Category Archives: World Saving

Three years ago today…

On this day of remembrance, I would like to share with you some simple memories of March 11th that have taken me three years to properly digest. I was far removed from the disaster then, but of course the events of the day made a big impression on me. I remember clearly where I was, what was on my mind and those who were about me. I remember most of all their grace, their kindness and their courtesy.

Three years ago today, when disaster struck north-eastern Japan, my girlfriend and I were safely snoozing on a train in Wakayama. On our way back to Kyoto, or so we thought, we had spent the day previous at a hot-spring resort in Katsuura. A sleepy little fishing village, I had been struck on arrival by the markedly unfriendly stares of the locals and their gruff responses when we asked for directions. Most atypical for Japan I thought, especially in a small country town where people are usually extremely friendly. But then I realised that just two stops away by train was Taiji cove: the frontline in an increasingly intransigent face-off between angry animal rights activists and equally stubborn dolphin hunters. As most of those activists were foreign, I imagined my presence might be treated with suspicion by local fishermen who felt their lifestyle to be under siege.

We were in fact deep in the heart of whaling country. A signboard in the bay advertised boat tours to watch the whales, whereas the hotel shop’s refrigerators laden with meat in varicolored cuts, encouraged us to eat them or take some home as souvenirs. Viewing these I considered the gap in mutual understanding between those who would consider this the norm, and those who would reel back in horror and disgust. Clearly this was not a problem to resolve on a single day trip however. I fled to the hotel’s ocean-side hot spring baths and spent the afternoon, gazing at the Pacific, letting my mind drift away on the waves.
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Buddhism after the Tsunami – Free Movie Screening at Chion-in

buddhism afterFrom Souls of Zen via Jean Downey:

“We are delighted to announce that Chion-in, the head temple of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism in Japan will show Buddhism after the Tsunami this March in Kyoto!”

From Ten Thousand Things: Souls of Zen – Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan follows the “greatest religious mobilization in Japan´s postwar history.” Filmed from March to December 2011, the documentary by Tim Graf, a graduate student at Tohoku University, and director/cinematographer Jakob Montrasio  explored  the everyday lives of Buddhist professionals in the disaster zone, and Japan’s tradition of ancestor veneration in the wake of 3/11, focusing on Soto Zen and Jodo Pure Land Buddhism.

13 March 2014 @ 13:30
14 March 2014 @ 13:30
15 March 2014 @ 16:30

Chion-in Wajun Kaikan, B2 Floor, Wajun Hall
Free and open to the public!
Details in Japanese at the LINK

Buddhism after the Tsunami – The Souls of Zen 3/11 Japan Special (Classroom Edition) – Trailer from Tim Graf on Vimeo.

See also: Souls of Zen

Ant-Nuclear Protest Demo & March in Kyoto; Saturday March 8th

“No one can guarantee the safety of nuclear power stations in an earthquake-prone country. They are unnecessary and have proved to be a disaster. Demonstrate this Saturday in Kyoto against the prospect of nuclear restart? The march begins around 2:45 from Maruyama Park.” – Stephen Gill

no nukes

Date: Saturday 8th March 2014
Place: Maruyama Park
Schedule: From 12:00 pm  – “Free Action” – A kind of mini-festival by the famous weeping cherry tree of Maruyama Park with art, goods, possibly some cosplay (!) & various performances.
1.00 pm – People will begin to gather for the main demonstration at the outdoor stage in Maruyma Park
1.30 – 2:45 – Speeches by representatives of various groups representing Fukushima refugees, Fukushima children and those taking legal action on behalf of Fukushima residents.
+ a performance from protest schoolgirl group, 制服向上委員会 (Uniform Advancement Committee?)
*After all the speeches and performances are finished there will be a march as far as Kyoto City Hall.
Please check this site for details of this event in Japanese:

As for the girl group, I think I prefer punk for protest music myself, but this being Japan, there is no escaping the endless “kawaii”… The song is called ダッ!ダッ!脱・原発の歌 which means “Abandon! Abandon! Abandon Nuclear Power Song”.

