Our Reflections 2015

4 years since 3.11. In Sendai, it’s a mixture of snow and rain. Remembering that moment, my heart aches.
At Sendai, staff have composed together the message “Our Reflections 2015”. In drafting this message, our minds focused especially on the residents of “Sasayashiki Ishiba” whom we support regularly.
Let 3.11 be filled with many prayers.
Masashi Sato
Coordinator of Emmaus Sendai
Our Reflections 2015
4 years since that moment.
We recognized our mere existence.
But even then, we were greeted with kindness and received a lot of smiles.
4 years since that moment.
Numbering in the thousands like the stars,
Prayers were dedicated to this region from all over the world.
Many relationships were formed.
Many stories told.
In telling their stories, we feel their strength to overcome.
4 years since that moment.
Are you not tired?
Are you not trying too hard?
As each person follows his or her own pace,
We shall follow each step.
We long to continue supporting the chain of “Sasaeai”.
4 years since that moment.
From the land filled with debris,
A flower blooms here and there.
The flower that blooms in the land soaked in tears and struggles was
So magnificent, so magnificent,
It taught us the power to live.
We yearn to continue living in this land together.
Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.
It was so good to have known all of you.

Sasakko club in June

We had a gathering for this month’s Sasakko club (children program in Emmaus Sendai) in June 1st, and 12 children came for it.
June is the month when most of all the areas in Japan enters the rainy season called “tsuyu(梅雨 for kanji), so we thought it would be a good idea to play outside before the gloomy grey clouds hovers above the city of Sendai. This time, we had recreational activities using balls, and after that, we had an ice cream party in which each child made his or her own unique sundae. The weather was good, the staffs were good lol, and the children played so energetically, exhausting the staffs…moreover, it was so worth being at the place where the air was filled with children’s laughter.

UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

Unfortunately, we are not going to have a gathering in July.
BUT! We will do our best for this coming summer vacation.
Dates: Mon., Wed., Fri. on the 2nd through 4th week of August, from 10am to 3pm.
Place: Sasayashiki community hall
10am~12noon: study time
12noon~1pm: lunch
1pm~3pm: recreational time
We would appreciate your prayer for this summer program that God blesses those children and college-student volunteers.
Kenichi Tanaka, a Sendai staff

narcissus festival

On April 27th, Saturday, the group with the members mostly from the residents of Shichigo central park temporary housings and I went to Suisen (narcissus) festival in the skiing area at Zao Eboshi. There were 25 of us!! Probably since it was Saturday, some of the members who joined this trip were a family, and it was why we could go in a big group.

UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

Lunch with the view of fully bloomed narcissus!! …was what I was expecting, but, unfortunately, only few of them were bloomed completely. On the other hand, some said that “wow, the air is getting so clear!!” on the way to reach the mountain as the bus leaves the town of Sendai behind. Also, at the restaurant in the skiing resort, I could see some members ordered curry rice, which people living alone rarely cook (curry is usually cooked in a big pot). In other words, I could see them doing small things that they usually cannot do in temporary housings.

UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

After lunch at the restaurant, we headed to a bakery called Tamago ya (egg shop) to buy some pastries and ice cream, and devoured them in the bus!! And to finish up the trip, we went for shopping at Michi-no-eki (a roadside station) to get some souvenir and vegetables! All of them intensely looked at the items, accessing them, and left the shop with their bag jam-packed.
This time, we could use a shuttle from a kindergarten, which enabled all of us to go altogether in the same vehicle. Inside the packed bus was like a party. The air was filled with laughter, and all of us indulged ourselves in pleasant moments.

UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

It was sort of unfortunate that the narcissuses were not fully bloomed…but I believe we could make some memories that are different from everyday living. Many residents in the temporary housings have difficulties going out, and thus, I wish to make an event like this time so that we can do something together and go somewhere together.
Fuka Kayano, a Sendai Staff
Translated by Kenichi Tanaka

volunteer needed

Emmaus is recruiting volunteers. The target place is Sasayashiki, Sendai city, a town currently going through its recovery from the damages by the tsunami. In the area, the residents are mostly farmers, and in order for them to reclaim what they used to call their “daily life,” the restoration of the farming lands is inevitable.

UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

At Emmaus, our works usually consist of removing stones buried underground and grasses in the farming lands. Now, it has entered very busy season for farmers. Although we receive work-requests, we cannot make an action immediately due to the small numbers of volunteers. As a result, there are still requests on hold.
The work is not something that special skills are required; it is a work that everyone can do. If you have some time to join the volunteer works, please let us know.
Mamoru Kikuchi, a Sendai staff
Translated by Kenichi Tanaka

3.11 memorial event

3.11 memorial event
We had the 2nd memorial event in Sasayashiki area. Although the snowy weather in the previous day had worried us, the sun came to show its face, and we could hold the event under the graceful daylight.
On that day, we had the picture display, ochakko (tea time), and hand massage for the morning program.
As for the picture display, ex-staff, Horita, had collected pictures titled “hope” and “steps from that day” and exhibited on the wall of the community hall. In addition to those pictures, we filed pictures in five different themes – “working scenes,” “events,” “Sasakko club,” “smiles,” and “fruitions” – and made an album so that the visitors could see it while having a cup of tea. These display and album will be placed at the community hall for a while.
There were several people from the town for the event, and they had relaxing time by having conversations with volunteers, taking a look at pictures, and getting hand massages. I believe the place bored smiles among the people, because some locals remembered some of the volunteers who came to the town through Emmaus before, and they talked about the time when they met, walking down the memory lanes.
From 13:30, we had a small concert by the guitar and accordion. Other volunteers came to join and the place was full, but it felt like the distance between people also grew close. Listening to the music, people sang a song altogether, laughed, and sometimes dropped tears. It was as if I saw a glimpse of slow-work – the quality we Emmaus highly value – in this day even though there was no actual work.
And at 14:46, everyone stood facing the direction for Arahama and gave a silent prayer.
Remembering the day in 2 years ago, lamenting, each of us gave a prayer.
“Each of our work is small and tiny, but not powerless.”
I remembered the words that one volunteer said, who came to volunteer earlier time after the disaster. The recovery work is not done, or rather it is not proceeded yet in the disaster area. Many coast areas are still left bare as debris was removed. In front of such scenery, it cannot be helped that we can do nothing but stand there feeling powerless.
We Emmaus desire to continue our works at our best, however small it is.
However slow it is, we want to keep accompany with the victims and their hearts, making a step to step, side by side.
“it is rather us, who were saved by the strong but kind, and warm smiles that shines in the unimaginable suffering and pain. I hope that I can be, however small it is, a part of your smile.” N.S. a volunteer
There was a college student volunteer who was always cheerful and bubbly. At the event, an old lady was sitting on a chair, and she started to talk to the volunteer. The college student, kneeling down, looked up to the lady and started to listen to her. I came across this scene, but I remembered it touched my heart. I was convinced at the moment that Emmaus could have continued its work, because the people who come to Emmaus are so wonderful like this college student.
It has entered the third year from the disaster.
Please remember Emmaus in your prayer.
We appreciate your continued support.
Sendai staff

Emmaus Activities Report in English

Two years has passed from the day of the disaster.
In the town of Shichigo, most of the rice fields are being prepared to start farming, as power shovels are seen everywhere and new soils are brought in. Vegetables are covering the farm lands that once were bare and full of stones. Some people have made their way back to their own houses from their temporary housings.
Although there are still many things to be done, I believe, recovery works is surely bearing the fruition, more or less.
It is our great honor to be a part of this circle of recovery.
Needless to say, our activity would not have been possible without the supports from many. For those who have supported us, we have composed a report book as a way to express our appreciation.
Please click the link to see the activity report.
Emmaus Activities Report in English
We truly appreciate your continued support.

Garage sale at Shichigo temporary housings!

