Published: May 6th 2012May 6th 2012
Ishinomaki's man hole cover
I have a dream that one day it will be back to this picture.
...it’s also hope, overwhelming problems, determination, love, and lingering frustrations. All mixed together. Because some days it’s more of one feeling, and the next, it’s more of another. Everybody has to cling on something to not feel disouraged. When you pass by one of the too numerous mountains of garbage or cars or tires, the ones they still don’t know where they’ll get rid of, you can’t help but feel a bit hopeless. There are so many things here that you can’t do anything about just with your two arms and spirit.
But. There is such a good energy, such love coming from all these people going through this all together, waking up every morning to do what is possible for them to do. Until one day, a clearer morning will arise. And it will.
The situation here is really, really complicated. Some cities are still unsure if they will rebuild, or where, or with what money. There are, between other issues, a large gash between generations. A fellow volunteer I had the chance to work with wrote an interesting article about it: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120403hn.html
. There are frustrations from the locals regarding the way the government manages the nuclear situation.
Where to put them all? All I could think about is dig a hole on the moon and put them there. There is really no place anywhere else...
Nagasato san, one of the proud leaders of Funakoshi’s revival, told me how Japanese could accept and go through a natural catastrophe without bitter feelings. But the high radiation levels in marine foods force stopped all the jobs related to fishing. Most of the town in Tohoku have their economy based on fish and seafood, therefore a lot of families lost their livelihood. Nagasato says that the tsunami victims are really angry and hopeless against the government, who doesn’t act like if it was anybody’s fault even if they took the decision to have a nuclear reactors in such a risky place. And it even shows in their measures: Nagasato and his fellows had to pay a lot of money to test the seafood around their port for radiation traces, in order to get legal permission to restart selling them. Government faults like this one would bring people in western countries in the street screaming their anger and asking for justice. In Japan, it doesn’t seem like it’s that inherent to contest authority. There are demonstrations against the nuclear reactors (who have all shut down now), but I feel like there are so many other reasons why they should ask
INJM with Peace Boat
for justice. Hence the lingering frustrations they have to live with everyday, piling up over their many other issues.
Some groups gather in villages and work hard to gather money and government recognition to receive funds to rebuild their houses. And when they get recognition, it might raise some tensions between them and the people from the same village who decided to not join in the movement and restart their lives elsewhere. It’s understandable: few would put their life on hold while waiting for and indefinite amount of time before their city is rebuilt. For an example of a city INJM was working with and just received the funds and approval to rebuild (it’s Nagasato’s village): http://www.brighterthantomorrow.com/
A fellow INJM Japanese girl told us once how surprised she was that so many foreigners came to help even one year after the disaster. The answer is easy. Japan is such a beautiful country on so many levels, it gave so much to so many people just by being awesome. It brought me so much in my personal life and helped me grow up as a person I think. It just felt natural to go up there and help. Just
This is not a wall
this is the bottom of the house
to give back a little to the people who offered me so much.
To people who thinks that Tohoku is out of the mud, therefore doesn’t need our help anymore, I beg to differ. Yes, a tremendous amount of work has been done. They're now out of the meters of mud and garbage that was their landscape for months. But I could list one thousand reasons why we still need to go. What we see on t.v. (i.e. Fukushima and the radioactivity) is not the main issue. The focus should rather be put on the thousands of people that still live in tiny temporary houses and will be there for many other years. The communities were without a doubt dissolved, because the families were randomly scattered amongst the different temporary houses. But the main issue still remains the psychological consequences it will leave on their personal and collective memory. They’ve seen atrocious images and lost so much in the events. The government seems to have his hands full with the nuclear events and money or help from it will be very slow to come. The lucky ones who still have their house standing have their own issues. Often they
Funakoshi's ogatsu charm
One of Funakoshi's initiative: making charms and memento using the broken roof slates found in the tsunami debris. It comes from a famous rock in the area, thus making these memento a strong symbol of the events. The women making them are now famous, we call them the Funakoshi Ladies.
have to destroy moldy walls and floors to replace it. That is if it’s deemed safe enough to reintegrate their house: some can’t because of landslide risks, despite the fact that their houses are perfectly inhabitable. Others have to make sense of the mess the earthquake did with their belongings. A lot of work with the locals done by INJM was to help cleaning houses and rebuild gardens. It’s so redeeming to see their smiles of relief when we’re done making their home a little bit more inhabitable. It might be small in front of all their worries, but it’s a little weight taken off their minds. And that’s why I will come back, again and again.
So, if you ever have some free time on your hands, and want to help where it matters, do something meaningful, Tohoku will still need help for many years to come.
p.s. Version française peut-être à venir (c'est longgggg)
To volunteer : http://itsnotjustmud.com/
Pictures of projects: https://www.facebook.com/ItsNotJustMud
These are in my opinion two of the best videos covering the events:
If you have time, look for the video called
"BBCドキュメンタリー「津波の子供たち」_Japan's children of the tsu" on Daily Motion
If you have less time, look for "BBC News Panorama Documentry Japan Tsunami: The Survivors' Stories" on Youtube
There are more photos below