Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oct 12/13 SWTJ Exposition and Event in Higashi-Hiroshima

SWTJ takes part in the
Higashi-Hiroshima Sake-Matsuri Event!
October 12/13 2013

SWTJ's Hiroshima Branch has taken the lead this time to invite our branch leaders from Tohoku, Rikuzentakata, to take part in the yearly SWTJ Higashi-Hiroshima autumn event. 
Thank you, Hiroshima team!!

A photo exhibition was held, and the SWTJ newsletter "Obi" was distributed to a large number of the many visitors who each year visit the famous eastern Hiroshima rice wine festival. 

Branch leader Mr. Kanazawa and family, and fisherman Murakami and his wife from Rikuzentakata all came to support us and to bring us the newest information on the state of reconstruction in Tohoku, which still struggles to bring some kind of normalcy to the life of the many people who lost kin, house, job and their livelyhood during the tsunami of March 2011. 

Fisherman and SWTJ member Murakami, who every day sails out to high sea off the Iwate prefecture coast to catch mainly octopus, brought some of the finest of his catch to sell for the benefit of SWTJ activities, and to let Hiroshima's people try some of Tohoku's very best produce!

SWTJ had two locations in the festival where SWTJ goods were sold, and where information was handed out to passers-by.

Mr. Kanazawa and his daughter Mie, and Mr. and Mrs. Murakami have always been wonderful in letting SWTJ in Kansai know about the latest needs of their people. Having themselves barely escaped the tsunami and lost their homes, and having been leaders in kasetsu temporary housing units, they keep in touch with many of those most in need. 

"The most difficult time is still to come," says Murakami, "all those who have some kinds of means or who are strong have moved away from temporary housing. Gradually, the local government needs to clean up the temporary housing sites (which sometimes sit on school playgrounds or the like), and some of those who still live there are told again and again to move to a different location because some sites are now cleaned up to make space for the original purpose of the place. Many of those who still live in makeshift housing have no hope for the future, and are isolated, not able to make new friends again and again. There is a need to make something happen for these people, to organize things they can look forward too. Kids have moved from school to school, and still have a hard time to concentrate. Teachers are doing their best to try to bring some rhythm into their unsettled lives. There is a great need to organize events for people in makeshift housing- especially in the small makeshift units, where hardly anyone comes anymore, and to support the children. And we may not forget the people of Fukushima. With the additional load of the nuclear catastrophe, they need our utmost support. "

Thank you, Rikuzentakata leaders, for coming all the way, and for your wonderful participation and good advice!

"We won't forget, we will continue!" 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SWTJ 19th Activity Week August 2013


Thanks to our many supporters and with the help of a great team of SWTJ members and young volunteer camp leader assistants, we were able to again organize a fun summer camp for Tohoku disaster area kids! 
We contacted schools, community centers, and our branches in Tohoku to announce our second summer camp to the local population. Many kids who had participated in the camp last year were eager to join again! And many new kids overcame the fear to leave home for 3 days for the first time alone, and joined us for the great adventure!
The location was just perfect: Minami Koryu Center in Senmaya (Iwate Prefecture) is a spacious house with futon bedding, a big kitchen, and a great sports ground nearby! 

All the meals were prepared together with the kids!  Cooking together was an important part of the camp and enjoyed by all!

Curry for tonight!

At night, the SWTJ volunteer team would meet to prepare the following day...

Staff meeting in preparation for the next day
Off to the river! A good time was had by all!


Everybody just loved the nagashi-somen event where noodles have to be skillfully picked up from a split bamboo stem.

The watermelon game

The 'Tree of Hope' built by the children from cardboard is lighted to send our wishes and hopes to the heavens, as is custom in Japan

About 40 villagers joined us on the last night of the camp for entertainment, Bon-Odori Dance, fireworks, and a good time together with kids, musicians, and SWTJ leaders and members! 

The Slide Walk Salon Orchestra performs a volunteer Live Performance for the camp kids and the villagers of Senmaya during the last night of the camp!

...a time to find new friends
...a time to laugh out loud
...a time to be just yourself
...a time to be devastated because of a defeat in a game
...a time to rediscover the joy of water
...a time to connect with camp leaders
               ...and so much more! 

These kids have come so far since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Many of them still live in temporary container housing, and many of them have lost close relatives and friends. 

However, they have participated in our camp with much joy and energy, and have helped with all tasks, including cooking and cleaning, all throughout! And many many friendships have been built!
SWTJ is convinced again that work with children continues to be crucial in Tohoku!

We won't forget, we will continue!

See more pictures of the 2013 Summer Camp in the slide show below (click on bottom right corner for full sight).


SWTJ would like to thank all the wonderful villagers and volunteers who helped or participated in the camp, and all those who made the camp possible through their generous financial, material and spiritual contribution!

SWTJ 18th Activity Week May 2013


The May Activity Week stood under the sign of deepening our contacts in Tohoku in order to respond to the new needs in each of the communities we work with. 

