ogaki

After being sent to Iwate prefecture, I went to interview two graduate students who were carrying relief supplies from Kyoto to the villages isolated from transportation and communication due to the disaster.

Masaru Adachi (34) and Hidetoshi Ito (25) are members of the Kyoto University cycling club. With the aim for delivering relief supplies to places cars can’t get into, they left Kyoto on March 20 in a small pickup truck loaded with relief supplies and their mountain bikes. On 21st, they went into some isolated villages in Minami Sanriku town, Miyagi prefecture, and delivered supplies including rice and fermented soybean paste (miso). On 22nd, I met with them in Ichinoseki city, Iwate prefecture. I joined them in their truck and we went around Rikuzentakada city and Ohunewatari city together. On the evening of that day, we arrived in Baba-Nakayama village, Minami Sanriku town on the Kashiwazaki peninsula.

Two hundred households were washed away by the tsunami, and there were 95 evacuees in a small community center. We managed to arrive in the village by truck, but the coastal road was blocked by the rubble. So in order to go to the next village where relief supplies were being sent and assembled, they needed to go on a very steep, narrow mountain road. Electricity had not even been restored yet. One woman (46), returning home from assisting victims of the disaster in Sendai city, collapsed from exhaustion and was not able to call for ambulance. The woman fell into convulsions and died a few days later. Kurayoshi Abe (61), a fisherman and a representative of the evacuation center, said in anger and chagrin, “It cannot be helped, even if we pray for the entire God.”

When Mr. Adachi and Mr. Ito were going to unload rice, miso, gasoline etc. from the truck, victims came to them one after another, with smiles on their faces in much appreciation. What was very impressive was their expression of happiness that people had come from outside. “Thank you for coming all the way to such a place.” “Please don’t forget this village.”

In the truck bon the way back Mr. Adachi muttered, “Since the stricken area is so huge, there are some areas where the support will come too late. Some of them will think that they have been forgotten. I think the face-to-face support is important so that the supporters and the survivors can understand each other.”

“Reconstruction of the stricken area will take a great many years. If we can see the faces of the victims, the support may continue longer. I realized the necessity of this face-to-face support.”

Baba-Nakayama is one of the first villages we went into, and they gave us a name: “Sake.” Baba-Nakayama is a very special place for Team Sake. We had been stopping by at this village each time we came, but after the Team 5 Mission, we didn’t go back for more than a month. We’d been keeping an eye on the progress of their reconstruction efforts through the website of the Baba-Nakayama Lifestyle Center (http://babanakayama.client.jp/).

The Team 8 Mission visited Baba-Nakayama village on June 14. The villagers were very surprised to see us walking down from the opposite direction, just as they’d been eating salmon and talking about us, saying “we haven’t seen much of Team Sake these days.”

Kurayoshi Abe, one of the leaders in the village, seemed as busy as before dealing with people dispatched from the town and other matters.

As yet it is still impossible to restart fishery in Baba-Nakayama, but there is an allowance from the town administration for the clean-up of rubble, so the men can receive a subsistence wage for the work they do. Whilst the women have been supporting the whole village, their work doesn’t create any income. Kikumi, one of the leaders of the women, was solicitous of everyone. “I wonder if there are any jobs or an allowance available, even the rate is 300 yen per hour.” We informed a reporter of this, who urged us to write it down on paper, but we couldn’t put it into words very well.

The villagers are trying to create opportunities, such as organizing knitting classes, so that everyone can become closer through group circles. They think that the knitting circle could help relieve people who’ve been missing their family or can’t help but be in deep thought. It’s also a means to cherish the relationship between people and this evacuation center, even after they move into temporary housing and start to live separately again.

Their needlework is of such a high quality that I suggested they sell their needlework with their own logo, to define the goods as made by Baba-Nakayama women. We strongly remember what Kikumi said at the beginning of April - that there was no time at all to spare for knitting. So at this time, we would very much like to assist them with the needlework they have been able to recommence. Is there anyone out there who can design the logo?

We really want these women to keep their spirits up until they are finally able to go back to fisheries work and shine as their true selves. They have great way of sticking together, and wisdom that have been drawing upon to this day to support the village as a whole.

Kikumi got clear away from the tsunami, holding her three-month-old grandchild in her arm, regardless of her mobile phone, glasses, driver’s license, wallet and everything else. She’s been getting through to the present by thinking about everyone. She’s always smiling and that really cheers us up. We listened to her stories while we ate pickled turnip and fresh cucumbers harvested from the field. They were very delicious.

Despite the fact that there had been about 200 evacuees at one time in Baba-Nakayama Lifestyle Center, there were only about 60 evacuees remaining. It had finally been decided that the temporary housing being built on the hill behind the village would be ready to live in in about a week. With the availability of temporary housing opening up, this evacuation center will come to a close at last.

Team Sake Diary: Tsurugahara Village

Villagers’ needs


Map: Sannohama, Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture

On April 18, the Team 4 Mission visited Tsurugaura where relatives of a wakame seaweed farmer we had visited in Iwaizaki were living. We met a ninety-two-year-old grandmother and two other women. Since they weren’t able to go shopping without a car, the groceries, warm underwear and other things we had brought were much appreciated. We also gave them their relatives’ mobile phone number. They were very thankful to have it, since they had only had the number for their relatives’ now in-operable home-phone and hadn’t been able to reach them yet. The woman next door popped in to see us. She wanted boots, but unfortunately we didn’t have her size. Nonetheless, we were able to give her some groceries and some other necessities.

