100 Days after the Disaster

June 18 marked the 100th day since the earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 followed by a huge tsunami struck Northeast Japan, killing at least 15,400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and more than 7,700 still unaccounted for. As is standard practice in Buddhism, Dogenin in Ishinomaki held a final prayer ceremony in memory of the victims of earthquake and tsunami. The ceremony was attended by 150 people, including survivors who found refuge at the temple, relatives of victims and local officials.

Holding good to the promise we made on May 14, when last visited Dogenin, Dru Taylor and I set off from Roppongi at 5am with a van loaded with fruit and vegetables for schools in Ishinomaki and barbecue grills for the temple. We stopped at Ginza to buy burgers, sausages, chicken, vegetables for a salad as well as sauces and relishes at Hanamasa, and charcoal at Don Quixote.

By 6am we were on the highway and happily heading north at speed. This did not last, however, as by 6.30am we hit a traffic jam and made tortuous progress for the next half hour. We started to think that we would not make it for the schedule time of arrival. But by 7am the traffic thinned out and we got up speed again. With Dru driving like a man on the run, we made incredible time and arrived at Ishinomaki at 12.30.

Our first stop was a dropping off point at a gasoline stand, where we unloaded the fruit and vegetables for the schools. Then I called Junko from ODA for Aid, who had arranged for Chad Cannon, a young violinist from Harvard University to perform for the people staying in the shelter. She told me that they were at the Kaigan Community Center, and asked if we could pick him up and take him to the shelter. We agreed, but could not find the shelter on the sat nav; so we decided to drive to Dogenin and ask how to get to the community center. Nobody at Dogenin had heard of the place, so Rev. Jin called Junko and gave her directions on how to find Dogenin. By 3pm, when the concert was scheduled to start, Chad had still not arrived, so Rev. Jin called Junko again. This time a local woman gave Reverend Jin the address and he put it in the sat nav and we set off to look for it.

We arrived at the community center at 3.20pm and found that it was less than 500 meters from the gasoline stand from where we had first called. Rev. Jin told Chad that if he wanted to catch the 6pm bus from Sendai station to Nigata, he had better cancel the concert because with the condition of the roads and the heavy traffic he would need two and a half hours to get there. Chad said that he would like to play, even if only for 20 minutes; so we headed back to the temple.

Straight into the music

When Chad got his violin out of the case, a small girl ran to the front and asked if she could touch it. Chad obliged by showing her how to place her fingers on the fingerboard and how to hold the bow. After explaining his program in fluent Japanese—he had studied Japanese at Harvard and lived in Kyushu for two years—he started the concert.  He played for thirty minutes, going past the time he would have to leave for Sendai, and then he accompanied Mrs Onozaki, the wife of Rev. Onozaki, the head priest of Dogenin, as she read a poem she had written on the suffering of the people who were victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Mrs Onozaki’s rendition was so moving that practically everyone there was in tears.

Mrs Onozaki 's passionate rendering of her poem had the audience in tears

With the concert finished, we expected to have to rush Chad to Sendai station, but he went into to the temple to say farewell to the Rev. Onozaki. A few minutes after he had entered the temple, we heard the sound of his violin coming from the main hall, where a funeral for one of the victims of the tsunami was taking place. By the time the funeral was over, Chad had decided to stay the night at Dogenin and leave with Dru and I early the following morning.

Meanwhile, Dru and I, with the help of a group of ladies staying at the shelter, started preparing the barbecue. Although a light warm meal had been prepared for them after the ceremony at noon, by 5 pm, most people were hungry. Almost as soon as we started grilling, and the aroma of sausages and burgers began wafting around the grounds, people gathered around and started eating. The barbecue went through to about 8 pm, with about 150 people enjoying the open air meal in the beautiful grounds of the temple.

The smell of bangers and burgers was too good to pass up

After the barbecue had finished, Chad and I went down to the sento, which was a cool field bathhouse set up by the Japanese Self Defense Force. We scrubbed the charcoal smoke and burger grease off our bodies at the showers, then we climbed into the big canvass bath tub to soak and enjoy a bit of banter with some of the locals.

Back at the temple, Chad took a walk around the temple grounds while I went up to our room with a few beers to relax before calling it a night. No sooner had I opened my first can than the building began bouncing as another quake struck. It lasted less than a minute and, although the shaking was intense, it seemed to have caused little structural damage.

We set off at about 4.30am on Sunday, June 19, with the first stop scheduled for Sendai railway station to drop Chad off so that he could catch a bus for Niigata. The road that passed through Ishinomaki, the same we had taken the previous day, was under water. I later learned that this was because the earthquake had shifted the city southeast and downward by more than a meter in some places. Consequently, the road is flooded twice a day at high time.

We could like to thank the Australia Japan Society of the Sunshine Coast for their donation, which helped fund the van hire and gasoline costs.

We would also like to thank the Zenseikyo Foundation for providing the funding for the barbecue.

Posted by Charlie

April 29 – It Takes Much Longer to Get Up North the Slow Way

Steve Dodds and I left Tokyo around 6.00 a.m. on April 29 for what would be a slow but eventful trip to Kesennuma.

Enough chocolate?

Having not joined us the week before, Steve was suffering a slight case of donor guilt and had overdone it with the chocolate. I, on the other hand, had decided to take advantage of the holidays to see more of the tsunami damage and had therefore brought my bike, tent, etc, with the intention of cycling north to south down the Pacific coast.

April 29, or Showa Day, is the first of a series of national holidays that make up the euphemistically termed “Golden Week,” Japan’s spring holiday period. As expected, the Tohoku Expressway was busier than usual. As unexpected, it was so busy that we could average little over 50 kph and rarely got to break the speed limit.

Bike on board

The drive eventually took more than twice as long as usual, with us not arriving in Kesennuma till well after dark. At one point, we even parked the van and walked off the expressway in search of beer. Steve drives but doesn’t drink, while I drink but don’t drive. We came upon an old couple tending a vegetable patch. The husband very kindly offered to run me to the nearest convenience store in his little white pickup, the vehicle of choice in rural Japan. Steve remained with the wife, with whom he employed his best Fukushima accent to explain his own northeastern credentials.

Later, after pulling in for coffee and fuel, we got a puncture. Fortunately, the gas station could put a new tire on in 20 minutes flat (pun intended). Unfortunately, it cost a good 20,000 yen. I had them pull the large metallic splinter out of the tire as a souvenir for Steve. He found it some consolation.

Steve continues his tireless efforts

Arriving so late in Kesennuma, and not having that much stuff to deliver, we decided to head to Seiryoin, the temple south of the city housing some 250 evacuees. There was a police car in the drive when we arrived. Although usually an ominous sign, on this occasion it was an innocent visit by the local bobby. Being a Friday night, the men were huddled around a stove drinking. The women had commandeered the large room next door. As we backed up they crowded around the van, while one of the young men we’d met on previous visits came out to welcome us.

The drink had worked to relax some of the male reticence developed over years on fishing boats. One older gent, slightly worse for wear, decided he wanted everything, including boxes of manga, toys and even Steve’s damaged tire. We had to struggle to hold some stuff back for another shelter the following day.

Destroyed gasoline station south of Kesennuma

Later, we parked the van outside a 7/11 and walked through the dark down to the coast. Holiday homes lining the small beach had been torn apart by the tsunami, as had a gasoline station and the wall of what was once a harbour.

Pikeys 'R Us

Steve checks out the smashed harbour wall

That night we slept in the van but were woken early by a sprightly old man who was curious to know what we were doing. When I told him we were delivering supplies to shelters in the area, he began to cry.

Later, we drove over to Kaizoji and unloaded everything that remained. We then headed north, interested to see how Ofunato and Kamaishi, two coastal Iwate cities, had fared.

In Ofunato, we came across trucks from Second Harvest Japan delivering to a large shelter there. In Kamaishi, we saw devastation familiar to all urban centres we had visited. However, the clean up and reconstruction appear to be well underway. Asphalt, obviously for repairing damaged roads, had been arranged into huge mesa-like mounds near the port.

Asphalt in huge mounds at Kamaishi

From Kamaishi we returned to Kesennuma, where Steve and I parted company–Steve to floor it back to Tokyo, and I to cycle slowly south along the coast. An online gallery of the clean up in progress can be found here.

