journal

5/5/11 special mission

even in the middle of a disaster area, on a clean up volunteer trip, an experience that I’ve become used to in japan–being invited to go somewhere unknown, without knowing the reason! it happens a lot here, I guess because of language/culture gaps partially, or maybe a different culture of simply following. but anyway, I think of it as a very in-japan experience: invited to do something/go somewhere, and not really understand what that something is until after doing it!

yesterday I was talking to S san, of the Nippon Foundation, about my research, and housing, and the NF, and the area we were in. And this morning before we got to the place where we switch buses, I was summoned off the bus, with A. there was some confusion but anyway we girls from kobe left the bus of volunteers and had a little tour of the area with K san, and another mr K, a fellow who was visiting from the transportation ministry. basically we visited the areas that NF is involved with, and saw a few projects. sorry team 2 volunteers! didn’t mean to abandon you!

we drove around part of the ojika hanto in K san’s van. It seemed like it was equipped with everything you would need to set up a base camp-and it undoubtably had been used for just that.

our first stop was kitsunesaki peninsula, which had a unique configuration of very deep water, so had escaped damage. in buildings near the port, water had entered the 1st floor up to the ceiling, but it had risen gradually, not the murderous black wave that swept away other villages. kitsune is the fox god, a clever trickster. I wondered if some people in the past had known it was a smart place to live, safe from tsunami, if there was some connection to the name. the logs from across the water, from ishinomaki city, got loose during the tsunami. they can cause damage to fishing boats, so they have to be gathered up and taken out of the water.

K San took us to to kobuchi village to meet Mr. R from IDRO Japan, which has since gained official NPO status. IDRO is a group of folks from Kyoto, who have been making relief trips up to ojika, and also have handed out tools, and organized volunteer groups to help with clean up. One of the guys who received their tools has already built himself a house out of debris, which is very impressive. IDRO /Mr.R also helped someone build a new bath; and are planning to be involved in some longer term construction projects, houses or community centers, great!

Next stop, kaomi kura, where volunteers have built a bath for the whole community to use. There are about 40 people in the village, and they bath in order: elderly, kids, men, women. the bath structure is build next to a stream, with a stove in back to heat the water.

in the afternoon we went back to kitsunesaki and helped some volunteers from the self defense forces academy clean up the beach and bouys. they were nice kids. at the end of the day one man who was apparently a chainsaw sculptor (I think his main work was something else, related to disaster area clean up, maybe) used one of the big logs that they had hauled out of the water earlier to make a sculpture of a kitsune (fox) for the village. all the ojisans gathered around to watch, and really were impressed by the art work created.

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About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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