On February 9th (Sat.), we had a garage sale at the meeting hall. Therein, we set three different booths – mini garage sale, tea time area, and hand massage booth.
One of the reasons for this event is to invite more people in the temporary housings, because the same members gather at the meeting hall usually. We hoped that new faces would come to the hall and meet with others whom they do not usually have a chance to interact with.
On this day, about twenty five people came, and the place was full of energy.
More than that, the place seemed to be revitalized. Many of the residents got flu and were hospitalized. Also, due to the continued cold and snowy weather, the residents seemed to stay inside their rooms these days.
As soon as the event was started, the residents’ passion for shopping was ignited. The items were being sold one after another. There was an exhilarating atmosphere where people enjoyed shopping, looking at here and there to find the items to buy.
You could hear conversations like “Don’t you think this is a good price?” or “It’s got a good price!” and they would push others to purchase items. It was as if they were the sales persons, not us.
As of the items, they were the relief supplies which were sent to Emmaus, and we priced those items ranging from ten yen to one hundred fifty yen. It is not an emergency nowadays. We thought that it would be better for the residents to choose what they really need at their own will, rather than delivering the items, where they would receive the items passively.
After shopping, the residents enjoyed hand massage and tea time. They could indulge themselves in a relaxing environment.
Hand massage was quite popular. A lady said “It was awesome to get hand massage by a handsome young man!!” It seemed like she had an amazingly relaxing time…
We would like to continue to have events like this so that the meeting hall would be full of laughter and people can make good memories.
Chisato Yoshida
a Sendai staff

Throwing beans – Setsubun

February is the month to throw beans, Setsubun.
By throwing beans at ghosts, or Mame-maki, you welcome luck into your house, an traditional event in Japanese culture. So, we had this mame-maki at Sasakko on February 2nd.
This time, three boys came to join Sasakko club.
As of staffs, there are three staffs from children’s center in Honjokagawa, Tokyo, three college students from student center in Emmaus, and a female student from Maijigakuin-Higashimurayama high school.
To begin with, we had the children make their own masks of ghosts.
They are very creative children.
They freely drew whatever they pleased rather than the assignment.
Yes, they are very creative.
“There would be no masks we can use for this event!!”
Some staffs desperately started to make the masks at their best.
The masks were truly well made, very realistic and full of punch.
Perhaps children were frightened by the pieces…well maybe.
As soon as the masks were completed, children cut them into pieces to the level of complicated puzzles by scissors.
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
Now the children caught the fire in their heart.
Their switch was turned on.
The male staffs from children’s center became their target.
But they are professional after all.
They possessed the capability to receive the overwhelming energy the children had.
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
Well, the preparation, stormy and full of drama, was done.
We started making boxes for beans from papers.
Female staffs exhibit their wonderful talent then.
They wrapped the children’s powerful energy with their gracefulness and kindness.
They taught the children how to make the boxes and other origami skills.
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
And now Mame-maki time (throwing beans).
Another staff who came by to see the event, Tatsuo, took the role of ghost, which no one dared to take.
Since most energetic children from Sasakko club came today, the even was harsh, but truly cheerful as if we were playing dodge ball (usually it supposed to be not like dodge ball though).
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
After then, we enjoyed the tasty beans. (We used peanuts in shell, so the edible bean parts were clean enough to eat.)
UCCJ Tohoku Disaster Relief Center
Almost 2 years of times has passed from the day of the disaster.
The words the president of an elementary school spoke lingered in my ears.
“The disaster is not over yet.”
By these words, he meant that the children become adults with the scars from the disaster carried in their hearts.
We want these children to have many opportunities to laugh.
We want them to spend more enjoyable times.
More than the memories from that day,
We pray that they will make joyful memories.
The children and staffs who came to join with us,
I truly give my thanks to you all.
Kenichi Tanaka, a Sendai staff