A sign for a "hinanjo," or shelter, decorated with Children's Day carp streamers

Entrance to a Minami Sanriku park

Poorly estimated tsunami inundation area

Tsunami warning sign hit by the tsunami

Inside a wrecked railway carriage

Public toilets in Minami Sanriku caked with mud

A child plays in a JGSDF armoured vehicle

Camping in tsunami-ravaged marshland near Soma

I would personally like to thank the following:

Michael Hoppen
Jin & Kyoko (Ryokojin.co.jp)

Posted by Clive

Microwave and Rice Cooker Sent

As well as delivering bulk food and hygiene items directly to shelters in need, Aid to Tohoku is also fulfilling individual requirements, especially now that evacuees are making the transition from shelter to temporary housing. 

This has begun with one rice cooker and one microwave oven sent to Bevelyn Onodera and her family, who have moved from the shelter at Kaizoji, where we first met them, to an apartment in Tome, west of Minami Sanriku

May 14: Grilled Meat and Magic

Our visit to Dōgenin temple in Ishinomaki on Saturday May 14 was an incredible experience for all of us.

We set off from Nippon Rent-a-Car in Roppongi at around 7am with two vehicles, the same 3.5-ton truck we took up on April 16 and a Toyota Hiace. The truck was packed with provisions donated by Second Harvest Japan and Michelle Cove of Korn/Ferry International that were bound for the OGA FOR AID distribution center in Minami Sanriku. Once again, Richard was at the wheel, assisted this time by Paul Maoate and Vincent Sibley. 

The Hiace, driven by Geoff, carried food and equipment for a barbecue for 150 people, a significant amount of beer and soft drinks, and four passengers—Riken, a magician from Mexico who was on a mission to provide entertainment after the barbecue, Riken’s girlfriend Ximena Criales, Geoff’s wife Ayuku and myself.

We made good time on the journey north, arriving at the temple at about 3.45pm. First of all, with help from the people staying at the temple, we unloaded the provisions we had taken there.  These included a mountain bicycle donated by Peter Blake, mineral water, can pan, fruit juices, adult diapers, toys, books and a soccer ball. As soon as the ball bounced out of the back of the truck, the children gave chase and started kicking it around.

Once the truck was unloaded, we set up the grills for the barbecue. It took a while to get the charcoal burning, but the grillers, with help from some of the people staying at the temple, set about enthusiastically fanning the flames. With the charcoal red hot, Paul and Vince started by grilling sausages for the hotdogs. Meanwhile, Ayuko and Ximena, with some of the ladies from the temple, started slicing chicken, vegetables and the rolls for the hotdogs. The children, enticed by the smell of the sausages,  soon forgot about the soccer ball and gathered around the grills anticipating the first hotdogs.

Geoff donned an apron and set about grilling the chicken, Richard and Riken rolled their sleeves up to help him. 

By then the barbecue area was packed with people of all ages, from young children to great grandparents—and by then it was already way past their normal meal time; so everyone was hungry. Over the next two hours we grilled 10 kilos of chicken, 5 kilos of pork, 200 sausages, 250 hamburgers as well as sweet corn, green peppers and mushrooms, and everything was eaten. One young boy had eaten so much that he could not even manage a final glass of coke.

The magic show started in the main hall of the temple as soon as the barbecue was finished. The audience gasped in astonishment and wildly applauded as Riken opened his act by turning three pieces of rope of differing lengths into one and then back into three separate pieces. His second trick, in which he turned five pieces of blank paper into 10,000 yen notes had some people in the audience shouting chodai (give them to me). The show lasted about thirty minutes, during which Riken amazed everyone with one magic trick after another. When he finished, the audience called for an encore, so Riken came out for one more trick.

As the evening wound to an end, Rev. Onosaki, the head priest of Dogenin, kindly invited us into his living quarters to wind down with a few beers and Japanese sake. We were all worn out after the early start, the long drive and the hectic preparations for the barbecue; so we were grateful when Mrs Onosaki prepared a large room on the second floor with comfortable futons for us to sleep on.

The following morning, as we were about to depart at around 6am, a group of people who were staying there gathered outside the temple and accompanied by Mrs Onosaki, the wife of Rev. Onosaki, on a portable keyboard started to sing a moving song about suffering and surviving. We left the temple with tears in our eyes.

Thanks to the following for making this trip possible:

The staff and teachers of the Canadian International School Tokyo who raised  JPY180,000, and  big thanks to Paul Maoate for organizing the fund-raising.

Michelle Cove

Peter Blake

Charles McJilton, Second Harvest Japan

Posted by Charlie

Donated Clothing Unwanted, Destined to Be Dumped

“Piles of secondhand clothing sent to regions hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake for victims have been left unused, forcing local governments to dispose of them.

“Authorities in Onagawacho, Miyagi Prefecture, began discarding donated clothing after the town received far more than was needed.

“Some areas in Iwate Prefecture have an excess of not only used clothes, but also blankets and diapers.”

More here

By Keigo Sakai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Earthquake Damage at Soma, Fukushima Pref.


I recently visited the port at Soma, Fukushima Pref. The above Google Earth image reveals earthquake and tsunami damage, including the crippled loading cranes that can be seen in my picture.


Tsunami Photo Project

Kesennuma, April 23 by Masa Koyama

気仙沼港フェリー乗場への道路標識、頑丈な鉄柱が、山側へ変形している。 A road sign for Kesennuma ferry port bent out of shape.

津波の後の火災で焼けた瓦礫の上に乗り上げた漁船と、奇跡的に逃れつぼみを付ける桃の樹。 A large trawler lies atop burnt wreckage left by the tsunami. In the foreground, a peach tree that miraculously escaped the disaster is beginning to bud.

偶然、壁になった車のおかげで倒壊を逃れた真新しい家屋。 A new house remains standing thanks to the support of cars swept up by the tsunami.

仙石線、鹿折唐桑駅に流れ着き放置されたままの自動車。この路線が蘇る事は無いのだろう。 A car swept onto the Kesen Line at Shishiorikarakuwa Station lies abandoned. As it is a local line, it will probably never be brought back into service.

アルバムには、こう書かれています、「一年生、みんなどうしたのかな?」。 “What’s everybody doing these days?” says this first grader’s scrapbook.

潮と瓦礫に満たされた田園、再び稲作が出来る日が訪れるのか? A rural district devastated by seawater and debris. Rice may never grow here again.


A special thanks to Alex Gover and friends for their support

Desperate Plea to Musicians/Entertainers

I know that this is very short notice, but we are looking for musicians/entertainers with the time and desire to brighten up the lives of victims of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami on May 8 in Kesennuma. Living in shelters in conditions that are less than ideal, these people have had little to cheer about since March 11. One of the temples is conducting a Buddhist service at 2 pm on May 8 and would like to provide some entertainment for them after that.

If you could help out by providing that entertainment please contact Charlie Pringle at chasrp@gol.com

April 23, the Rainy-Day Aid Trip

Rick Van Amelsvoort, an old friend of the Aid to Tohoku team, returned to Canada shortly after the quake on a planned trip and therefore hadn’t had the opportunity to help out in the Northeast in the way we’ve been doing for the past four weeks.

Shortly after his return, Rick and I headed up to Kesennuma, leaving on Saturday April 23 with a one-tonne rental Hiace van loaded with fruit from my local veggie team, food from the ever-charitable Second Harvest Japan, and numerous bags of scourers, bath powder, rain boots, toothpaste, toothbrushes, paper towels, hand towels, etc.


The van smelled like an aromatherapy massage parlour, and the rain poured down… Happily, the snappy samba tunes pumped out by the coffee vending machines at the truck-stops that fueled our way North didn’t know it was raining. We arrived invigorated.


We stopped off first at the hard-to-find Kyofukuji, a temple I’d visited previously three times and popular among us for its cheery children. Gloomy and wet weather and an impending funeral didn’t prevent the priest’s wife from giving us another warm welcome, and we dropped off much-appreciated boxes of strawberries, grapefruits, apples and bananas. Our previous lost loops around Kesennuma had sent us into parts of town that we hadn’t seen yet, and in the dreary weather we saw again how Japan’s sixth largest port had been so utterly devastated by the waves of the tsunami. The rain had formed small ponds around the destroyed areas near the port, and vehicles shuffled carefully by us on muddy, pot-holed roads. Cars were now being stacked into collection points on corners, and trucks continued the clearing away of twisted metal. 

It was sobering to see, nearby the port, the fresh cherry blossoms lining Kesennuma’s river littered with houses and cars.  A normally celebrated view in Japan, here stripped of its festivity.

