Category Archives: Volunteering

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

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:

Ten Year Plan to Reafforest Kyoto’s Mount Ogura Goes Ahead

Good news today! The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) has thrown its weight behind a plan to restore the natural beauty of Kyoto’s Ogurayama. The ten-year reafforestation project aims to undo the damage wrought by human neglect and the recent of blight of diseases that are killing off much of the native oaks and pines. Mount Ogura has been famed since Heian times as the “Poets Mount” and is celebrated in the tanka anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems by 100 poets). It’s nice to know that volunteer groups such as People Together for Mount Ogura (PTO) are no longer fighting these problems on their own.

Full article on the BTMU site here: Start of the Ogurayama Restoration Project in Kyoto
Get involved with PTO’s conservation activities here: Let’s begin with what we can do!


Please donate to Green Action here:

From Beyond Nuclear:

During the critical first days and months of the Fukushima nuclear
catastrophe in Japan, many of us turned immediately to Aileen Mioko
Smith (pictured far left with Sachiko Sato and Kaori Izumi) and her
organization, Green Action-Japan. Through her depth of knowledge on the
nuclear issue, organizing skills, and essential translations between
English and Japanese, Aileen played a crucial role in globally
networking the U.S. and Japanese anti-nuclear movements.

Today, Green Action-Japan needs your financial help to keep its
important work ongoing.

Without Aileen’s relentless efforts for more than a decade to delay the
use of plutonium (MOX) fuel, the three reactors that melted down at
Fukushima could have been loaded with 33% plutonium cores,
significantly worsening the radiological catastrophe that has unfolded.
(Only Unit 3 had loaded MOX fuel, at a 6% level.) Aileen has also
helped oppose the Rokkasho reprocessing facility and the Monju breeder

Please make a generous donation via Green Action’s Paypal button today.
Green Action-Japan and Aileen Mioko Smith play an essential role in
connecting our campaigns and sharing knowledge, information that will
help us end the Nuclear Age.

Please donate here:
Donation drive can be found at these sites:
Beyond Nuclear



University Students Help Fukushima Evacuees in Kyoto

Osaka Gakuin University’s Service Learning students hail from Japan, Taiwan, China , Canada and the United States. The yarn they hold symbolizes the connections and mutual trust they have formed over the semester.

This article is by Jason Bartashius and Jessica Caparini.

Wearing Santa hats and full of holiday cheer, university students sang Christmas carols and handed out presents to Fukushima evacuee children at a Christmas party in Fushimi.  The children’s faces lit up when a Japanese Santa and a Canadian Mrs. Claus began handing out presents. Joining hands with community volunteers, the students had helped to organize this event for children who have relocated to Kyoto.

These students were not part of a campus volunteer group.  Nor did they assemble as a group of friends.  This was an optional assignment for the Service Learning course taught by Stephen Dalton at Osaka Gakuin University.

In the course students first learn about social problems via guest speakers and lectures.  Upon gaining a well-rounded understanding of a given issue, the students then engage with the problem through volunteering.   Finally, they do reflection exercises in a journal so that the experience becomes “part of the student.”

The most unique aspect of the course is that its doors are open to both Japanese and international students.  Students work in pairs when they volunteer, and each pair consists of one Japanese and one international student. As a result every student must struggle to overcome language and cultural barriers.  As they overcome those obstacles, students gain insight into what it means to be a global citizen working for the betterment of society.

“Service learning is a win, win, win situation.  The community benefits from the students’ volunteer efforts.  The students also benefit.  In the classroom they see the larger context of the problems they are trying to ameliorate.  And there is a positive effect on the university.  Working with evacuees inspired students to start their own book drive for Tohoku.  They wanted to let the campus community know they can help Tohoku without going there,” said Dalton.

Two motifs running throughout the course are Japan’s ongoing demographic problems and the current energy dilemma. The class discussed Japan’s aging population problem and the ongoing nuclear crisis.  Students then spent time assisting the elderly at nursing homes and meeting Tohoku children living in temporary housing in Kyoto.

Yuko Nishiyama, a Fukushima mother and activist, visited the class to discuss her experiences and the struggles evacuees face. She then arranged for the university students to visit the temporary housing.

