SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Voices from the Field Admin - Friday, 6 January 2012, 08:10 PM

Tomoko Izumikawa, a member of the Collaborative Translation Team "Transpinoff"

 I have been working on translating articles submitted to Voices from the Field by staff members of the volunteering groups working in the disaster affected area. For the first time after the disaster, I got a precious opportunity to visit the Tohoku area, see the situation with my eyes and listen to the sufferings of people with my ears. This is my report of visiting the Tohoku area for three days from October 17th to 19th, 2011.

1. Evacuees’ short comments, or mutterings (tsubuyaki) at Ashiyu (Foot bath service) “Worrying forever gets you nowhere. We have to move forward. ”

 On the first day, I visited Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture and joined an Ashiyu service offered by the NPO Rescue Stock Yard (RSY) and the Nippon Foundation Road Project.

 About 500 households of survivors lived in the Public Zone Emergency Temporary Housing in Watari town. The vast site was covered with gravel and prefabricated buildings were neatly lined up. I thought it was not easy for the residents to find their own units because all the streets and the houses looked very similar.

 On that day, the Ashiyu service was offered at the common room No.1. I walked around the housing units and invited the residents to the service. I accompanied the residents sitting by the Ashiyu and listened as they spoke.

 Now, am I the only one to have the impression that Tohoku people are composed, quiet and do not talk much? Probably because of that preconception, I had expected them to let their stories out bit by bit, while having their feet soaked in hot water and each of their hands massaged by the volunteers. To my surprise, however, words burst out of them as if whatever thoughts and feelings that had been repressed inside them at last found a way out.

Watari Temporary Housing

Watari Temporary Housing (Upper)
and the guide map (Lower)

guide map

 I was especially moved by Mrs. W’s story (She was a woman in her 60s).

“In the shelter, I’ve cooked for the victims since soon after the disaster. Cooking for about 500 people was really tough. I, myself, lost my house and lived in the shelter, but worrying forever gets you nowhere. I wanted to do something for other people. Now I am working as a cooking staff at Ichigokko1 restaurant and offering meals to the evacuees free of charge and to the volunteers for 300 yen. Sorry, I can’t offer you a meal because the restaurant is not open today. Next time, be sure to call me before you come. I will prepare harakomeshi cooked rice, our specialty and nukazuke pickles for you. I’m sure you’ll like them.” She actually gave me her telephone number.

Ashiyu (foot bath service) by Volunteers

 Her knobby and chapped hands told me how she had worked for so many people through such a hard time. SHE was a victim herself, but could not just sit and do nothing. She wanted to help someone else. She talked to me passionately about her thoughts. I realized that she was brave enough to take an initiative to support the victims. Through her story, I received a strong message that they, the affected people, want to stand up on their own feet to march towards their recovery and return the favor to those people who helped them.

“Watari (Town) Ichigokko”: A volunteer group made up of residents of Watari town, Miyagi Prefecture. They provide meals to the residents and other volunteer staff. Watari Town is famous for its strawberries (ichigo in Japanese), and Ichigokko was named after this. The tsunami on March 11th washed away all the strawberries which were almost ready for harvest.

Picture of Magali Moeglen
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Magali Moeglen - Friday, 23 December 2011, 05:08 PM
Dear Tohoku survivors and brave volunteers,

a few days before Christmas let me express to all of you how impressed we are by your determination and courage facing your situation. We are all together with you especially in this period of familly reunion. I think that you cannot enjoy your beloved ones' company as long as you have not realise how painful it is not to have them around; I am so sad to be able to realise it only thanks to your difficult experience.

Please be sure that you will be in all our hearts during the end of the year and that we wish you a great 2012 year!

With all the Europeans hearts, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Picture of Marine Fayolle
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Marine Fayolle - Friday, 23 December 2011, 05:56 PM
Dear all,

I would like to thank the team from voices from the field who keep informing us about the situation in Tohoku area.

As Magali said, I feel deeply impressed by the courage and strength of all evacuees and volunteers, especially in the cold winter season coming now.

Little me cannot be of much help right now but at least I would like to express all my support and wish you the best for the new year and still hope that you will experience a lot of happiness.

Merry christmas and happy new year to every one!
Picture of Sharon Corologos
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Sharon Corologos - Sunday, 25 December 2011, 04:16 AM
The description of Mrs. W's perseverance reinforced for me the core of the Japanese character. She helps others and that way has some control over her own life. I admire that very much.
I know in this world of instant ephemeral news it's hard to keep the focus on this ongoing crisis. But it's important to renew the world's interest in it for two reasons: to bring help to those in need, and to remind the world of selfless giving.... like that of Mrs. W. She shows us our better selves.
Picture of Yue Yu
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Yue Yu - Sunday, 25 December 2011, 08:58 PM
I was deeply moved by the words and actions of Mrs.W!!
She did not complain about the situation; instead, she did what she can for others. She's just much braver than many of us!!!

There is full of sufferings in life, but also full of overcoming!!

Ganbate Nippon!!
Picture of Tomoko Izumikawa
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Tomoko Izumikawa - Monday, 26 December 2011, 10:21 PM

Dear Magali, Marine, Sharon and Yue Yu,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments! We will translate each of your comments into Japanese and deliver to the disaster-affected area, especially to Ms. W. Thank you so much!

Picture of Paul Neculoiu
Re: SPECIAL vol.3 Visiting the Disaster Affected Area(Part1)
by Paul Neculoiu - Thursday, 19 January 2012, 03:46 AM
What happened in Japan was really horrible and rebuilding will take time. Nothing will truly be able to replace the lives lost or distraught by the disaster.
Luckily, I know from first hand experience, and these stories only come to confirm it that Japanese society is one of the most tightly-knit and caring in the world.
The world has a lot to learn from the determination of people like Ms W. Only together may we hope to brave disasters such as this.