We headed south from Kesennuma on Route 45 in the direction of Minami-Sanriku to check in on the 45 people staying at temple of salvation Kaizouji. We knew from our last visit that this particular shelter was doing only okay at best, and had been forgoing lunch to get by. When we last visited they’d been in the final stages of building wood-fired baths, and it was great to see they were now up and running. We passed on most of the remaining boxes of fruit, bath powder, rubber gloves, sanitary pads, orange squeeze packs, toothbrushes, sanitary pads, packs of chips and other goods.


We noted our donations with Bevelyn (our previous contact) and the temple bucho before heading back to Kesennuma for a final run to the the main distribution centre in town. Ai Kumaya, or “Love Bear,” as we decided to call her, welcomed us again, and as always the great workers at this 250-strong shelter were delighted to receive the remainder of our load – grapefruits, apples, a big load of paper towels, bath powders and more.


The run back home was particularly tough this time around due to the constant rain, but we arrived home 1,150 km later with (much to our surprise) the rental car intact. Probably the lowest point of this trip was the paying of 16,000 yen in road tolls – an unexpected expense due to the fact we weren’t using ETC to usher us through the red ropes of the Tohoku freeway.

Thanks to the following for making this trip possible:

Tetsuya Chiba and family

The students of JTB Travel School

The students of the Machida classes

Charles McJilton, Second Harvest Japan


Items delivered

6 boxes of apples

6 boxes of grapefruits

20 boxes of strawberries

2 boxes of bananas



Bath powder

Rain boots

Orange juice packs


Potato chips

Cans of juice

Work gloves

Health tonic

Hand towels

Sanitary pads and tampons

Paper towels

Dish scrubbers

Dish wipes

Soccer balls

Post and images by James

How to Survive an Earthquake by Doug Copp

Where to Go During an Earthquake

Remember that stuff about hiding under a table or standing in a doorway? Well, forget it! This is a real eye opener. It could save your life someday.

Doug Copp is the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.

Doug has crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and he is a member of many rescue teams from many countries. He was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years, and has worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters.

The first building he ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles.

Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them – NOT under them. This space is what Doug calls the ‘triangle of life‘. The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the ‘triangles’ you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building.


1) Most everyone who simply ‘ducks and covers’ when building collapse are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a bed, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.

6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!

7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different ‘moment of frequency’ (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads – horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible – It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10) Doug discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.

Dōgenin—A Shelter from the Storm

Life is fairly basic for the 150 victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami still housed at Dōgenin in Ishinomaki, which has served as a refugee center since the tsunami swept through the town flattening everything in its path. At one stage there were more than 400 people at the temple, including a group of tourists from Saitama who just managed to get up the mountain before the tsunami stuck. They were able to return to their homes after a few days, something that local people have not yet been able to do.

The day starts for the refugees with a breakfast of okayu (gruel or rice porridge) at 7.30, after which they make do with sandwiches or rice balls until 4.30 when the main meal of the day is served. The cooking is supervised by the owner of a tavern who lost both his tavern and house in the disaster and is carried out by some of the ladies in temporary residence. Dinner is more varied, and consists of rice and miso soup with fish or chicken and vegetables.


Washing is still a complicated process, because the water supply was disrupted for a time. Although the water is back on now — pumped up the mountain to the temple’s water tank by Japanese Self-Defense Force troops — the temporary residents are restricted to one shower a week in the field showers that have been installed in the temple grounds.

While the adults naturally feel the stress of their situation, the children seem to be coping quite well and are now attending lessons in the temple and contributing to the daily chores, including the cleaning. They are also enthusiastically playing games, including football. In fact, the first soccer ball they had was played with until it eventually burst.

How long the people will have to stay in the temple is not yet certain, but they will be there for the unforeseen future as clearing and rebuilding the town will take a long time. We just hope that the time will come when they will be able to get back on with their lives without further trouble.

Posted by Charlie

April 23 Relief Trip: Figs, Fruit Juice and Rotting Debris

Remo and Hisako Camerota, Masa Koyama and myself left Tokyo just after 5.00 a.m. on April 23 in a downpour that would only let up when we eventually returned some 20 hours later.

Topping up at Donki

The Camerotas had rented the van the previous day and driven across Tokyo to the warehouses of Second Harvest, which had kindly donated enough fruit juice, potato chips and figs to fill the vehicle. Before heading over to pick up Masa, we topped it up with items that had been specifically requested, such as rain boots, pasta, shampoo and dictionaries.

Hisa and Clive in the Tokyo rain

Having no ETC card meant that we had to pay the full 8,800 yen toll charge, in contrast to the 1,500 yen I’d been used to paying. Suddenly, one of the key items in the Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto for the general election last year, that of abolishing the prohibitively expensive toll charges on expressways, impacted me directly.

We arrived in Kesennuma around noon and were met by the stench of rotting debris. It was markedly worse than the week before, and inescapable. The van’s windows remained tightly closed for much of the day. There are still 1,000 people unaccounted for in the city; more than a few of them are probably under the rubble.

We drove through the slanting rain to what I thought was the Kaizouji road. It wasn’t. However, a passerby kindly offered to escort us, and before long we were handing out the shampoo, body soap, conditioner and bath towels for 45 people that Bevelyn had requested the week before, as well as Nescafe, Coffeemate and 15 pairs of rain boots for the obasan, much of it donated by Ryokojin. We also unloaded a third of the juice, crisps and figs.

The Blue-tracksuited Buddha

Mine's a BMW

The obasan were conspicuous by their absence but the blue-tracksuited Buddha was there, still in his blue tracksuit but more affable this time. I asked him if he wanted anything in particular that we could bring up the next time. He suggested a BMW.

From Kaizoji it is short drive south to Seiryoin. The temple doesn’t appear to have electricity yet. We dropped off another third of the Second Harvest food to the subdued appreciation of Kikuchi-san and his young assistant I’d first met the week before. Masa told me that they are fishermen and therefore we shouldn’t expect gushing enthusiasm. The rain was unremitting.

Delivering supplies to Seiryoin

Hisa & the fisherman at Seiryoin

From Seiryoin we headed back to Kesennuma and down to the port, where we met with roads closed to all traffic except trucks and military vehicles. The miserable weather worked to accentuate the decay of the area. My initial fascination with the destruction has, after four visits, been replaced with repulsion. The wreckage is a blight that needs to be removed quickly and entirely.

Two of the girls staying at Kyofukuji

Two of the girls staying at Kyofukuji

Backtracking, we eventually made it through to the north of the city and back to Kyoufukuji, the children’s temple, to deliver the final third of Second Harvest’s food plus pasta, pasta sauce, three large ham sausages, summer clothes for the kids, fresh coffee and filters, 15 dictionaries kindly donated through a Facebook contact and a box of health drinks.

Unfortunately the otera no okaasan (“temple mother”) was away, but a couple of the girls were on hand to oversee the delivery, pose for photos and giggle at the right moments.

Masa at the wheel

Masa at the wheel

After a quick stop at the shimin kaikan to drop off paper towels they had requested, we headed south, through the evening rain and along the coast road I had taken on the first trip up here with Jeff. A sign warned that the road was closed, but we continued until we came across what looked like a battlefield, half drowned in mud and rain. The road was smashed here, as it had been four weeks before, so we headed west, through towns that had been untouched by the tsunami but badly damaged by the quake. In the half-light I could see the ubiquitous blue tarp concealing broken windows and cracked walls.

We reached the expressway around 7:30 and ploughed through the rain, passing trucks at 120 kph swaying in the strong crosswinds. I felt reassured that professional driver Masa was at the wheel. We arrived back in Tokyo at 1.00 a.m. just as the downpour ended and the dark sky lifted over the city.

I would personally like to thank the following people for helping make this trip possible:

Charles E. McJilton (Second Harvest Japan)

Hisao Tsunokawa

Jin & Kyoko (Ryokojin)

Machi Tanaka

Michael Hoppen

Momoko Morita

Tracy Barnes


Items Delivered

Fruit juice


Potato chips


Pasta sauce

Ham sausage

Fresh coffee and filters



Genki drinks

Japanese dictionaries x 15

Men’s briefs

Kids’ clothes

Women’s clothes

Denture cleaner

Shampoo, body soap and conditioner for 45 people

Rubber gloves

Sanitary napkins

Bath towels x 45

Rain boots x 15 pairs

Face masks

Paper hand towels

Posted by Clive / Images by Remo

Kesennuma Portside Panorama

Kesennuma Portside Panorama

Kesennuma Portside Panorama

The whole time while driving around Kesennuma, I couldn’t believe the scale of the devastation. To do it some justice I shot this 180 degree view of what used to be one of the train stations on the right and surrounding portside buildings and suburbs. It is now all burnt-out cars, buildings and even a ship. This was one of the areas that caught fire. That ship is a massive, full size cargo vessel, to give you a sense of scale. And it is standing on burnt cars. In fact, what you are looking at is a sea of burnt out cars and twisted metal. The roads have recently been made by the military so you can actually drive through it. Post-apocalyptic feeling, this is just one small section of the town yet it spreads out as far as the eye can see. The wreckage actually goes on for miles and miles outside of this area. Click on the image for large size.

