As I mentioned yesterday the fund-raising effort at Tadg’s last Friday raised stacks of cash for Tohoku disaster relief. 250,000 yen to be precise! But where is that money going? Here:
IDRO Japan (International Disaster Relief Organisation Japan) is a new Kyoto-based NPO providing aid and assistance for immediate post-disaster relief and long-term support through housing and education. Presently, all IDRO Japan efforts are concentrated on areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Obviously, IDRO Japan is going to need a lot more and more funds to meet these aims so if you wish to donate please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now last week I posted IDRO’s founder Rob Mangold’s report from his first trip up north on a relief mission to Tohoku. Rob has just got back from his second relief trip and I’m posting his latest report today. Before I do so though, Rob has asked me to let you all know that volunteers are needed for an upcoming trip up north on the 30th. Rob says,
…we are planning to go up again on the 30th and are looking for a team of volunteers (10 to 20 people) to work in a coordinated effort with the Oshika Peninsula fishing cooperative and the Nippon Foundation to gather fishing equipment scattered during the disaster and clean the beaches of the Oshika Peninsula. So far we only have a few people. We could also use a couple of gas operated chainsaws and if anyone has a vehicle that would help. They can contact me at email@example.com or call directly 09019068713.
About requirements Rob adds,
A driving license would help for sharing the drive on the way up. Basically we would like to leave early morning Saturday, for about 1 week. We will prepare helmets, gloves, goggles and masks and bottled water. Volunteers would need a good pair of boots, rain gear, sleeping gear (a good warm sleeping bag and mat) changes of clothing (it is much colder there than here), basic foods and cooking/eating utensils A tent and camp stove are also recommendable (can be shared among members). The Shinkansen is supposed to be operational from the 29th, so there may be an option for coming home early there, although no guarantees.
If you are interested you can find more details here. Here is Rob’s report:
Mission Statement 2:
To move from Kyoto to Ishinomaki and then further into the affected area to:
1. distribute carpentry tools to those rebuilding
2. gather direct information through experience to share with those wishing to go to the Tohoku region and volunteer over the Golden Week holiday and beyond
3. begin the process of creating habitable homes and community centers for those lost in the region.
After some delays due to coordination efforts between the various groups going north and creating an actual organization, we have finally once again been able to get up and do some work.
We were on the highway just after midnight, David Graham of Kyoto University Hospital and Tsuyoshi of Team Sake (the fish not the drink) and I.
All three took turns on the twelve hour drive, arriving in Ishinomaki at one shelter just before noon. There we worked in the kitchen set up by Suzuki Toru of Kochi First Response. Here we delivered some children’s clothing, and handed out toys to the kids.
After serving the 150 residents there, we moved to the Headquarters at the Senshu Daigaku University Campus, where we met representatives from a great many groups active in the area. A French gardener from Nagoya filled us in on some of the basics of volunteer life in Ishinomaki. By this time I was beginning to realize that more than the governmental efforts and those of the Red Cross, it is the small NGOs and NPOs which are the driving force behind recovery efforts, and this impression would be strongly reinforced over the following days.
The next day we went to the Oshika Peninsula. There we distributed basic carpentry kits, power tools and of course, sake to the residents who have remained and are trying to put their lives back together. In the village of Kobuchihama we may have found the site for our first house, an experimental step for a family we found trying to rebuild a house from the scrap wood and debris that was once their village.
From there we headed up the coast to BabaNakayama and its environs, doing the same, distributing tools and some specifics which Team Sake had brought. We met the head of the village at Nakayama where some 60 persons were housed in a temple, and shared a lunch of instant ramen and rice balls with them, discussing their plans to put up a new, temporary village on land further up the hillside.
On to Minami Sanriku, we found their volunteer center lightly staffed. At the moment although they are taking volunteers, it is only for the separation and cataloging of donations. The main town itself is so devastated; I do not know where they will start. At the same time, the outlying villages along the coast do seem to be starting the process of cleaning up and are in desperate need of help. Huge machines were in the town center, and a pile of wood and beams several stories high was being burned.
From there it was an hour drive to KessenNuma where we met with a representative of their city run volunteer center. That evening we hooked up with the other members of Team Sake who were finishing their 5th trip into the area, and said a heartfelt goodbye to Tsuyoshi.
David and I set up camp outside the volunteer center, and enjoyed a dinner of instant pasta and cubed steak while sharing a cup of sake with a volunteer from Scotland, who was on his way out, and a young man from Nagano in the forestry service.
The next morning we stood in line in the rain, and 10 of us were given the task of cleaning out the house Mr. O. in downtown KessenNuma. Here it was stressed that we should not work too hard, and if we felt tired to take a break or quit if we wanted to. Picking up tools we were taken to the downtown area. The mud and debris were piled six feet deep on both sides of the street. The first floor of Mr. O’s home was filled with debris washed in during the tsunami, and the structure was heavily damaged. The smell of rot was everywhere, and all was covered in a viscous black muck.
