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: 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.”