Posted by Remo

The Disaster by Numbers ・数で見る今回の災害

• 13,843 people were confirmed dead by Japan’s National Police Agency as of 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Monday, while 14,030 were missing (As of April 22, there were 14,133 confirmed dead)

• About 136,481 people were in shelters around the country as of Monday April 18 following last month’s disaster, the National Police Agency said

• More than 70,000 people lived in the largely rural area within the 20 km zone. It is unclear how many of them have been evacuated, but most are believed to have left.

• Another 136,000 people, who live within a zone extending a further 10 km, have been advised to stay indoors

• A total of 140,000 households in the north were still without electricity as of Sunday, Tohoku Electric Power Co said

• At least 220,000 households in eight prefectures were without running water as of early on Thursday, the Health Ministry said

• At least 81,447 buildings have been fully destroyed, washed away or burnt down, the National Police Agency of Japan said as of 0100 GMT on Monday

• The government estimates the material damage

from the quake and tsunami alone could top $300 billion, making it by far the world’s costliest natural disaster

• According to the Foreign Ministry, 135 countries and 39 international organisations have offered assistance.













April 12th tsunami damage overview

April 12th tsunami damage overview

From the Guardian

Pat Ryan Needs You!

“On Friday night, three friends and I will be heading up to the Tohoku region to deliver some aid. We have applied through all the proper channels, filled out the forms and have been assigned an evacuation centre in Ofunato, Iwate Pref. There are about 80 people staying there and about 70% of them are over 70 years old. The area was completely devastated by the tsunami, and aid and supplies have been very slow incoming through.

Giv oss ya feckin' monnei!

Rat Ryan plans to ship supplies north in a minibus

“The people there have been living on onigiri and cup ramen, and have not had a proper hot meal since the earthquake over a month ago. My friend’s family owns a bus company, and so we are going to take a minibus, take out the back seats and fill up with supplies such as toothbrushes, diapers, sanitary towels, batteries, socks, underwear, gloves (people’s hands are sore from shifting rubble), masks and whatever we can fit in the bus. If you can think of other things that may be useful to bring, please let me know. We are also going to cook up a meal for about 80 people so that they get an opportunity to eat some hot food and vegetables.

“Here is a link to the area we have been assigned.

“Anyway, this venture is completely self-funded and so we are asking friends to donate whatever money they can to help us pay for the provisions we will take. I would like to invite you to help us out with any donations you can. Any amount is fine. You can transfer funds to my Irish or Japanese bank account. My account numbers are below.”

Many thanks,

Pat Ryan


Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank, Regular Account
Branch: Akasaka Mitsuke (064)
Account no.: 1114029


Bank of Ireland, Current Account
Branch: Portlaoise – Sorting code: 90-18-88
Account no.: 65022315

Evacuee Profile

Bevelyn points towards the ocean, and where her house once stood.

Bevelyn points towards the ocean, and where her house once stood.

Bevelyn is originally from the Philippines, but now lives with another 45 evacuees at Kaizoji, a temple south of Kesennuma. She has lived in Japan for eight years and was at work, by the ocean, when the March 11 earthquake struck. She says she jumped into her car and fled.

She lives in the temple with her son and Japanese husband. All his family managed to escape the tsunami unharmed, he says. She has had no word from the authorities about financial support, and dare not think about what the future holds.


April 16 Trip – Temples and Devastation in Kesennuma

Steve Dodds, James Barratt and myself left Tokyo on April 16 at 4.45 a.m. The weather forecast had warned of rain, but the hazy mauve of the morning sky suggested otherwise. Traffic was light on the Tohoku Expressway, and we made good time, reaching Kesennuma around 11:30.

Earlier that week I had been introduced to the Rev. Hitoshi Jin, chief director at the Buddhist foundation Zenseikyo. We spoke about shelters in Kesennuma, which has evolved as the focus of our efforts. He suggested we visit two other temples south of the city that are housing 250 and 45 evacuees respectively.

Armed with maps and the names of head priests, we left Kesennuma and headed south along Route 45 to Seiryoin, the first of four temples we would visit that day.

The promised rain eventually came, hampering our efforts to find the right turning. Many of the smaller off-roads are closed, either damaged by the quake or still blocked with debris. After asking at a FamilyMart that had survived the tsunami unscathed, we eventually found Seiryoin.


Although there are only some 20 refugees staying at the temple, Seiryoin supports 250 people at another temple close by. We arrived to find a group of men struggling to put up a large blue tarp in the rain. We unloaded what we were dropping off—mostly food, underwear and hygiene products, but also a baseball bat, gloves and ball. I spoke with Toshio Kikuchi, the taisaku-honbu chief, who appeared to be well organized and happy to receive anything we could bring. We exchanged numbers and then left, pleased with the efficiency of our first drop of the day.


Next, we headed to Kaizoji, another temple not far away but, again, difficult to find. The rain had stopped, but we still missed the turning and had to pull in at another convenience store for directions. There was a constant stream of large trucks dumping debris at a site nearby. The cleanup is accelerating. Soon, the monoliths—the ships, half-houses, trucks and buses—will all be gone.

From a roadside rest area along the way we watched Self-Defense Force (SDF) troops deftly sieving through destroyed homes with excavators equipped with hydraulic grapples. Two spotters stood at the side. When a sleeve of negatives was unearthed, the spotters signaled for all work to stop. They then went down into the debris to retrieve the film and any other personal belongings that could be saved.

The army spotters were joined by an old couple. No words were exchanged as four sets of eyes meticulously scanned the destruction. Above, a young woman stood quite still, staring at the work below her and the devastation that extended half a kilometre to the sea. Her Tohoku stoicism eventually gave way to tears.

I walked up to the main entrance at Kaizoji to announce our arrival and found the head of the evacuees sitting cross-legged on the floor, like some blue-tracksuited Buddha, surrounded by pairs of new socks. He told me to bring what we had up to the temple. I told him to come down and get it. He didn’t follow. However, we soon attracted a crowd. Of the 45 evacuees at Kaizoji,many are archetypal obasan, the apron-clad no-nonsense mid-50s women that are both bane and backbone of Japanese society.




The obasan at Kaizoji knew exactly what they wanted—everything! After meeting with so much Tohoku reticence on past trips, it was refreshing to see them making off with packs of men’s underwear, chocolates, children’s shoes, bonnets, tinned food, towels, and anything else they could carry. The blue-tracksuited Buddha appeared. He seemed rather surprised at this undermining of his authority but was swept aside by obasan determination.

Overseeing all this was Bevelyn, a Filipina who I thought was a volunteer but is in fact staying at the temple with her son and Japanese husband, after losing their house in the tsunami. She seemed very pleased to see us—an immediate sense of gaijin affinity. We exchanged phone numbers. Her English, although not as fluent as many of her compatriots, was good enough to impress the obasan pack, who took the opportunity to ham it up and flirt. Steve was in his element.




The footballs went down well. So well in fact、that I had to ask for one of them back. Three soccer balls for five children seemed a tad extravagant.



As with Seiryoin, there is no electricity or running water at Kaizoji. However, there is a stream in which clothes are washed. The water from the stream can also be used in the bathhouse that was being erected when we visited. I spoke to the daiku-san (carpenter), who told me it would be up and running by the following week. The water heaters require only wood to heat and cycle the water to and from the bath. Wood, from the thousands of destroyed homes, is an abundant resource in the disaster areas.

Bevelyn phoned me after we had returned to Tokyo to request shampoo, conditioner and body soap, so it looks like the bathhouse is open for business.

From Kaizoji, we headed north, back through Kesennuma, and down to the port. The SDF had opened the road, which allowed us our first look at the destruction behind the big ship that has become one of the icons of March 11.

Here, we found more ships, huddled together where the higher ground must have broken the rush of the water. An enormous fuel tank lay on its side. Another, identical in size and colour, could be seen, three-quarters-submerged in the harbour. Soldiers were busy clearing debris and helping the odd vehicle navigate the pot holes in the road. They seemed oblivious to our taking pictures.