Kesennuma Karakuwa Isaribi Park: SWTJ co-organizes Aozora Community and Flea Market Event May 3 and 4 

3 SWTJ members spent a very intense week talking to the leaders of our branches in Tohoku, contributing with food stalls, a flea market, kids' events, and a music live performance in local community events for displaced people, discussing opportunities to launch a music project for evacuee children, and checking out a camp house that SWTJ will use during its summer camp for evacuee children that will take place in August 2013. 

On May 3 and 4, at Isaribi Park in Karakuwa, Kesennuma, we connected with our local contact Yoshida who is active in organizing community-building events for the displaced people in the area. SWTJ's food stalls with the possibility for kids to make their own cotton candy were very popular, and the flea market was well visited.

In Rikuzentakata, we connected with SWTJ branch leader Kanazawa (left), whose knowledge of new developments in the disaster area is indispensable to the direction of our organization. Thanks to Mr. Kanazawa's introduction we were able to support activities at the community event at Dencho-kan in the hills of Rikuzentakata, where over 1,000 people, many of them evacuees from the nearly entirely swept away former city of Rikuzentakata, gathered for 'Childrens' Day' on May 5.    

May 5 (Childrens' Day) Hakodateyama-Festival in Rikuzentakata: SWTJ games for displaced kids

A visit to Tsukidate Community Space in Yasse, Kesennuma, 

a space built by SWTJ in 2012 to support exchange and 

community-building between displaced people in container

housing and local villagers:

Visit at our branch in Yasse, Kesennuma (Photo: Community Space built by SWTJ in 2012)
Emotional re-encounter between Yasse temporary container housing resident S. and SWTJ members.

Shishiori Station in Kesennuma, May 2013: The scenery looks peaceful, but the boat in the back ran over dozens of homes during the tsunami, and the train station was swept away. Not much change here yet.

Finally, we visited School Director Yamamoto of Kujo Primary 

School in Kesennuma. Mr. Yamamoto has advised SWTJ 

many times regarding the post-tsunami needs of children. 

Many children at his school have been moved here from 

Minami Kesennuma Primary School, where they had 

been hard hit by the tsunami: after the earthquake they were 

evacuated to the roof of the school where they spent 

the night in the dark and cold, and where they 

witnessed how their homes were swept away, and how fires 

started in their hometown.

Left: SWTJ Director Y.Yoshikawa. Right: School Director Yamamoto of Kujo Primary School in Kesennuma

Mr. Yamamoto says: "I would like to use the help of Art so 

that these kids can express themselves and find strength

again. Mr. Yoshikawa, I hope to work together with you."

SWTJ will strive to continue working with children who are still 

traumatized by the tsunami and the related disasters.

On May 5 we visit 'Minami Koryu Center' in Senmaya, a

community house in a village close to the border between 

Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, to check if

the location would be suitable for our summer camp for kids

from the disaster area. The people at the center are very 

friendly, and the infrastructure at the center seems perfect for

our camp!

Check our next blog for news on the 2013 SWTJ summer camp for Tohoku disaster area kids! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013



Spring flowers of the SWTJ November 2011 spring flower bulb planting project have been blooming for the second time around!!

In October and November 2011, SWTJ conducted a flower bulb planting project with temporary housing residents in several locations in the disaster area. The purpose of the project was to bring together residents of temporary housing who at that time still didn't know each other well, and to engage residents in an activity that would bring them continuous joy through cooperation for a long time. 

In October 2011, a large number of sponsors had sent us flower bulbs, planting materials, or financial aid to conduct the project!
Our contacts in Tohoku have been keeping us update on how the flowers are doing, and we would like to share the photos they sent us, so that our blog readers can share the joy these flowers still bring!

Late April 2012: Tulips in Rikuzentakata soon to bloom!

The tulips near the Isaribi Temporary Housing Unit in full bloom in May 2012!

In summer 2012, evacuees carefully dug up and dried tulip bulbs until the autumn, and used the new SWTJ planters to plant sunflowers during the summer!

Summer 2012

In autumn 2012, the planters were prepared for the next spring, and the bulbs replanted.

Early April 2013

Mrs. Murakami from the Isaribi Temporary Housing Unit, where many evacuees from the Karakuwa Peninsula (Kesennuma) stay, helped plant and take care of the bulbs.

                               In  late April 2013, the tulips again started to bloom!!

And in mid-May they were in full bloom again!

Isaribi Temporary Housing at left

SWTJ would like to again thank the sponsors who so generously donated bulbs, materials and financial aid for the project. We would also like to thank the residents in the temporary housing in Rikuzentakata and Kesennuma for taking such good care of the bulbs. Special thanks also to Mr.Yoshida of the Isaribi Park Godai restaurant for sending us most of the photos!

Monday, March 18, 2013

SWTJ 17th Activity Week


SWTJ Requiem Music Caravan
March 8-14, 2013

In memory of the victims
 of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011

At Kitakami-En Home for the Elderly in Miyagi Prefecture, a resident keeps up with the rhythm of the SWTJ performance
(Photo K.Kawatani)

(We thank Mr. Kawatani for allowing us to publish some of his photos in this blog!)

The 17th SWTJ Activity Week team has just come back from a week packed with events and encounters in Tohoku!