Philippine Typhoon Recovery Charity Concert in Fukuchiyama

Thanks to Eric Hawkinson for spreading the word about this. Here’s a charity show up in Fukuchiyama in the north of Kyoto Prefecture.
Date: March 9th from 7pm
Location: 福知山厚生会館 (Fukuchiyama Kousei Kaikan)
Address: 京都府 福知山市 字中ノ(西中ノ町)170-5
Tel: 0773-22-4955
Here is a MAP.

All proceeds go to benefit the Philippines typhoon recovery effort

出演 ・ Appearances by
Raffy Pacifico
Asuka & Gebo
Patricia Jordan
Denise Sawyer
and more!

開演 19:00 開場 18:30
Show starts at 7:00pm, doors open at 6:30pm

前売 ・in advance: ¥800
当日 ・at the door: ¥1000
中高生 ・JHS/HS students: ¥500
小学生以下 ・12 and under: FREE

Advance tickets are available at the businesses listed below.
* ㈱三字屋楽器店
* サリーズキッチンマーガ
* まいまい堂
* 光陽堂楽器

主催 ・Sponsored by
FIGM (福知山国際音楽団) * JCF (JETクリスチャン・フェローシップ)

後援 ・ Supported by
京都府北部国際交流協会 * JICA関西国際センター * 京都府 * 福知山市 * 福知山市教育委員会 * 成美大学 * 福知山観光協会 * NPO法人舞鶴国際交流協会 * 京丹後市国際交流協会 * 宮津市国際交流会 * まいまい堂 * ㈱三字屋楽器店 *サリーズキッチンマーガ * 光陽堂楽器

Cooks4Cooks Charity Party at Tadg’s Sunday 15th December 2013


A special Xmas charity party in aid of friends in West Bengal, India
All Welcome!!!!!!
but please bring baked goods to sell!!
Join us on Sunday 15 December 2013
at Tadg’s Irish Restaurant & Bar
1.00 pm ~ 6.00 pm
(visit: for directions) Continue reading

Introducing Organic Kyoto

Here’s a valuable new resource for health loving Deep Kyotoites: a very well laid-out site with a tonne of useful information!
organic KyotoOrganic Kyoto was created by Kyoto resident Alice Miyagawa and launched on 16th August 2013. Living in Japan since 2002, she realised it would be a great service to have a comprehensive website that could be found by searching the English keywords “organic” and “Kyoto”. Continue reading

Volunteering in Kameoka

IMG_6586 (Medium)

Last weekend I joined Rob Mangold and his IDRO crew on a relief trip to Kameoka, which was hit hard by the last typhoon to sweep through Kansai. After linking up with some regular volunteers at Kameoka’s Volunteer Center, we drove out into golden fields where a landslide caused by heavy rain had filled up the drainage ditches. Our job was to dig them out. Here are some pictures from the day: a mix of standard shots and 360 spherical images from the Ricoh Theta. If you click on the spheres you can view the images in a perfectly immersive 360 degrees. Continue reading

Flood Relief in Arashiyama

Yesterday, I had planned to spend the day running round Kyoto’s most iconic sites, taking immersive 360 degree images with my new Ricoh Theta camera… However, inspired by Tito’s flood relief poetry, and Rob Mangold’s posts on Facebook I decided to join them and Joel Stewart for a spot of volunteering in Arashiyama. I was encouraged by the community spirit there that inspired so many people to turn up on their own initiative and offer a helping hand.

Rob & Stephen

IDRO Japan members, caught by Sankei News Service on September 17th, working to clear the Nishiki restaurant in Arashiyama, after torrential rains from Typhoon 18 caused the Katsura river to over-run the island. With Rob Mangold and Stephen Gill (Tito).

Here are some pictures from the Kubo restaurant that we were working at yesterday. They are a mix of standard shots and 360 spherical  images. If you click on the 360 spheres you can immerse yourself in the full volunteer experience!

The first job that we had to do, was shifting a pile of garbage and debris to one side, which would have been simple enough except Joel found this little fellow in there. “Hey Michael. Look at this,” he said.


