Thursday, June 30, 2011

Light the Way

Hello everyone. I'm finally back in Shinjuku and my suitcase is once again waiting to be unpacked...again.

The sky was this glorious pinkish color a couple of days before I left last week. The roof you see is part Saisho Temple (最勝寺).

Well, some of you may know that I was in Miyagi prefecture last week. I was volunteering in a small town called Yamamoto-cho.

This small town, which had a population of about 16,600 in February of this year, lost over 650 people in the tsunami following the earthquake. That's about 4.0% of the population. That number is so unreal. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose that many people in my city.

The tsunami also swept over 40% of Yamamoto-cho, which covers about 60% of the livable land in this town and over 2,000 houses were completely destroyed. There were also over 1,000 houses that were mostly or partly destroyed.

But hearing about all the numbers and actually seeing the destruction was a whole different matter. Seeing the areas that the tsunami swept over was hard to take in. (You can see pictures of the town a few days after the earthquake on Yamamoto-cho's website here.) The area I saw, there was really nothing left. It was just dirt and grass all along the coast with an occasional building that had hung on. Much of the large rubble that the tsunami left behind or swept back in had already been removed.

There was a feeling of horror and sadness as I looked across the open land. But for me, it's part of the devastation that I saw on TV after the earthquake. And I know for sure that doesn't even come close to what the people of Yamamoto-cho, who grew up along the shores, who walked through the streets, and enjoyed life with family in their homes, would feel when seeing the bare area where their houses used to stand. There really were no words.

And yet this small town is already trying to move forward. The town hall employees have been working non-stop, a volunteer center has been set up at the town hall, where many people come from all over Japan, and even overseas, are able to register to help, and the town has been busy building temporary housing for the people who have had to live in various evacuation shelters around town.

This was my first time volunteering for disaster relief so it was all a new experience. I'm hoping to share a bit of the experience with you in the next couple of posts. (Alerting you of looong posts in advance!) But I'm actually heading back to Yamamoto-cho again this weekend to help out in a different project so my posts may be sporadic, especially since I actually forgot my camera there (silly me!).

I'm trying to figure out if I may have subconsciously just left it there so I'd have a reason to go back. Haha. Well, I'm hoping to get back to regular posts by next week.

So how are you all? Can you believe June is almost over? I hope you're all having a fabulous day!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.


  1. Great to have news from you! I can't wait to see your photos. Fabulous post.
    Hats off to you for helping those in need in Japan. Take care.

  2. hi kaori chan! missing you already.
    i thought i was hallucinating when i saw your latest post. haha.
    i;m glad you're back, it was a tiring week i can tell but a very rewarding experience. ^0^

    i think this link
    also helped me understand the impact it has done to its community.
    can't wait for your fotos, hopefully,with the camera this time. ^0^

  3. Kaori - You've got a generous, kind heart! Good for you for volunteering; it must have been very emotional and difficult at times!
    Welcome home - back to Tokyo! A lovely sunset photo!

  4. You have done, and are still doing a great job. You are right about numbers, we often need something more to focus on a tragedy and even more on its long aftermath. Please post what you can, no matter how long.

  5. Good to hear from you, even between two hard but worthwhile trips.

    Oh... and gorgeous sky!

  6. Welcome back -- you sound in great spirits. Looking forward to loooong posts.

  7. What a moving entry. What a beautiful picture. May time and life continue to treat you kind.

    Please have a good new month.

  8. I can't imagine seeing that kind of devastation in person - you're certainly good-hearted to help like that. And I do love that sky!

  9. Welcome back home, Kaori!
    We all need to pray for a prompt recovery for Nippon.

  10. Great work volunteering. Thank you for sharing your story. Always enjoy your posts.
    Have a great July.

  11. the world need more people like you... keep up the good work!

    ~ Jo's Precious Thoughts ~

  12. Nice sky indeed , volunteering is such a good way to help people , it's a great and hard experience to live , i send you positive thoughts to go on your task :)

  13. Good to hear from you again.
    I have volunteered for disaster relief, but it was nothing like this scale of disaster. There is so much work to be done, good for you for being willing and able to help out.

  14. i can only imagine the devastation. it's great that the spirit of volunteerism is alive in your part of the world. thanks for sharing this lovely pink sky.

  15. I've been wondering how things are in Japan. You don't hear much on news anymore :{ I think it's wonderful you're volunteering and I definitely want to see your pictures!

  16. "You go girl!"

    I recently got a T-shirt the color of that sky. Now, I guess I’ll be thinking of your photo when I get around to wearing it.

    Temporary housing seems so important to get people out of shelters. Enough of shelters, でしょう。

    I am so impressed with how many Japanese people focus on what needs to be done and how to do it. I suspect I would be overwhelmed and catatonic under the conditions they suffer through.

    What is it you are doing to help? Do you feel that you can make even a little difference? There was a local SoCal Japanese doctor who went to help soon after the tsunami but he felt that all of his efforts amounted to just about less than zero. The need then was so overwhelming. How bout these days?

  17. Hello, dear Kaori. Your indomitable spirit, as you describe the disaster that has no words, is uplifting. So is the spirit of the countless who have lost and suffered. Do keep posting, I am listening, even if I can't visit as regularly. I was also in transit as you wrote this, now back home in Manila from Bucharest. I do want to clarify your numbers, though. If you correctly typed the pre-tsunami population as 16,600 and the lives lost as 650, that would be nearly 4%, and 650 too many. 40% would be 6,600. And yet, that could be. I recently read that over 15K died and over 7K are still missing. What a horror... as you say, beyond words.

  18. You're so right Francisca!!! I could never calculate worth anything. Thanks so much :-)


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