We retraced out steps and headed to Jonenji for the third time in as many weeks. A bath tent had been put up at the front of the temple. Next to it stood large water tanks and the generators we’d seen from previous visits, now only used when strong aftershocks knock out the electricity.

Jonenji is the best-equipped and -stocked shelter we have come across. The residents require less and less, and this time was no exception. The masked woman in charge accepted a box of apples. Everything else they had, she told me. Steve got talking to a volunteer, who told us that, because of the temple’s prominent position, people came from all around to leave donations.

We moved onto Kyofukuji, the “Children’s Temple.” The priest’s wife was again pleased to see us, although only one of the kids was present. The electricity was on, so they were probably in front of the TV. Here we unloaded most of what we had left, including two boxes of school books that had been donated, chocolate, okara doughnuts, fruit juice, luncheon meat, sun visors, toys, stationery, kids shoes and clothes. The priest’s wife asked us to bring pasta on our next visit. And pasta sauce…and corned beef…and sausage…and fresh coffee. I like her style.





In the dim of the evening, we made our way to the Kesennuma civic centre where James dropped off 160 fold-up umbrellas requested the week before. They asked us to bring as many paper hand towels as we could carry on our next visit. With this request, and others that included dictionaries, underwear and rain boots, it was back to Tokyo, Jimmy at the wheel, and sleep after another 22 hours on the road.


We go again April 23, but this time in a different configuration because Steve, understandably, wants some time out with his kids and long-suffering wife Megumi.

I would personally like to thank the following for helping to make this trip possible.

Hisao Tsunokawa

Rev. Hitoshi Jin

Jin & Kyoko (ryokojin.co.jp)

Michael Hoppen


Items delivered

Assorted canned food

Assorted dried food

Curry bars


3 boxes of okara doughnuts




Fruit juice


50 men’s knit trunks

40 undershirts

160 fold-up umbrellas

82 prs rubber gloves

14 ultra-wide brimmed UV hats

Adult diapers


Sanitary towels

Assorted hygiene products

Hand towels

Two boxes of school books (drills, etc)


Kids shoes


Baseball bats, gloves and balls




Posted by Clive
Photos by James

From UK With Love~GANBARO!

British Broadcasting Corp. plans to broadcast a radio show in the small hours Friday to cheer up the victims of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11. The special radio program was first suggested by a British woman who has experience in making radio shows in Japan.

More here


Message of Support

Gokuro-sama deshita!! You people have been doing a great job.

Million thanks for exerting all your endeavors to carry out the cause on behalf of all Japanese.

From Hiroshi

An Epic Journey

Hats off to Richard Whitehead for his long haul drive from Tokyo and Tohoku and back. Richard took the wheel of a 3-tonne truck at 8 am on Saturday morning, April 16, from Nippon Rent-A-Car in Roppongi, and set off for Seika, the fruit and vegetable market in Tsukiji. After loading the truck with fruit and vegetables bound for evacuation centers run by the Zenseikyo Foundation in Kesennuma, Richard climbed into the cab and started out for the far north.

Apart from short stops to fill up with gasoline and grab a bite to eat, Richard drove for about seven hours to Kurosaki in Minami Sanriku, where we dropped off provisions at the Oga for Relief distribution center based in the Kanyo Hotel. While there he also helped to unload the Second Harvest truck that arrived before we set off on the second leg of the journey.

We set off at 4.30 pm for the Seiryoin temple in Kesennuma, with the light starting to fade. This part of the journey was particularly hazardous because the roads were wrecked and we had to make a number of detours on steep and narrow mountain roads. A total absence of road signs added to the problem, but Richard took this all in his stride. Finally, around 7 pm, in total darkness and after a nail-biting ride on roads barely as wide as the truck we were in, Richard pulled into the grounds of the temple.

The welcome we got from the people temporarily housed there made the journey a totally worthwhile. We stayed just long enough to unload the truck, and then we set off for Tokyo. The head Buddhist priest of the temple led us in his car to the main road back to Kesennuma, where me met up with Clive, James and Steve for the drive back to Tokyo.

Halfway back, we stopped for thirty minutes so that Richard could snatch a bit of sleep, then we set off again. Just after 7 am on Sunday morning, Richard pulled into the car park of Nippon Rent-A-Car in Roppongi, where we had started out 23 hours earlier. All in all, Richard had been at the wheel for over 1,000 kilometers. What a feat of endurance. You’re a star, Richard. Thanks very much for you efforts.

Posted by Charlie

The following items have been specifically requested

The following items were specifically requested April 16 from shelters in Kesennuma. We will deliver on Saturday, April 23 (Sat). If you have such items to donate and can send to reach my Tokyo address by April 22 (Fri), please email me or email the address of this blog or leave a comment by which we can contact you.

To make a lot of great Italian dinners to feed 45, including 15 kids: Pasta, pasta sauce, sausage, olives, herbs, corned beef, spices, etc…

Japanese (国語) dictionaries for 15 elementary and junior high school kids

100 men’s and 100 women’s briefs for 50 people, mostly over 50 years old.

Coffee, coffeemate, shampoo, conditioner and body soap for up to 50 people.

Rubber boots (rain boots, gum boots, wellies) for up to 50 people, mostly over 50 years old.

As many packs as we can carry of paper hand towels (for kitchen or toilet use) for a shelter housing 250.

One man asked us for AAA batteries.


Posted by Clive

Monster aftershock could strike within days

NORTH-EASTERN Japan can expect another monster earthquake large enough to trigger a tsunami within days, the head of the Australian Seismological Centre says.

The director, Kevin McCue, said there had been more than 100 smaller quakes since Friday, but a larger aftershock was likely.

”Normally they happen within days,” he said. ”The rule of thumb is that you would expect the main aftershock to be one magnitude smaller than the main shock, so you would be expecting a 7.9.

”That’s a monster again in its own right that is capable of producing a tsunami and more damage.”


Message of Support



“You’re really making an effort. As a Japanese, I want to say thank you. I think everyone is pleased with what you are doing.

At a time when so many foreigners are leaving Japan, it’s wonderful that there are people working to help Japanese.”

From Keri

Kesennuma, 15.31, April 2

Photo by Clive France

Two Days in Tohoku by Ikuru Kuwajima

“Although my citizenship is Japanese, honestly, I’m far from a patriot, being away from the country for 8 years except that I visited there just three times in that period. I am not so into sort of parachuting into the disaster, either, let alone that no one commissions me for this. So, I was like, well, it’s not my job, and I don’t know what I can add to this – there will be a lot of good photogs there anyways. I had some ideas doing differently, but the costs and fear for a reverse cultural shock kept me from flying.” From Eastbound by Ikuru Kuwajima

Ryokojin Charity Auction 東日本大震災チャリティオークション

Japan’s leading backpacker magazine Ryokojin (旅行人) is having an auction of illustrations and photographs by its top contributors. All proceeds will go to helping those in Japan’s northeast Tohoku region affected by the March 11 disaster. Go here to see more (in Japanese only).

April 9 Relief Trip: A Few Bumps but All Good

Steve Dodds, James Barratt and myself left Tokyo on April 9 at 5:30 am, considerably later than planned due to Steve’s having an alarm clock malfunction (his actual words are unprintable).


The rain was coming down hard when we reached the Tohoku Expressway. Surprisingly, given the bad weather, the road was busy. It was also bumpy, as new cracks from Thursday’s strong aftershock had been hurriedly filled in with tarmac. We reached the Ichinoseki ramp at about 10:30 and drove the 50-odd km through the rain to Rikuzentakata.


Thursday’s quake had shut down the electricity and water in some towns and villages around the disaster area. There is something appealingly subversive about driving through traffic lights that don’t work. Convenience stores were open but dark and cavernous inside. Lines of empty shelves greeted the few shoppers.

It was our first look at Rikuzentakata proper. A visit by the prime minister on April 2 had prevented us entering the city the previous week. The devastation is immense. Huge swathes of land covered in the same debris we’ve seen all along the coastline. Household items, drinks machines, boats, concrete slabs, timber, railway tracks, crushed vehicles—always so many vehicles.

A woman at the gas station, which had structurally survived, guided us to the volunteer centre. From there we were given directions to the Taisaku Honbu, the Disaster Response Headquarters.


There we discovered an orderly and well-stocked centre that is distributing food and aid to the surrounding shelters, of which there are many, according to the list and map we were given. We were shown a large warehouse at the back where Japanese soldiers were busy stacking boxes of food and other supplies. Beyond, we could see the distinctive trucks of the television stations.