The students made their first visit to the temporary housing in November.  For that occasion each pair of students organized either an educational activity or game to play with the kids.  Children learned how to play patty-cake and sing familiar nursery songs in different languages like Chinese and English. These children were not simply on the receiving end though.  They were giving the students a deeper, more intimate understanding of the situation evacuees are in.

“By spending time together I want students to have a new image of evacuees. Because information from the news is not a real picture of people,” says Nishiyama.  Herein lies one of the main goals of Service Learning, connecting students with real life situations to broaden their perspectives in ways not likely possible in the classroom.

Kizuna From Kyoto: Supporting the Victims of the Tohoku Disaster

Jason Bartashius writes,

Tonghwi Soh is no stranger to earthquakes.  The Great Hanshin Earthquake destroyed the jewelry store his father worked at.  It left him jobless and with no choice but to take another position for a lower salary.  Although Soh was only four years old, he vividly remembers the day and the struggles that followed.

Six years later Soh and his parents attended a symposium of Koreans who had been wronged by Japanese military aggression and lawyers fighting for redress.  Soh, a Korean, was so inspired by this fight for justice that he later enrolled at Kyoto University to study law.

In 2010 Soh took time off from his studies to go to New Zealand to improve his English.  He was sightseeing with friends in South Island when the Canterbury earthquake struck.  In the early morning they felt the quake; unscathed they walked out of their youth hostel astonished by the panic in the air.   Soh was to later revisit New Zealand to check on friends and see the recovery progress.

Soh was to make an even narrower escape when the March 11th quake hit.  On March 9, 2011 he was skiing with friends in Iwate Prefecture when a 7.2 magnitude quake struck triggering a small tsunami that never reached Japan’s shores.  In the nick of time, they left Tohoku before the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred two days later.  “I don’t believe in God. But if God exists He let me live,” said Soh.

His experiences with earthquakes led to his resolve to respond to the tragedies of March 11th.  He first volunteered in Miyagi Prefecture.  Surprisingly he was shown an outsized amount of gratitude by people in Tohoku, because of his Korean ethnicity.  Despite being born and raised in Japan, he was treated as part of the massive international volunteer effort that pleasantly surprised many suffering Japanese.  Inspired by his experiences he returned to Kyoto and formed a student volunteer group called Kizuna Thank You From Kyoto.  The group organized two symposiums for students to discuss the triple tragedies.  Showing appreciation to the international community was a central theme of the meetings.

Currently Kizuna has more than twenty members from Kyoto University, Ritsumeikan, Doshisha, and Kyoto University of Education.  They are all now actively assisting evacuees in Kyoto.  To reflect their shift from holding symposiums to directly aiding victims, the group recently changed their name to Kizuna From Kyoto.

Since July 2012 the Kizuna volunteers have been tutoring Tohoku children now living in Fushimi.  Elementary school students receive help with their homework while junior high and high school students get assistance in their preparation for exams.  Additionally, this past summer they helped Minna no Te, a support group for evacuees in Kyoto, collect donations for a project that reunited evacuees with family and friends.

Beyond Kyoto, Kizuna has also been lending a hand to support school children who remain in Tohoku. From June to August 2012 Kizuna gathered 2500 used books for the Hon Omoi Project, which collects and sells the books.  The proceeds are then used to buy new textbooks for affected Tohoku students.

Brimming with new ideas, Soh is about to launch another project called “Keep Telling!” a blog page where victims and volunteers can share their stories.  The intention is to raise awareness of the tragedies and ongoing relief effort.  Non- Kizuna members are welcome to submit accounts of their experiences in either Japanese or English. Kizuna volunteers will translate accounts written in English before posting.  Soh hopes to publish one story every few days.  At the time of writing he had already received forty submissions.

When asked of his future plans for Kizuna, Soh responded that he plans to keep giving aid as long as it is needed.

Tonghwi Soh can be contacted at

Visit the Kizuna From Kyoto homepage:

Follow Kizuna From Kyoto 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.

TA Project Camp – The Wrap-Up

Here’s guest contributor, Sara Ai Coe, with an update on the TA Project’s summer camp for Fukushima children.