Pretty, isn’t it? It was a “mamushi” pit viper that Joel calmly informed me is poisonous, before coolly removing it to some bushes, out of harm’s way.  Once that was done and the garbage shifted we got on with some digging.

Here’s the front of the Kubo restaurant. What could be saved was piled up in front of the building while we cleaned out the inside. Flood damaged belongings had to be thrown away.

Kubou restaurant
Here’s a 360 shot of a flood soaked tatami mat being carried out of the building. They are incredibly heavy. Click on the picture for a fully immersive view.


Officials bring a film crew to visit flood damaged houses. I believe Joel and I appeared on the evening news for all of 3 seconds, though I didn’t see it myself. Click on the image for a full view.

The team. One of the good points of the Ricoh Theta is you can take a group shot and include yourself, simply by standing in a circle.

Heading home the Katsura river was still a brown churning muddy soup…


That was just one morning’s work: a good work-out and much more fun than what I usually do for a living! There is still more to be done though, in Arashiyama and also other affected areas such as Kameoka and Fukuchiyama (which was completely inudated). If you have the time and would like to help, check out the IDRO Japan page on Facebook or contact them directly at idrojapan[at]

See also:

On Herbs, Serendipity & Fair Trade in Kyoto

Za'AtarZa’Atar is an Arabic spice mix “made from mixing dried za’atar leaves together with varying combinations of other spices such as sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, sumac and more.” We bought a jar at the IDRO Japan charity sale last year, and then found ourselves wondering what to do with it. I can’t remember who donated it, but they suggested we mix it with olive oil and use it as a dip. We duly tried that and found ourselves unimpressed. But then Mewby hit on the idea of making savory bread with it, in one of these babies (see below)- and a new taste sensation was born!

If you don’t have one of these home bakeries – you should get one! They are awesome and so easy to use – but that’s by the by. Savory bread with Za’Atar mix was so delicious that by this weekend we had used up our jar and were wondering where we could get another. We knew some of the Fair Trade stores in Kyoto might have it but after calling a couple of the more central ones we had had no luck… Maybe we would have to order it online? Then yesterday, by pure chance when wandering up Uraderamachi, we stumbled across the Sisam Fair Trade store – and they had it! Now that’s lucky!


Now let’s make some more of that highly addictive Za’atar bread!

Useful Links

Sisam is a chain of stores committed to supporting developing countries, traditional handicrafts and the environment through the sale of fair trade products. They sell a wide range of ethnic and interior goods I have yet to explore. Uraderamachi is that oft overlooked passage between Shinkyogoku and Kawaramachi. The Sisam store is located south of Round One’s back entrance. Here is a map. They moved there from Rokkaku Street about a year ago I believe. They also have their main store on the north side of Imadegawa a short walk east of Hyakumanben. And here is a map for that.

Za’atar is produced by Sindyanna of Galilee: a non-profit organization, led by women, and promoting Palestinian fair-trade products. Their goods are distributed in Japan by Palestine Olive. Other distributors world-wide are listed here: LINK.

Minna no Café: 3.11 Evacuees Plant Roots in Kyoto

Here’s the latest guest post from our friend Jason Bartashius…

Before relocating to Kyoto, Ikuko Wagatsuma worked in the clothing department of a supermarket in Minami-Soma, a city devastated by both the tsunami and nuclear crisis. The tsunami wreaked havoc washing away homes and causing hundreds of deaths. Located near to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, parts of Minami-Soma were inside the initial 20km evacuation zone. Though this was lifted in the spring of 2012, Wagatsuma explains to me with tears in her eyes that radiation is still a concern.

IMG_0031-1In Kyoto she is now working part-time at Minna no Café in Momoyama, Fushimi. The café is owned and managed by Minna no Te, a support group for 3.11 evacuees in Kyoto. Situated in a renovated machiya, a traditional Kyoto town house, the café employs evacuees and local Kyoto residents. It also hosts relaxation workshops, computer courses and health consultations for evacuees. “A representative from The France Foundation, who gave us funding, talked me into opening this place so we could give evacuees sustainable support,” said Minna no Te president, Yuko Nishiyama.