We spoke with a couple of journalists and then moved on, deciding to head to Kesennuma and the smaller shelters we know from our previous visit.

On the way, we stopped at a hospital, one of the few remaining structures on what is now a vast mudflat. A passer-by told us that anyone who had managed to get to the roof of the hospital had survived the tsunami. Wandering through the entrance area, one can see where medicine was dispensed prior to March 11 and where outpatients would have waited. Today, it is a mess of dangling wires and rooms filled with trash. Whole tree trunks protrude from a number of the higher windows.

We continued in the direction of Kesennuma, but eventually found ourselves boxed in by closed roads. The cleanup is very much underway. I saw recyclable metals being sorted into different piles. One pile consisted solely of small boats.

Forced to backtrack, we eventually found the only open road to Kesennuma, a track that runs between flooded expanses strewn with debris. The road was busy with local traffic and military vehicles.

The small river outside Kesennuma is still littered with monuments to the tsunami, including a truck and two large trawlers. These acted as landmarks by which we made our way back to Jonenji, a temple that had requested vegetables and other foodstuffs the previous week.

The volunteer staff there rifled through what we had brought, accepting some things, but refusing others, reasoning that there were others in greater need. They suggested a visit to Kyofukuji, another temple nearby that is also housing refugees.

The kids were ringing the temple bell when we arrived at Kyofukuji. I spoke with the head priest’s wife, who seemed very pleased to see us. She followed me down to the van with a wheelbarrow. The children followed, curious to see what these foreigners had brought. The wheelbarrow was filled and the kids were loaded up with whatever they could carry. The priest’s wife gave me a list of what is needed—pencils, notebooks, practice drills, school things for the children, all of whom are now probably orphans.

From the temple, we drove into Kesennuma proper. It was beginning to grow dark and chilly. Attempting to retrace our steps from the week before, we ended up at the waterfront. We got out and walked in an attempt to make visual sense of the destruction. It is like something from a movie set. Fishing trawlers stand on the road, held upright by the crushed cars beneath them. Whole blocks of buildings have collapsed. Cars, swept away by the massive wave, have ended up in the most surprising places. The piers that tourists would have used to board pleasure craft have collapsed, and now lead invitingly down into the murky water. Signs and lampposts, bent at right angles, all point in the same direction, as if they are trying to tell us something.

In the last of the evening light, we drove slowly through streets carved out of debris until we found the shimin-kaikan, the civic centre we had visited the week before. Much of what we had left we unloaded there, as the centre is both home to 250 refugees and a distribution centre. An earthquake briefly interrupted our work. It was a small one, but I was unnerved, aware of how close we were to the epicenter.

Our last stop was Hokyoji, another temple close by that Steve had contact with. We delivered a letter to the head priest, who was away at the time, and added the few items that remained to a collection a local volunteer group had there. It was dark and cold. The sprawling temple was remarkably quiet. We handed the woman in charge a box of leeks and a stack of that day’s newspapers, James took a picture, and we were off, back to the bumpy Tohoku Expressway and Tokyo.

Speeding into this city at night high on the expressway is an experience that I never tire of. Even with the current move to preserve electricity, Tokyo is a galaxy of glimmering lights, warm and surprisingly welcoming. We arrived around 2.00 a.m. Sunday, having clocked up well over 1,000 km in 22 hours.

I would personally like to thank the following for helping to make this trip possible. We go again April 16.

Grace Wang

Hisao Tsunokawa

Jin & Kyoko (www.ryokojin.co.jp)

Sue & Masa


Goods delivered

Miso soup


Soy sauce

Tinned tuna


Powder milk





Onigiri mix

Dashi mix


Cream corn soup




Genki drinks

White radish x 2 boxes

Cabbage x 2 boxes

Carrots x 1 box

Potatoes x 1 box

Green onions x 2 boxes


Baby formula

Luncheon meat

Corned beef

French dressing x 2 litres

Lemon juice

Dishwashing liquid

Bath powder

Disposable vinyl gloves

Saran wrap


90-litre garbage bags

Packing tape

Portable radios and batteries

AAA batteries

Ballpoint pens

Marker pens

Rain suits



Men/women briefs

Men/women socks

Unisex diapers

Multivitamins x 8 x 100


Sanitary pads


Band aids


Haircutting scissors

Nail clippers

Misc. medical supplies

Ready-to-use toothbrushes

Face masks

Posted by Clive

Ajax vs. Shimizu S-Pulse Fund-Raiser

The Netherlands raises money for Red Cross Japan with a gala event featuring top Dutch stars and a football match between Ajax and J-League’s very own Shimizu S-Pulse. 日本語はここ

Zenseikyo Supporting Tohoku Disaster Releif

The Zenseikyo Foundation & Buddhist Council for Youth and Child Welfare (Zenseikyo) was established as a legal foundation in 1963. It is a cooperative entity bringing together more than 60 different Japanese Buddhist denominations focused on the prosperity of young people and their wishes for the future.

At first it promoted Buddhist youth associations and Sunday schools with the aim of helping children to become intimate with Buddhism from a young age. Since then, it has developed various activities to help youth develop strong identities that will not be swept away by the vicissitudes of social change.

There are a number of youth issues which particularly concern Zenseikyo, and these range from bullying through school dropouts to youth crime and so forth. As Buddhists, the members of the cooperative always carry out their work with youth foremost in mind. Zenseikyo supports and journeys together with those who carry out activities for the welfare of youth.

Zenseikyo also provides research and advice on methods to get Buddhist temples active in society and to support young people. The cooperative has developed and promoted “Temple School Non-Profit Programs” that cultivate youth while connecting with local communities. Zenseikyo also offers training courses for telephone counseling and life-lines for youth; serves as the host for the Tera Net EN network of nationwide Buddhist temples that offer support services and refuges for troubled youth; and runs the Rinbutsken Institute for Socially Engaged Buddhism.

Zenseikyo has been involved in relief efforts in the Tohoku region since the day after the earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc in the region. It currently provides support for 60 centers for the displaced that house about 1,000 people.

Posted by Charlie

“Image of Tohoku” Exhibition at Zen Foto, Tokyo

Image of Tohoku — 写真展の臨時開催をお知らせ致します
2 0 1 1 年 0 4 月 1 5 日~0 4 月 2 7 日

“Image of Tohoku” 写 真 展 詳しくは for more information

開催概要:このたびの東北地方大地震と津波のリアルをカメラに収めて来たカメラマンによる作品の展覧会を行い致します。すでに6〜7 人のフォトジャーナリストたちが参加表明していますが、さらなる参加者を募っています。

We are creating an exhibition of work by photographers who’ve been covering the impact of the quake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

この展覧会の目的は、この地方が地震によって受けた影響を東京に住む私たちの目前で白日のもとに曝すことにあります。 町の崩壊の様子から、そこで生き残り生活を再構築しようとする人々の日常まで、幅広いスタイルや主題で表現されることでしょう。

We aim to produce an exhibition to show how the region has been affected, and the exhibition will include a range of styles and subjects – from [spectacular] scenes of DESTRUCTION IN devastated towns to the DAILY LIVES [day to day life] of people TRYING TO SURVIVE AND REBUILD .

Tsunami engulfs Minami-Sanriku

Another Big Aftershock Hits Tohoku

Another strong aftershock hit the Tohoku region on April 11 just as I was discussing our trip to the area with the chief director of the ZENSEIKYO FOUNDATION for youth and child welfare at the organization’s headquarters in Tsukiji, Tokyo.

At exactly 5.17 pm, the building began wobbling, and it was a protracted wobbling, not unlike that of March 11. The building is not exactly new and we were on the 6th floor; so it shook like hell. I thought the head priest would react in some way: he did. He switched on the TV to check out the tsunami warning. Then he sat down again and continued talking about next Saturday’s trip in a relaxed and business manner while filing cabinets, cupboards and desks bounced around the room. I thought to myself: If now is the time, then I’m in the right place—the headquarters of a Buddhist organization accompanied by a senior Buddhist priest!

The earthquake struck at about 5.16 with a magnitude of 7.1. The epicenter was inland, just south of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, and at a depth of six km. So far the only known fatality is a man in Ibaraki Prefecture who fell and hit his head. There were also at least six other people injured in the same prefecture.

Electric power was again cut for a while in Fukushima, and at least 220,000 households were without power for a few hours, but most of the power has now been restored.

