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: 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.