The café is tucked in a quiet street conveniently just a few minutes walk from the Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama station and the Otesuji shopping arcade. Though the area is slightly off the beaten path, a fair number of tourists visit the famed sake breweries as well as Fushimi Castle.

Bustling with a steady stream of customers, lunch-goers seem to appreciate the addition of the café to the neighborhood. Included on the menu are Fukushima specialties such as Ikaninjin, carrot and dried squid marinated with soy sauce and sake, which is a traditional dish in Fukushima. Zunda, another northern delicacy is served for dessert. Zunda is a rice flour dumpling topped with a paste made from grounded edamame and sugar.

An (International) Hub

In the old days land and water travel through Momoyama made the area a connecting point for Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. Similarly Minna no Café is functioning as a hub- connecting the people of Kyoto and beyond with those affected directly by the nuclear crisis.

“Many people come to eat and relax with friends. But also there are a lot of people who come because they want to connect to evacuees or me,” said Nishiyama.


Soon after its grand opening in May, a group of students and professors from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont visited the café. The visit was part of the group’s two-week study abroad trip to Japan. At that time Minna no Café was usually closed on Sundays, but Nishiyama opened its doors so the students could come and learn about the realities of the ongoing nuclear crisis.

Lauren Gillick, a Saint Michael’s graduate who joined the group, was particularly impressed by Nishiyama’s presentation. Holding a Masters degree in TESOL, Gillick hopes to teach in Japan sometime in the near future. “It seems that the most we can do for Yuko-san’s organization is to help spread the word and make this issue more well-known to the rest of the world. As I enter new schools as a teacher for this year, I will make sure to do my best to see how I can make this issue better known to my students as I think awareness is key,”said Gillick.

Customers, undoubtedly, also have chances to learn about Minna no Te and some of the organization’s other projects. Information pamphlets are displayed in the genkan. One can also find T-shirts for sale in the entrance. The shirts are printed with a bus graphic and the words “Fukushima” and “Kyoto.” Sales will help fund the Yume no Natsu project to reunite classmates and families torn apart by the 3.11 catastrophes.

This summer vacation buses will shuttle affected people to and from Kyoto. Fukushima children will visit their classmates who have relocated to Kyoto. From August 3rd to the 8th, the children will spend time with friends at a summerhouse in Otsu City provided by Notre Dame Elementary School.

The buses will quickly gear back up to transport and reunite separated family members during the Obon holiday. Many families have been split up by the nuclear crisis. Mothers and children evacuated while fathers stayed behind to work. Though temporary housing is rent free, daily expenses quickly add up and travel costs to visit relatives are forbidding. Obon is a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to spend time with family and visit ancestral graves. Minna no Te is working to afford Fukushima families a similar opportunity.

Unarguably, the crisis has disrupted and brought injury to many lives. The future for many evacuees remains uncertain. A contentious debate over the dangers of radiation rages on making it difficult for many to decide whether or not to return home. They are at a crossroads. And so is Japan, for it remains unclear as to what degree the country will continue to rely on nuclear energy.

Minna no Café welcomes, attracts and invites people to join in community action and discussion. Such places are needed to empower and unite people in community.

Minna no Café:
Tues-Sat: 9:00 a.m -9:00 p.m; Sun: 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.mIMG_0020

A 3 minute walk from Kintetsu Momoyama Goryomae or Keihan Fushimi-Momoyama. From either station walk WESTWARD on Otesuji Street, turn left at SoftBank onto Ryogaemachi Dori, walk straight again and you will see it on the left. Here is a map.

Tel: 075-632-9352
Address: 伏見区両替町4-319 (4-319 Ryogaemachi Fushimiku Kyoto-shi)
Links (Japanese):
Minna no Te:
Yume no Natsu on Facebook:
Jason Bartashius moved to Kyoto in 2011. He is a lecturer of Japanese Religions and an English instructor. Jason also manages the volunteer project After School Lessons For Tohoku Children that helps kids affected by the tsunami. As a writer he works to bring attention to the ongoing issues surrounding the March 11th disasters. He has made contributions to Deep Kyoto that focus on Kyoto’s efforts to support Tohoku and evacuees who have relocated to Kyoto. You can read his previous articles here.