Shinkansen (bullet train) services were suspended on lines to the north and the Tohoku Expressway was closed for damage inspection between Shirakawa in Fukushima Prefecture and Shiroshi in Miyagi Prefecture. Narita Airport also briefly closed both of its runways.

© Charles R. Pringle 2011

All rights reserved

List of Rikuzentakata Shelters

Here is a list of Rikuzentakata shelters with addresses and contact phone numbers. We got this April 9 at the Rikuzentakata Taisaku Honbu (陸前高田対策本部). The number in the fourth column from the left (before the phone numbers) is the number of people staying at the shelter.

Message of support

“Thank you for a report. Your action is extremely holy and significant for Japanese citizens.

I give thanks as a Japanese. I didn’t expect that so many foreigners and foreign countries held out a helping hand.

The Japanese never forgets this favor and must contribute for world peace and happiness.”

From a Japanese acquaintance

April 2nd Aid Trip: The Panda Express Hitches a Ride on the Red Bomber

Our first trip up to the northeast of Honshu (Steve Dodds, Clive France and me) to aid victims of the tsunami went very well. Clive and I went to a massive discount store in Okubo, Don Quixote, late Friday afternoon (April 1) and bought as much stuff as we could cram into a taxi.

We used suggestions from a forum on Facebook and personal contacts to guide our shopping spree. I erred on the side of gumi-bears, but mostly it was all good useful stuff–cup noodles, diapers, pads, gas cylinders for cookers, books, pens, rice (of course) and so on. Great value! That night we packed it and the many donated goods that had come through (the best was Scottish Oats Porridge) into boxes, and along with 100 kg of rice, we loaded up Steve’s car, the Red Bomber, and shot off at 3 am Saturday.

We hooked up near the Tohoku freeway with a guy Clive had made contact with through the volunteers page on FB for the crisis, Jeff Reynolds. Jeff has been up north a number of times helping out since the quake, and very kindly offered to lead us through the towns to some of the neediest shelters that were housing people. He’s a very committed dude with a great sense of duty for the people of Japan, and a big help for us newbies.

We arrived near Rikuzentakata around 11 am, but got stuck in an huge traffic jam, possibly due to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s visiting the town that morning. We u-turned and went instead to the nearby town of Kesennuma, where we stumbled upon a beautiful new Buddhist temple at the top of a hill.

There were portaloos out the front, and towels hanging from lines around the temple, not something usually seen at these places. We came back there after dropping off supplies at another place, and had a grateful reception! There were 80 people there, most around 70 years old. Everyone was very grateful for our efforts throughout the trip.

When we first came upon the devastation, nobody spoke for about thirty minutes. There wasn’t much to be said. What struck me was the width, length and depth of the destroyed areas. Cars, in particular, were dotted endlessly like broken chrissy toys.

I witnessed a distant funeral at a graveyard located on a hill above a completely flattened expanse of a town. Many people we spoke with had of course lost a house or family. It was possible to grasp (but perhaps not understand) the extent of permanent change their lives had undergone.

We finished off our trip with visits to a key evacuation centre (where apparently there was a flu outbreak, and masks had to be worn), a nearby school housing hundreds, a distribution centre (where we could unload a lot of stuff that would eventually make it into the hands of people living in their homes as well as shelters) and finally to a remote school housing 450 people at the top of a hill.

It was very cold there. A meager dinner of red bean soup was being served.. a truck pulled up in the fading light and unloaded a tonne or so of rice. It was good to see other efforts to help these isolated people unfold while we were there.

We then headed home for an easy but long night-time blast down the Tohoku freeway (thanks to Talking Heads, Koop, a bit of R&B and a variety of flashing yellow, green and red lights) and arrived back in Tokyo around 1am. Almost 24 hours on the road! The 1200k trip had been a great success.. the need unfortunately is still very much there.. and we’re looking forward to our next trip down this weekend (April 9th) with a new list of necessaries…including veggies!!

Total big shout-out to Steve and his family for the use of the Red Bomber.

Posted by James Barratt

Items delivered on April 2, 2011

Rice x 100 kg
Cup noodles x 70
Fruit juice x 48 small cartons
Energy drinks
Soy Sauce
Green tea
Anko donuts
Cooking oil
Gumi bears
Potato chips & snacks
Kaki no tane
Miscellaneous food items

Bottled water
Portable gas stoves x 4
Gas cartridges x 32
Disposable chopsticks
Plastic spoons

20,000 yen’s worth of cold medicine, pain killers, stomach medicine and
Heat pads
Contact lens cleaner
Lip salve
Sterilizer spray
Ready-to-use toothbrushes
Alcohol rubs
Body sponges
Skin lotion
Hand soap
Shower caps
Face masks
Hair brushes
Disposable gloves
Hair bands
Sanitary pads
Diapers (adult and baby)

Masking tape
Marker pens
Garbage bags
Zip-lock bags
Washing-up liquid

Art Sale to Raise Money for Tohoku Aid

Ryokojin, Japan’s leading independent traveler magazine, is having a charity sale of illustrations by its best contributors to raise money for Tohoku aid. Check it out here. (In Japanese only)

One of the hardest hit areas is in desperate need of supplies

After a 7-hour drive from Tokyo, we arrived at Minami Sanriku. It was 4 o’ clock in the morning. The first noticeable difference was how eerie it looked. It was pitch black since there was no electricity (or any other public services for that matter). In the car headlights, it was possible to see some of the damage – upside down cars, the remains of buildings, etc.

When we arrived at the collection centre, we met some of the organizers. They told us that although the government had organized for aid to be sent to places in need of supplies, there were still a number of hamlets that hadn’t been reached – among the survivors in desperate need are small babies. It is these people that their organization is determined to reach. Members of this group have or obtain a vehicle and stock it up with supplies and necessities. They then drive the supplies directly to the affected area and deliver them to a drop of centre which is run by or affiliated with organization. The organization then makes sure that these much needed supplies get to reach those in such remote places and so desperately in need. If left in the hands of the government many of these remote places may never get assistance. So it is crucial that small groups like these can continue to exist.

Probably the most moving experience for me was when I met So-kun.

After dropping off our van full of supplies, the organizers then took us to a nearby school that was being used as an evacuation centre. Before leaving the drop-off centre (a hotel), a young boy came over to us and said hello. He was local to that area and had befriended the organizers and subsequently, us. We offered to let him ride with us in our van. He was delighted to be able to ride with us.

He sat on one of the seats behind us, and looked at us. His eyes seemed to say it all. He just looked at me and I looked at him. There was an awkward silence with the occasional shrugging of shoulders. His eyes seemed sad and somewhat tearful. After a short while, he took a deep breath and started to talk with us. I asked him his name. He said that his name was So. I then asked him how old he was and he replied that he was a first year junior high school student. I then asked him if he belonged to a school club. He replied that he is in the kendo club, but that his kendo sword had been lost when a huge tsunami came and completely devastated his town beyond recognition. He sighed again and smiled. As we drove along a path of rubble he told us that this was where there used to be a road. Even the road had been torn to pieces by the tsunami. I looked out of the window, there was ruble and skeletons of what used be shops and public buildings. Clothes and various personal possessions were scattered high up in the branches of the trees like some kind of strange ceremonial decoration. He then said “my house was taken, too. And my dog” “You live or die”. I asked him how big his house was. He said that it was a small place and that there was just him, his mother and his dog living there. As we drove past the collapsed buildings and rubble, he pointed and showed us a 5 story concrete building that had been completely gutted. He told us that it used to be a hospital. He said that the nearby elementary school was buried in sand up to the second story. Can you imagine the fear?

I asked him if he and his mother had much time to evacuate. He said that they went to the nearby school to take shelter moments after the earthquake hit. He told us that the wave was 15 meters high. He said that a wave in another area was as high as 50 meters! I cannot begin to imagine how frightening it must be to experience such an evil act of nature. It must have seemed like the end of the world. There once stood a beautiful and prosperous fishing village. Gone in an instant. Only rubble, planks of wood and personal belongings strewn everywhere as far as the eye could see remain. We drove past what seemed to be the remains of a concrete railway bridge. The track had been ripped off it and thrown to the ground below as if it had been thrown there by an angry child. He said that this was the Kesen-numa line. He then went on to say that the entire railway station was no longer to be seen. It is so hard to imagine a force capable of delivering such collateral damage, only to flow back out to sea calm, reflecting the smile of the sun as if nothing had ever happened. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He said that he wants to work for the police department or self defense force. He is a strong boy. And his heart is strong.