We had finished removing all the debris, furniture, and garbage from the house and taking out a large amount of the black mud by 1 o’clock, and were disappointed to find that this was where the day’s work would end. I felt Mr. O. did not think we would have it cleaned so quickly, and that he would have liked the under floor mud removed as well, however had only requested a clean out of debris. So we were not allowed to continue. The volunteer center gives one group one job for a day and finished or not, work is suspended at 15:00. If work is finished early the volunteers are cut loose. Of course, there is nothing to do but sit in the car or tent for the remaining 17 hours until line up time the next day. My feeling was that this was a terrible waste of manpower.
That evening, in order to make the 19:00 NGO/NPO meeting at headquarters, we returned to Ishinomaki.
The next morning was rain, and officially work was suspended on grounds of possible fallout from the nuclear facility in Fukushima. However after the official meeting was over, a second meeting of the mud-busters (the NGOs and NPOs working specifically on clean up) was held, and David Graham, myself and 4 gentlemen we had met from Tokyo were offered work in the entertainment district clearing streets from Yoshimura-san of Human Shield. Without a doubt Yoshimura-san is an outstanding individual!
After a dinner of apples and noodles that night we were in bed around 23:00, sleeping in the back of the van as it was raining.
The next morning we geared up with hardhats, masks gloves and rain gear and headed into the entertainment district along the river. The morning hours were spent pulling electrical appliances from the rubble and debris, refrigerators, washing machines, irons, stereos and televisions, cigarette machines and all other manner of electrical components which were loaded onto trucks and taken to the recycling centers. Heaven help you if a refrigerator door fell open, the stench was horrible. It was then we realized there was a shortage of trucks as so much time was lost waiting in line at the garbage collection centers. The afternoon we concentrated on one specific street, cutting up fallen trees with chain saws, filling sacks with the caustic mud and loading trucks with all manner of other wood and glass and metal debris which was piled head high on either side of the street. It rained most of that day; however the NGO teams allowed us to work from about 08:00 to 17:00 with only a brief lunch break for an apple and carrots. Two days later I can feel that labor in my bones. However we made a great deal of progress. The volunteers, including a team from the Kokushikan University Women’s Softball Team were positive and lighthearted, working very hard, and the occasional meter long fish dug up along streets was entertaining for all,
That night Dave and I once again participated in the meeting, and then went to the headquarters of Human Shield and The Nippon Foundation. The Nippon Foundation and Peace Boat are very active and organized, and I was highly impressed with the work they have been and continue to do in Ishinomaki.
That night we made the first four hour leg of our journey back to Kyoto, sleeping in the van. The next found us back in Kyoto about three in the afternoon.
Once again I reiterate that the NGOs and NPOs are the driving force behind recovery efforts. Volunteers are desperately needed. Japanese is not a prerequisite (but it certainly helps!).
Peace Boat is creating all English Teams. They do require that you dedicate at least one week, beginning on a Saturday and ending on a Saturday.
If you cannot dedicate an entire week, you may volunteer at the city volunteer center on a daily basis, or contact me with dates and I will hook you up with one of the NGOs active in clean-up efforts (more recommendable).
Fuel is now readily available in the area.
I feel that people are not in desperate need anymore of clothing, blankets and other goods (not to say that entirely, but there does seem to be plenty of such donations already in the area). However there are certainly not enough hands to go around.
The human spirit is resilient and overall we found people coping well with the incredible reality in which they exist.
One cannot comprehend the completeness of the destruction, and therefore it is impossible to describe, or adjust the eye to.
The most disconcerting point is what the Frenchman called “The Heaven and Hell Line”; a line which can clearly be drawn at the edge of the wave. If you are on the Hell side of the line, almost nothing remains: destruction so complete it boggles the mind. The heaven side is near normal, with super markets and restaurants open for business. Of course I do not wish to mock the plight of the people on either side of the line, as so many jobs have been lost, family and friends among the tens of thousands dead and missing, often the lack of electricity, water and or sewage, and the horrifying reality of looking at this scene day in and day out.
A buoyant woman (Mrs. S) told us her story as we stood in front of her house on the hill, some twenty plus meters above sea level:
“We were at home when the earthquake struck. From the scale we knew there would be a tsunami. My husband, who is a fisherman, went immediately to the village port and set out to sea in his boat, for to stay at port would most certainly mean loss of the craft. I went to my bedridden mother’s house one tier down the hill. I wanted to get her out of the house but could not get her wheel chair out because of the earthquake damage. So I decided to stay. I sat on the bed with her. The water came quickly, and I did not know what to do. Soon the bed was floating and we rose up to the ceiling. I clung with all my strength to the bed, and then the cold ocean swallowed me. I was sure to be dead, then suddenly the water receded. I was alive! I reached for my mother, but she was cold. Now with everything topsy-turvy I could not get out of the house, and the water was still high in the room. So I climbed out through a window groping to get to the roof. But I had no strength and could not, so I went hand over hand along the gutter, then from tree to pole, anything I could grab until I reached the hillside. I did not want to leave my mother, but I had survived. When I climbed the hill I found many other villagers there, and we took shelter in the only remaining house”.
