East Japan Earthquake    March 11, 2011

On-site report
Mobile Kick Back Cafe

July 7, 2011

July 6th 23:00
After an event at Kick Back Cafe(KBC), we left Chofu with, cheese cakes, the special drip coffee "Ganbare-Tohoku-Blend", and vegetables that were donated to us for the victims of the earthquake.

We usually go to the evacuation shelters on Saturdays, but this time around it was a Thursday, and it was Tanabata Day.

July 7th 8:30, @Hitora Elementary
All those who were living at Hirota Elementary School, including Susumu-san, have been moving into temporary housing over the past 3 days. Starting on July 10th, the disaster countermeasure center for the Hirota district will be disbanded and the local community center will take over.

The evacuees that were at Hirota Elementary School evacuation center have been dispersed to 2 different temporary housing sites, one was built at the elementary school, and the other was built at near-by Marine High School. It was at the high school where Mobile Kick Back Cafe served food and the vegetables that were donated.
This was done with the intention of celebrating the evacuees' new living quarters.

Mrs.Komatsu(left) and Mrs.Sumida(right), diligently cooked and served at the Hirota Elementary evacuation center until it closed.
Mr. Kasai in front of his temporary house.

After discussing a possible event for children with Mr. Fujita from the community center, we gave our friend Mamoru, or "Michael" as we call him, the "relief goods" (the mask he is wearing) he requested.

Kids Fest for the Hirota district is almost finalized!

Our next stop was supposed to be the auto-camp, "Mobilia", but we could not pass up on the opportunity to stop by and say hi to our "grandpa" and "grandma", so we stopped by and visited with them and gave them some of the vegetables that we had.

"I made some somen noodles, so please eat it. You always leave too early!" said "grandma".

Not leaving any room for us to reject her offer, we gave in to he kindness.
We had great somen noodles, a rice dish, and cherries.
Thanks grandma!!

It was after this quality time with them that we realized we never really had the time to sit down and talk with our "grandpa" and "grandma".

Grandma shared with us a story of how a friend of theirs died the day of the catastrophe.
After the story she said, "The tsunami came right there. We were spared. We have plenty to eat, even to the point where we are able to give away some of the food supplies that we have.
There are elderly people that live by themselves and we bring food to them. All those that were spared have to help each other.
And when those from distant places visit us, like you, we want to treat them the best we can. When they enjoy what we serve them it gives us a lot of joy."
Next to grandma was grandpa, nodding expressively attesting to what his wife was saying.

"The next time you come, make sure you let us know and come visit us. You're family now."
When we left, grandpa and grandma saw us off.

Off we went to the auto camp, Mobilia.

The 2nd visit to Mobilia.

At Mobilia, some temporary housing was under construction. The people staying there are not there by choice but out of obvious necessity.

The building looks more like a get-away resort than temporary housing and the view of the camp site from the top of nearby hills is so peaceful that you would never realize that a major catastrophe happened just a short distance away.

Beyond Mobilia, the whole area has been completely demolished.

We met up with Mr.Gamo and his wonderful friends, and went to the city office.

At 1:00 pm, we arrive at the city office in Naruishi town.
Mr. Kim, who we thought we would not be able to meet because of our limited time, came and greeted us.

We went around and visited different city government departments: education, health, fishing, civil engineering, and labor union.
After all of our planned visits, we went down the hill and went to our next destination.

At 3:00 pm, we arrived at Takata First Middle School.

We dropped off all our equipment to make coffee and took our vegetables to the temporary housing at Yonezaki Middle School .

We got a hold of "Nori" who we had met before at Yonezaki Elementary School. He told us that he had moved to the temporary housing facility at Yonezaki Middle School.

Unfortunately Nori was not present because he was working, but Retsu met with the chairman of the local municipality and gave him the vegetables and some copies of Marre's book,"The Sun Will Rise Again ("Akenai-Yoru-ha-nai")".

At the same time, at Takata First Middle School, Kozo and Shiraiwa, with the help of some student nurses from Nigata, were making and serving coffee.

On the way back to the middle school, Retsu drove past the Kesen-Ohashi, a bridge that was completely destroyed by the tsunami.
He purposely went by this bridge because someone had Tweeted about it.

The Tweet said, "I heard on the radio that the bridge that would temporarily replace the Kesen-Ohashi bridge will open for use starting July 10th.
It was supposed to open this fall. I can only imagine how the construction workers worked their butts off to get this monumental task done so quickly." Imagining how hard they worked brought tears to his eyes that morning.

When we came back to the middle school, we met with Mr. Sasaki, the head of the governing office, and discussed the upcoming events.
He said that by the end of July the biggest evacuation center in Rikuzen-Takata and its disaster countermeasure center will be closed and the site will be turned back over to the school.

At 5:00 pm, we left for our last destination, the new government building.
When we usually visit, there are not many people there since our visits are on Saturday evenings.
But it was Thursday this time around and the office and government workers were busy.
We came at just the right time, as the busiest time of the day had just ended.

We served the workers coffee and encouraged them to relax.
The workers from the floor above smelled the coffee and came down to get some of coffee, too.
Two-thirds of the workers in the Rikuzen-Takata government office passed away and those that remain are victims too.
They have as much deep sorrow as the rest of the victims, but the main difference is that they must pave the way for the reconstruction of the city.
It is an honor that we were able to support, in our little way, the heroes of our country, and we all have the desire to continue our efforts.

The man making the peace sign got the last cup of coffee.

Next time, it will be iced coffee! And look for some ice cream too!

At 6:00 pm, on the way back, rain started fall from the cloudy sky.
This is Tanabata Day where people make wishes to the stars.
What would be the wish for the people in Rikuzen-Takata.
It may be for a better future, security, a job, or to meet their lost loved ones.
Regardless of what it is, under the current circumstances it is difficult for any of us to ask.

I am also "stll alive" just like those survivors in Rikuzen-Takata. I am just as vulnerable to natural disasters and life's misfortunes as those in Rikuzen-Takata.

The reality that I am not just simply alive, but the realization that I am "still alive" struck me. I realized that I must examine what my desires/wishes and beliefs are and to choose what is truly meaningful.

On-site Report ----------------------

Kana's Hometown
A building stands in the rubble in Rikuzentakata, northern Japan after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011.

Rikuzen-Takata:5,000 Homes Under Water and 15,000 People Missing

On March 12th, the Self Defense Force of Japan started its rescue efforts of most all of the households of the city of Rikuzen-Takata that has been demolished by the recent earthquakes which is estimated at 5,000. From the rescue efforts in Takata area, the most damaged area, 52 bodies were recovered on the 12th, and on the 13th, 114 more bodies, totaling 166 in the 2 days. The rescue effort, however, has been slowed because of the debris blocking all traffic to the city whose population is 23,000. According to the task force of the city, roughly 8,000 people are staying in emergency evacuated areas. The city is doing what they can to locate the the rest of the population. The City Hall, a 4-story building, was engulfed by the tsunami and out of 300 workers there, the whereabouts of 100 employees hav not been determined. Also, the city resident registry has been lost causing difficulty in identifying who the victims are.
There has been some positive news as the Self Defense Force of Japan has been successful rescuing 37 people isolated from roofs of buildings. Rescue efforts will continue. (March 13, 7:48PM(JST), NHK)



Back to main page