Emmaus Ishinomaki Report

Emmaus Ishonomaki reports from Dec. Emmaus blog
Reports by the staff and workers were translated, condensed, and reported by Bob Fujimura
A work report by Ryosuke Fujimoto, a Momoyama Gakuin College student
I arrived in Sendai on Dec. 1, and on Monday, Dec. 3rd, joined the work at Ishinomaki. Seeing the disaster area by my own eyes were quite different from watching the image on TV. It may be a common understanding, but actually seeing the place at the front of my eyes was a great shock and felt deep sorrow. I was perturbed by the difference in image I had from mass media and what I have actually seen.
During the short period of work, I felt the warms and strength of the local Ishinomaki people. I felt their strength and the will to move forward; it is not the time just to be perturbed. We worked at a house by the shore and talked with a fisherman. He said he is glad just to be alive, and happy that his family was saved. In this age of instant gratification of everything one wants, I felt we have become insensitive; I should be happy just to be alive and thankful to be surrounded by my family and friends. I should not need anything else.
On today, December 7th, we were to leave for Sendai, but had earthquake ofmagnitude 5. When it happened, we were together talking and joking, and evacuated smoothly. If I was alone, I may have panicked. People in the town became one and helped each other; I was relived of tension. Now, I am exhausted. I felt that local people are coping like this every day.
It was a short stay, but the staff of Emmaus Ishinomaki had welcomed us with warmth, and I am grateful that they treated us so well. Thanks very much. I am thankful to all the people of Emmaus and Ishinomaki, and for Momoyama Gakuin College for providing me with this chance. Lets fight on, Northeast Japan!!
12/ 11/ 2012
Work report by Akira Yoda, one of the volunteers.
Volunteers went to work at Toba area of Ishinomaki, one year and nine months after 3.11. They picked weeds and small debris at the house of a survivor who is living in a temporary housing. The house appeared to have been given up for clean up until today. There are many abandoned houses around Toba Gradeschool (apparently abandoned). There was so much to do that impossible to finish cleaning. Neighbors walking by praise the workers for doing a good job, thanking them for their effort.
Workers felt revived every time a person walking by talked to them. At 2:46PM, the time of the earthquake of 3.11, the volunteers made a circle and gave the silent prayer.
The next day one of the neighbors invited them for tea and sweets. The host was about 87-year-old grandmother living alone but appeared in good health. The volunteers sat at the sunny side of the house, enjoyed the refreshments, and listened to her experience on 3.11 and recent experiences and thoughts. The volunteers just listened wordless. They could not accurately vision what it is like living in the midst of the ruins by herself. They hoped that their presence would at least give comfort to her. The experience told by her was not reported in media, and it was a valuable experience for the workers. This meeting was once in the lifetime encounter but the volunteers felt that they are needed to come back again. They departed saying ‘see you and have the tea together again’.
A dairy by Iino, a staff member
This day was one year and nine months since 3.11. They frequently had earthquake of the magnitude 4-5 since that day, but yesterday when they had magnitude of 5, they were told to evacuate from the house for the first time. This was the first time Ms Iino had experienced the evacuation but nothing happened. For the staff, it was an actual simulation of the evacuation procedure and a valuable experience. It was sudden and they evacuated without wallets, food, and other necessities. It was a good lesson for us to be prepared all the time for emergency.
A work report by a staff member
Today we replaced papers of sliding screen doors. The host is old and being taken cares by a housekeeper, who could not do this type of work.
During the earthquake a couple of days ago, she could not get out of the house. She is living with a bedridden parent, and they stayed together on the second floor. She smiled that if the house collapsed, they would have just given up.
It took about 40 min. by a car from the Center to get there. At the time of the earthquake, a couple of days ago, the main roads were full of traffic and could not have gone to save them.
In time of emergency, what could Emmaus Support Center have done? Would the staff members risk own lives to save others or just try to save his/her own life?
The memory of the disaster of 3.11 is gradually fading away, and we need to reassess our commitment to the survivors of the earthquake/tsunami.
Work Report by Hitomi Takei, a staff member
This morning, we helped remove household goods from a house that is condemned. The ground underneath it had sunk, and the house was visibly tilted. The owner of the house is currently living in an apartment and going to rebuild a new house at a different location. The house would be dismantled in February, and the household goods have to be removed by the mid January. The host appeared not to know how to remove them. We assisted in moving shelves to the apartment, and packed dishes into boxes. We are doing the work carefully noting the content of each box.
A work report by Niwa, a staff member:
Today, we took out dirt from under the floor. We have not cleaned under the floor of a house for more than six months. It was a big house, but the space underneath the floor was higher than any houses we worked. We did not bend our back much and the work progressed smoothly. A professional would disinfect the place.
A note by Bob Fujimura: I have reported that the facility like Emmaus should become permanent to assist elderly people. These reports by the staff and the volunteers support the proposal that this kind of facility is needed all over Japan.