At this point I had to ask, how fast did the water come up? And where did it come too, could you see it coming up from the harbor? At this she caught me completely off guard and answered “The first two waves did not come in from the harbor, they came from the harbor on the other side of the peninsula, washing entirely over the center”. Dumbfounded by this I looked back behind us, and she added “The village that was on the other side is completely gone, much of the debris you see on this side came from there, on that side nothing at all remains…” Looking back up the hill I asked, how high did the water come, and she took us inside the house, where the water line was clearly visible just below the ceiling. Making this wave close to 25 meters tall, the same height as a 7 story building!
We are working with the fishing cooperative and the Nippon Foundation on a project to bring a group of 20 people to the Oshika peninsula for cleanup efforts on the beaches and for reclamation of fishing equipment, before it is all lost to sea. This is an immediate project and needs hands now.
Also we are planning to bring up washing machines for the temporary houses being built, as they are not provided and none are available in the area.
In addition, is the further development of the experimental home we would like to build in KobuchiHama.
If you are updating please bring us a washing machine or microwave oven. Generators are also welcome. Although beggars cannot be choosers, please use your discretion if choosing to do so. Clean and less than 10 years old (and in working order) only please.
Thanks go to:
The people at Devagati for a sizeable donation which helped to buy the tools distributed in the affected area. Donations also came from Tom of Genkai antiques (Los Angeles), The young Mr. Yoshikawa of Honjin Yoshikawa, The owner of Wright Shokai gallery and Marumoto-san from Marumoto Antiques. In addition Taka-shacho who heads a local construction organization donated a great many spades for distribution. Yamaichi Shoten of Fushimi provided a great many power tools for less than cost. Dan Kelly, at the drop of a hat provided hundreds of dollars worth of small toys and games for children which we distributed while moving, as well as sake and fresh vegetables which were received with much thanks.
Credit goes to Team Sake for sharing information from their trips north and the great job they have done working with the local populace there, and of course, David Graham, for his dedication to this cause, and companionship and help on this journey without which might not even have happened.
Once again Angus has come through; both acting as our information base in Kyoto while we were up North, and heading up the creation of our new website in his very little spare time. And many thanks go to his lovely wife who has worked to translate the pages of information into Japanese. Brett also is creating our Facebook and Twitter pages. And of course, my wife who works diligently in the background, supporting the family while I am away and supporting our efforts while I am here, keeping a steady pot of coffee going for the constant meetings happening in the living room into the late hours of the night.
For more information on how to volunteer and or donate please see our website at http://www.IDROJapan.org
Numbers and Facts:
The 9.2 magnitude quake moved Japans coastline an average of 8 feet over 300 miles, as much as 13 feet in some places according to the Geographical Survey Institute.
The disaster stretches from the coast of Chiba to the coast of Hokkaido, over 500 miles of coastline. By comparison it would be like wiping out the California coastline from San Diego to San Francisco.
137,000 people are currently housed in shelters in the Tohoku region.
From my own experience, this is only a portion of the displaced, as a great many of the smaller towns and villages are keeping people in other homes (for lack of a public place) and a great many displaced have moved in with friends or relatives in the interim. Tens of thousands currently survive in the second floor of homes heavily damaged by the tsunami and inundated with a toxic mud.
Pasco, a geospatial company in Tokyo, analyzed satellite images of coastline stretching from Aomori to Ibaraki Prefectures taken between March 11th and 20th.
The firm says that the flooded area encompasses 470 square kilometers. Miyagi Prefecture is the most affected with 300 square kilometers of flooded land. Fukushima Prefecture follows with 110 square kilometers, while Iwate Prefecture has about 50 square kilometers.
The Japanese islands are the summits of mountain ridges uplifted near the outer edge of the continental shelf. About 73 percent of Japan’s area is mountainous, and scattered plains and intermontane basins (in which the population is concentrated) cover only about 25 percent. A long chain of mountains runs down the middle of the archipelago, dividing it into two halves, the “face,” fronting on the Pacific Ocean, and the “back,” toward the Sea of Japan. On the Pacific side are steep mountains 1,500 to 3,000 meters high, with deep valleys and gorges. Central Japan is marked by the convergence of the three mountain chains. None of the populated plains or mountain basins are extensive in area. The largest, the Kanto Plain, where Tokyo is situated, covers only 13,000 square kilometers. Other important plains are theNobi Plain surrounding, the Kinki Plain, the Sendai Plain in northeastern Honshū, and the Ishikari Plain on Hokkaidō. Many of these plains are along the coast, and their areas have been increased by reclamation throughout recorded history.
The small amount of habitable land has prompted significant human modification of the terrain over many centuries. Land was reclaimed from the sea and from river deltas by building dikes and drainage. The process continued in the modern period with extension of shorelines and building of artificial islands for industrial and port development, such as Port Island in Kobe or the man made airport island of Kansai Airport. Hills and even mountains have been razed to provide flat areas for housing.