When we arrived at the evacuation centre everyone greeted us politely. Some group members were playing games with the children. The children seemed to be enjoying it a lot. As I looked around the gymnasium I could see the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers. Everyone was still. The only possessions they had were blankets. It must be as if time had stopped for them and life put on hold. There is so much that needs to be done.

© Geoffrey England 2011

All rights reserved

It’s Grim Up North

I decided to collect and take provisions to the victims of the March 11 Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake and the tsunami that struck in its wake came about after discussing the quality of reporting on the event by the European media with a friend. We both agreed that much of the news coming out of Japan, especially news about Tokyo, which was relatively unscathed, was either inaccurate or false. We both found it hard to believe that people were actually starving in some of the areas that had been hardest hit. This was, after all, Japan, one of the richest countries on earth, a country with an outstanding record of donating to other countries in times of need. Then we heard from someone who had been up to the north that people were suffering badly, that bureaucracy was getting in the way of relief, and that people were desperate for many of the basic items that we all took for granted. We had no way of knowing whether this was true or not, but we decided to go ahead anyway.First of all I had to find a driver to help me take the provisions to the disaster area, and then I had to appeal for and collect whatever I could and buy what I could not collect. A friend volunteered to rent a truck and drive, so I started collecting provisions. I put up an appeal asking for contributions in Japanese and English on the notice board in my building. Almost every family in my apartment building contributed something. I quickly noticed that some things—rice, canned food, gas canisters and charcoal—were conspicuously absent; so I started buying them. Unfortunately these items are particularly heavy and, because of a surge in demand, finding them in the shops was extremely difficult. Then there was a limit on the amount one person could buy in each shop: consequently, I had to visit dozens of shops, some quite far away from where I live, to get enough provisions. Nevertheless, among other things, I managed to buy and carry home 50 kilos of rice and 25 gas canisters as well as six boxes of canned goods and charcoal. This was not only time-consuming, but also physically exerting and I began to worry that my knee might not hold out.

Two days before departure two problems arose: the volunteer driver was refused time off work to drive up to Minami Sanriku and the rental firm told me that I could only have the truck for 24 hours. At first, both problems looked insurmountable. Every rental agency I called responded negatively because “it was the moving season so nothing was available.” I pleaded and explained the reason I needed a vehicle, but my appeals were met with a smile and a shrug. Everyone I called and asked to drive up said that they would love to but that they already had plans for the weekend. I was running out of options when I remembered that one of my friends, Geoff England, had a driving license; so I call him. He immediately volunteered to drive and to rent a van, thus killing two birds with one stone, and we arranged to meet at the rental agency just before 6 pm on Saturday 2 April.

Meanwhile the things I was buying and the people in my apartment building were donating began to mount up, and I realized that they would not all fit in one van; so I started to call round once again. This time I managed to contact a Mr Arata who was working with an organization called OGA for Aid. He told me that he had room on his truck for more supplies and agreed to drive up with our van.

After Geoff, his wife Ayuko, and I picked up the van, we drove to Takadanobaba to pick up some of the things that Clive France, who was taking another van up north, could not fit in his van. Then we picked up Peter Blake, a professional photographer who had also volunteered to drive, and drove to my place to meet up with Arata-san and his team. We loaded the vehicles and set off at exactly 7.44 pm, stopping once before we left Tokyo to pick up Ana Shimabuku and the provisions she had collected.

Once out of Tokyo the road was practically empty, at least in the lanes heading north. The threat of radiation sickness certainly keeps people off the roads. We tanked up at every opportunity because we knew that once we got into the disaster area, there would be no gasoline available.

After we left the highway, driving became more difficult. We were in total darkness because there were no lights anywhere. We even passed through towns and villages that, although inhabited, looked deserted. It was a very strange feeling. Many of the roads we traveled were cracked and, despite the darkness, we could see damage to buildings all around. We left the towns behind and started to climb into the mountains on narrow and twisting roads that were in very poor condition. We started our descent and entered a world of destruction on a massive scale. At about 4 am we arrived at a road that was closed, and that was the road we needed to take. The guard told us that we would have to wait until 7 am for it to open, so we tried to find space to park—and that was very difficult because the whole area was covered in debris, the remains of what had once been a town were piled up everywhere we could see with the headlights.

Before we parked, however, a local man drove by, realized that we had brought provisions and offered to show us what he called a “shortcut” to the distribution center. Back up the mountain we went on roads steeper and narrower that the ones we had originally taken. Thirty minutes later, however, we arrived at Hotel Kanyo, a luxurious resort hotel that, apart from the two floors below ground level that out to see, had escaped major damage. It was 4.30 am and the temperature was below zero: we were freezing and tired, but we could not sleep for the cold. Around 6 am one of the staff brought us a cup of coffee. The inside of the cups were lined with plastic wrap because there was no running water to wash the cups with.

At around 6.30 am, Angela Ortiz from OGA for Aid, and aid agency organizing relief efforts in the area joined us in the lobby. She explained the situation and told us of the needs of the people. She said that the Japanese military was providing rice and drinking water, but that there huge shortages of just about everything else. People can survive on rice and water, but sooner or later, health problems kick in. What the people desperately needed were canned protein foods like fish, seafood, meat and chicken as well as canned vegetables and fruit. They also needed baby food, sanitary items, over-the-counter medication, fruit and energy drinks, toys and a whole host of other things that we normally take for granted but the people living in the refugee centers could not get.

Angela also told us some horrific tales of desperation in the area. She spoke about a minshuku (bed and breakfast) in a hamlet called Yoriki at which more than 20 people had been trapped for two weeks because the roads had been destroyed. There was no electricity, gas nor running water and no means of communicating with the outside world. In desperation they had put up flags in an attempt to attract the attention of the Japanese military helicopters carrying our search and rescue missions and delivering provisions. The people trapped there were on the verge of starvation when volunteers from OGA for Aid found them.

Angela also told us the story of So-kun, a 12-year-old boy who traveled in our van from the distribution center to Utatsu Junior High School that was function as a refugee center for 470 people. After the earthquake struck, he and his mother managed to escape to a school on a hill. When the tsunami raged past in the valley below, he could see bodies being swept up the valley. He lost his dog and house but, fortunately, he had survived.

After we had been briefed by Angela, we unloaded our provisions and set out to see the damage in the light of day. I had read all the reports in the newspapers and seen all the images on television, but what I saw with my own eyes was much worse than anything I was prepared for. The town of Minami Sanriku and its surroundings looked like the aftermath of a nuclear war. Very few buildings had survived intact; there was rubbish and refuse where houses, hospitals, schools and shops had stood. Bridges were battered and broken; railway lines were ripped off their pilings and lay twisted like strings of wire; lamp posts were bent, buckled and snapped in two; and even the road surfaces had been destroyed. Wrecked cars, buses,tractors, and ships were everywhere, some on the roofs of the buildings that still stood, others high up on the hillsides or up trees. But the most disturbing sight was that of the personal belongings—photos, notebooks, pens and pencils, CD players and the like—scattered among the debris or hanging from trees—clothes, sheets, blankets and futons—on either side of the tsunami-ravaged valleys in a macabre caricature of festive decorations.

We returned to the distribution center and then drove to Utatsu Junior High School, where OGA for Aid had organized an hour of games for the children to celebrate a birthday. The children were happy for an hour at least, but the elderly did not have anything to cheer about. Some sat around in small groups on the mattresses on which they slept, others came and went, but I noticed one old man sitting alone. He never moved a muscle the hour we were there. His eyes looked straight ahead, but he was not seeing anything in that gymnasium: he was surely looking into the past. I had to struggle to keep back the tears for I did not want to upset any of those unfortunate people who have lost everything except their dignity. They have been living in appalling conditions since March 11. They have no electricity, gas or running water. There are a few kerosene heaters here and there; so it must be absolutely freezing at night.

It is difficult for me to come to terms with what I saw in Minami Sanriku. The violence and havoc wreaked upon an unsuspecting community in the space of a few minutes by the unstoppable forces of nature is not easy to comprehend. I was not there the moment nature struck; so I will never be able to understand the fear and shock of those who were. But now that I have met and spoken to some of the survivors I will never be the same again.

Meeting with The Angel of Tohoku, just after sunrise.

The survivors will need help for some time, so those of us who took provisions at the weekend are resolved to continue delivering them. We are planning our next trip for April 16 and so far we have arranged for two vehicles. If we can get financial support of any kind, we will be able to take more. We are also looking for Japanese companies that could help us buy products like toilet paper, gas canisters and the like in bulk. We gratefully appreciate any support we can get.

© Charles R. Pringle 2011

All rights reserved