The Fanfare Roma'n-Garde and Niju Maru in action! (Photo K.Kawatani)

Two years after the earthquake and tsunami, the emotional wounds of having lost so much have not healed. However, a certain silence has set in: a tiredness of asking for help.

At a loss of ideas how to help, many volunteers have stopped going to Tohoku.

At the time of this 2nd Anniversary, SWTJ makes a new commitment to keep its promise of long-term support. 

Evacuee children love meeting our musicians (Photo K.Kawatani)

Although reconstruction is painfully slow, we are convinced that eventually, the resourceful spirit of Tohoku's warmhearted people and the rich potential of the region's cultural heritage and nature will win over the hardships of the present. 

Today, as motivation among victims threatens to weaken, we continue to strengthen our cooperation with local Tohoku leaders and to co-organize cultural projects that help old and young survivors to make their dreams known, to connect with people in Japan and abroad, and to find the strength to move forward.
Niju Maru performs with SWTJ for residents at Isaribi temporary housing site in  Isaribi Park, Kesennuma
The SWTJ 17th Activity Week included events at temporary container housing sites where evacuees reside, a performance at a home for the elderly in Tome City, a requiem parade in destroyed former city landscapes, and, on March 11, a requiem concert high-up on Mount Anba in memory of the victims. Moreover, SWTJ information events were conducted in Ishinomaki (Miyagi), Kanazawa (Ichikawa), and Ueda (Nagano). 
Kesennuma seen from Mount Anba (March 11, 2013)
Shishimai performance on Mout Anba by Niju Maru

Requiem Memorial Event on Mount Anba, above Kesennuma

Events conducted at temporary housing

In the picture below, SWTJ musicians play at the Fukushi no Sato Shuhen C temporary housing site in Shishiori, Kesennuma, where evacuees from the Karakuwa Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture reside. Minestrone soup was served to all during the concert. 
Big thanks to Mr. Yoshida of Isaribi Park for introducing us!

Event for Karakuwa Peninsula evacuees at Fukushi no Sato Shuhen C Okyu Temporary Housing Site in Shishiori, Kesennuma

We would like to thank Mr. Kiyokazu Kawatani, a photographer who moved his residence to Tome in the disaster area after having worked as a disaster relief volunteer, for introducing us to the Tokura Chugakko temporary housing site in Minamisanriku, and  to the home for the elderly Kitakami-En in Tome, both in Miyagi Prefecture, where we were enthusiastically welcomed. Thanks to these contacts, we have been able to again widen our network in the disaster area. Don't miss reading the special information on the amazing people of the Tokura housing site below!

The Niju Maru performers (left) with evacuee Mr. Sato from NPO Mirai Minamisanriku (right) at Tokura Chugakko Temporary Housing in Minamisanriku (Photo K.Kawatani) 

The Tokura Chugakko temporary housing site in Minamisanriku was the first site where residents took the initiative to make good use of the community site through establishing the NPO Mirai Minamisanriku. The NPO, led by Mr. Sato, has established a blog, helps sell seaweed products by local makers who have made a new beginning, and has published a book on disaster victims' experiences that sells well. Moreover, they offer a place to stay over for volunteers for a fee, which also produces some income for the Tokura residents. 
Cheers to the initiative and motivation of the Tokura residents! Check for yourself how you can contribute in your own way to this unique undertaking!

(link is in Japanese only)
Niju Maru performs at Tokura Chugakko Temporary Housing  (Photo K.Kawatani) 

Finally a BIG THANK YOU to the wonderful members of the Fanfare Roma’n-Garde, an ensemble of Japanese musicians led by Seto Nobuyuki, and the amazing team Niju Maru, a couple specialized in traditional performing arts of the Edo Period (Edo tai-kagura), for having agreed to take part in the  SWTJ Earthquake and Tsunami Anniversary Week as volunteers who donate their time and skills. 
Evacuee residents at Tokura Chugakko Temporary Housing (Minamisanriku) share a genuine moment of joy while watching the performance (Photo K.Kawatani)

You have brought much joy and many smiles to the faces of the victims!!! 
On the way to the disaster area and on the way back, the 17th Activity Week team stopped over in Kanazawa, Ishinomaki, and Ueda. In these cities, the team organized live music events combined with SWTJ exhibitions, which allowed us to meet many people eager to hear about our work in Tohoku and willing to support us in our ongoing projects. 
SWTJ Exhibition and sale of SWTJ goods in Kanazawa

Back in Kyoto on March 15, SWTJ Representative Yasuo Yoshikawa reported on SWTJ's 17th Activity Week in the disaster area.

SWTJ would like to thank the many generous sponsors who made the 2nd Anniversary Activity Week possible, the professional musicians and performers who donated their skills, and the wonderful people in Tohoku who helped us organize on-site, especially Mr. Yoshida from Isaribi Park in Kesennuma who helped prepare our Shishiori and Isaribi events in Kesennuma, and Mr. Kawatani and Mr. Sato who coordinated our events in Tome and Minamisanriku.

We will be back in the disaster area in early May. 
Watch out for our next blog!