Last time I wrote about the TA Project for Deep Kyoto, I was the outsider looking in. I was so inspired by the passion of the guys involved, that I wanted to write and share this wonderful project. Shortly after, I was invited to join them and it’s been an invitation I’m so thankful I accepted. So now I will write this as an insider, as a member of the TA Project and share the experiences of the TA Camp 2012.

It’s now over a month since the camp and this write-up is well past its expiry date. A thousand apologies. We’re yet to close the lid on ‘TA camp 2012’. We’re still going through paper work, reports and of course the thousand thank-yous we owe people around the world.

We started this project with no charity experience. We all work full time jobs, so for all of us to come together and plan this camp was a little miracle. But we were driven by one common goal: to invite the kids from Fukushima for a four-day camp so they could play freely without any risk from radiation.

The four-day camp took place in the countryside of Osaka Prefecture at a place called Nose. Just about an hour out of Osaka city, the concrete jungle is replaced with green mountains and rivers. This place looked like something out of a Ghibli film. It was the perfect place for these 12 kids to run wild and reconnect with nature. It was also the perfect place to reconnect with nature for the TA team who usually spend their weekends in the concrete jungle getting ‘cemented’… what ever that means… that sounded better in my head.
We really underestimated the energy these kids have. Even the most energetic and hyperactive team member (a.k.a Takumi) was left with an empty fuel tank every day. They would get up before 6 am, eat breakfast, go swimming, go canoeing, go swimming, eat lunch, go swimming, go cut some bamboo trees, go swimming, eat dinner… You get the idea.

We also underestimated the amount of food these kids can eat. They can eat everything and anything. We had to get creative by catching some crabs and fish in the river and frying them as snacks (true story). Luckily on Day 3 we had our personal chef Muchi arrive with his amazing, fantastic and divine cooking skills (I can’t praise this guy enough). Muchi being an Italian chef, the kids were able to delve into some gourmet meals.

The biggest objective of the camp was for the children to play. Each day was planned with activities from day to night. Activities included canoeing, making lanterns, cutting up bamboo trees (how wild is that?) making chopsticks, fishing, but I think the children’s favorite activity was going swimming in the pool. They were pretty disappointed on the last day when they found out that they were not only NOT allowed to go into the pool but they had to actually CLEAN it.

‘Playing’ was the theme but we also wanted to make sure these kids cleaned after themselves and showed some manners. The boys in the group even learned a new phrase from Taji: ‘Ladies first’… It didn’t go down too well with the boys, but we’re hoping maybe it will be useful for them in the future.

We were so caught up with making sure these kids had a good time playing, that we regret not really having a proper talk to them about what happened in Fukushima. Because even though they are all smiles, we know that deep down they have been going through a hard time. Even with the brief conversations we had, some expressed that they hate going to sleep because they think about death, and also others expressed how terrified they were hiding under the desk when the earthquake hit. We’re thinking a little talk session is something we can incorporate for next time.

Another great thing about the camp was that we were able to experience the kindness and generosity of our friends and people whom we’ve never met. We really wish we could thank each and every one of you. Thank you to those who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign (a big thanks to Gerald and Voice Kobe for their very generous donation). Thank you to those who donated in our donation boxes. Thank you to those who spread word about our campaign on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other mediums. Thank you to those who contributed prizes to the Indiegogo campaign. Thank you to those who contributed food (meat, rice, cake, cookies). Thank you to those who came to our camp and lent us your time, skills and love. And thank you to those who continually supported us with words of encouragement. You guys kept us going and made the camp that much more amazing for everyone.

No doubt both the children and the TA members made some great memories from this camp. However we don’t want it to end with just memories. Now we’ve made a connection with these kids, from here we aim to build a relationship. And the key to a strong relationship is communication. We want to keep in touch with the children, hear about what’s going on in their lives and hear about their progress. We also plan to visit them in Fukushima in the next few months. We’ve been talking about going there and surprising them with a winter bbq. We also want to build a strong relationship with the people who continue to support us. We want to keep people updated with our progress, our plans and also present more opportunities for people to get involved.

Although we still haven’t 100% digested TA Camp 2012, we’ve started talking about a TA camp 2013. From what we learned from this one (and we learned like a zillion things) we want to create something bigger and better for 2013. We want to invite more children and we also want more people to be involved. We’re even thinking of a change in location. One child even requested we have a winter camp in Hokkaido next year… Great idea kid, but I think we’ll have to start fundraising like right now!