We visited the Tsurugaura Life Culture Center, an evacuation center where there were about thirty evacuees. The centre has also been providing food for villagers who are not staying there. We gave them supplies that they requested including cooking oils, soy sauce, miso (fermented soybean paste for cooking and soups), kombu (kelp), and umeboshi (pickled plums). We also gave them green tea from Kyoto and a special little snack for a fifth-grade girl. When we asked what they needed, they told us they needed clothes that would fit them.

One woman told us what the village was like at the time the tsunami hit. As oil leaked into the sea and started burning, the village turned into a blazing inferno for about two nights. She was very scared by the terrific sounds caused by exploding propane gas cylinders; she recalled that it sounded like bombs. As we held her hands and encouraged her to keep spirits up, tears welled up in her eyes.

On May 7, we revisited the old grandmother’s house in Tsurugaura. Another three families in the neighborhood also came over and we gave them groceries like oils and sauces, breathing masks, women’s boots that they could wear in the field for working and gardening, and so on. We stayed for lunch and had ramen (noodle soup) and stewed food. The stewed food was especially delicious. Since the earthquake and the tsunami, they hadn’t been able to watch cable TV at all. Despite the fact that there were some houses around that could still get good reception, this house is located between the valleys, so cut off. We felt the weakness of cable TV network operations in the disaster conditions.

As none of the families present had a car, it was still really hard for them to go shopping. One woman used to go shopping by motorbike, but now the road was so full of bumps and potholes that she was too scared to go by herself.

Grandmother was very happy to receive a photo that the Team 4 Mission had taken last time. She talked a lot about the old times and the tsunami. We were very happy to converse with her for a while. Holding our hands, she sent us on by saying, “You are like my grandchildren. Please come back again.” We realised that there were many different ways and means to support affected people.

On the same day, we also revisited the Tsurugaura Life Culture Center. We had talked with them on the phone a couple of days before coming, and confirmed their needs. We brought a new refrigerator in to prepare for the up-coming summer, and put it into place. We told two women present to turn on the power after an hour.

In the evacuation center, we found three travelling dentists from a Hyogo Prefecture dental association who had come to work around the Kesennuma area. A physician also arrived in the afternoon.

When we asked what their needs were, they would only ask for a few basic things. On this blog, Villagers’ needs are only listed in Japanese, as these lists are constantly changing and high-maintenance to update bilingually. If you are able to assist by sending goods to the village, please contact us here at Team Sake directly to double-check which goods are still required. Also, please write a short note to the villagers to accompany the donation (simple English and pictures are okay), and then, once posted, contact us here at Team Sake directly to inform us that they’ve been sent.

A fifth-grade girl was reading a manga comic lying on the floor of the evacuation center. One of the dentists was talking to her, but she didn’t react much. There were no other children in the center that she didn’t have anybody to play with. If there were some toys or activities, we thought she might have been able to keep her spirits up a bit better.

Team Sake Diary: Osu village

Villagers’ needs
On May 2, we visited to the Osu elementary school, a shelter in Ogatsu town. The school had remain standing on the hill, but the center of the town in the bay area was completely devastated. There were enough relief supplies but they hadn’t been able to put them in order yet. So they needed to get a lot of big plastic boxes to be able to split things up and get organized to actually use them and to be able to distribute them effectively. Takahashi-san, one of the core members running the shelter, said, “We most appreciate long-term support in one place. It is hard to ask many things to a volunteer who come here for the first time, but we can talk to the same person that we know and feel safe.” Another thing he was concerned about child care in affected areas. As an example of how children are being overlooked, he said, “There are things like tea in the relief supplies, but there isn’t any cola. The children have been tolerating this with little complaint. I feel sorry for them.” Later we had an opportunity to talk to an elementary school girl. She told us she was bored with eating the same instant noodles all the time.

Almost two months has passed since the disaster, but these people are still in need of a great deal of assistance on a very basic level.

Team Sake Diary: Ryori Village

Villagers’ needs

Iwate Nippo Online News, June 15th, 2011

“Villagers start organization to relocate village to higher elevations”

Inhabitants in the Tahama area of Ryori village, Ofunato city have formed a local organization that plans to relocate the village to the higher elevations. The villagers have done their best to prevent the collapse of the village through preventing survivors leaving en masse. They need the government’s support to realize the plan, but serious questions have been raised in regards to the slow reactions of the government.

There used to be 63 households in the Tahama area. According to the leader of the area, Takahiro Sato, the tsunami waves swept away 22 houses, and 8 villagers were killed. Tahama was also seriously affected by tsunamis in the Meiji and Showa eras.

Looking upon the damaged land, people are worried about losing their village. Board members had a meeting in June to discuss the possibility of the relocation of the village. Other villagers joined another meeting on June 12 and the idea was agreed upon.

In the meeting, the following points were discussed:

・Move the infrastructure of the flooded areas to higher elevations
・Place value on “community”
・Create good environments for the fisheries industry
・Lighten the economic burden placed on villages who lost their houses

They still have to come up with more definite plans in the future but are hoping to receive some financial support from the government.

One fisherman staying in a temporary house said, “Though my house was spared from damage by tsunami waves in the Meiji era, it was fully destroyed this time. As there are both mountains and sea in Tahama, people should live on the hills and the factories can be built by the sea.” Ninety percent of villagers here in Tahama have fishery-related jobs.

One city official said, “The agreement of the villagers is really important for us in our decision-making process, since the lay of the land is different from area to area. We’d also like to promote the rebuilding with the co-operation of the central government.”

The villagers have agreed upon the basic residential area relocation plan. However, it will require a large amount of finance and the government’s attitude is still very vague.

Mr. Sato said, “Prompt action is required, as some villagers are not able to wait so long and might move to another area. We have to co-operate with the government but seeing them so slow to act is very frustrating.”