In the last few months we’ve really started noticing that Japan is changing; from the nationwide ‘Anti Nuclear Power’ protests, to people fighting for their right to dance with the ‘Let’s dance’ law change. It seems like more people are standing up for what they believe in and fighting for their future. It’s beautiful and empowering. And we’re really happy that we’re part of this change. We really hope more people will start leading Japan to a brighter and stronger future. Thank you for your support.


Sara Ai Coe:
Product of a crazy Japanese mother and Kiwi father, Sara moved to Japan in 2009 after leaving her job at a television network in little ol’ New Zealand. Having a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), she juggles 3 jobs, but her main job is being a promoter and booking manager at an independent record label in Osaka. Sara enjoys telling stories and she tells them through photography, audio documentaries and writing. Her guilty pleasures include: procrastinating, wearing socks to bed, Kanye West and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

Read her blog at
You can read her former posts for Deep Kyoto here: LINK.


Neconote Flea Market for Tohoku – Sunday October 21st

Neconote volunteers sporting kame comi towels…

Neconote are holding their first biannual charity flea market for Tohoku this Sunday (October 21st) in Kyoto city center. Items for sale include second hand books, clothes, handicrafts from Tohoku + there will also be musical performances and a talk by Fresh Currents editor Eric Johnston.
This news via Jen L. Teeter,

We are still a long way from recovery in Tohoku. At Neconote we believe that every contribution counts! Building upon previous and ongoing Kansai-based efforts to support revitilization in the disaster areas, we hope to continue with that momentum with the bi-annual Neconote Flea Market for Disaster Recovery. All funds will be contributed to local organizations in Tohoku (More details below). Hope to see you on the 21st!

Date and time: Sunday, October 21 10am-4pm
Location: Higashiyama Ikiki Shinimkatsudo Center (東山いきいき市民活動センター)
5 minute walk from Sanjo Keihan Station. Here is a map.


Items for sale!
1. We will have used books and very good quality used clothes for sale.

Kame comi towels

2. Kame comi towels for purchase. They support the work of a cafe in Ishinomaki  in spreading news and information throughout the city and region through community events and a community newspaper.

Edible seaweed from Ishinomaki

3. Seaweed products from an Ishinomaki producer whose factory was destroyed.

4. Takochan made by a group in Kessenuma.

5. Kyoto Journal’s latest publication, “Fresh Currents,” on Fukushima and renewable energy alternatives.

All proceeds will go to the three local Tohoku organizations noted above. We focus on supporting local organizations in the disaster area and making sure that we never forget what has happened and is still taking place in Tohoku.

Performances & Talks
1. Folk, traditional and popular song artist Felicity Greenland
2. Eric Johnston (Japan Times) to talk about the book Fresh Currents, and about shifting from a nuclear past to a renewable future
3. Three unlikely characters: Honami, Jen & Tokuda – one guitar, two vocalists!
4. LOOKING FOR MORE! Contact Neconote if you are interested in lending your artistic talents to support Tohoku! “If you’d like to collaborate in some way, do contact us! We are all about linking up!”

Contact: neconotekansai[at]
More information:

Tohoku to Kyoto: Yuko Nishiyama and the Plight of the Fukushima Evacuees

Jason Bartashius writes,

On March 18, 2011 Yuko Nishiyama and her three-year old daughter, Mariko, left Fukushima City, 60 km from the Daiichi plant, to live in Tokyo. In June 2011, Yuko her parents and Mariko relocated to Kyoto. In total around 800 Tohoku evacuees have come to Kyoto and about 600 of them are from Fukushima Prefecture. Fukushima evacuees are choosing to come to Kyoto because it is one of the prefectures that has offered aid to people living outside the evacuation zone.

I sat down with Nishiyama to talk about the struggles and concerns evacuees face as well as the support projects she has been organizing. Nishiyama is an evacuee, a Fukushima mother, a volunteer, and an activist. In February she did a Greenpeace sponsored speaking tour in Switzerland for which she spoke about her experiences to raise awareness. Here in Kyoto she manages two support groups for evacuees, often gives public talks and has been appearing in the local media. Continue reading