Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013: SWTJ 16th Tohoku Activity Week

Jan 2013: 16th Kyoto Caravan

Time: Jan 18-Jan 21

Purpose: Visits at temporary housing, interviews at local industries that have restarted business (results to be published in SWTJ's newsletter 'Obi'), meetings with locals regarding SWTJ 2013 activities.

SWTJ participating members: Shuto, Inoue, Hakozaki, Ichino, Kawano 

January 19:
Road trip from Kyoto to Kesennuma (Miyagi Prefecture) by night bus.
After our arrival in Kesennuma, we formed two teams. The first team (Hakozaki and Ichino) was going to drive to Minamisanriku (Utatsu), to meet our contacts there, and to gather information on the restart of the local wakame industry.
The second team (Shuto and Inoue) was picked up at the station by SWTJ Kesennuma Branch Manager Yoshida Katsuhiko (thank you!) and was going to meet our contacts in the temporary housing next to the Mori no Gakko Nature School in the hills of Kesennuma. 

1.SWTJ contacts in Minamisanriku
When SWTJ last visited evacuees in Utatsu in April 2012, the people in the Yoshinozawa Temporary Housing Complex had set up the sewing workshop 'Saneccha' for local housewives to create some income and to recreate a sense of community and purpose among the evacuees.
Thanks to the donation of individual donors in Kansai, SWTJ was able to provide the workshop with two industrial sewing machines at a time when they were most needed. 

During the 9 months since our last visit, the community has made immense efforts to rebuild the local wakame seaweed industry which was totally destroyed by the March 2011 tsunami. Since last autumn, many of the workers in the Saneccha sewing workshop have gone back to work at the coast to help reconstruct the local wakame seaweed farming sites. 
SWTJ interviewed the Hatakeyama family to hear their story of how they and their community suffered the loss of everything during the tsunami, how they live as evacuees at the temporary housing, how they set up the sewing workshop to create some income, and how their community is now working hard to rebuild the local wakame farming industry. 

Fresh and tender wakame seaweed from the reborn Hatakeyama wakame farm in Utatsu will be available at our fundraising event on February 11, 2013 in Kyoto! 
Come by and try!--don't miss this opportunity to support the wonderful Utatsu evacuee community that has come so far since the disaster two years ago! 

A detailed report on our Utatsu visit will be published in the SWTJ February newsletter 'Obi.'

SWTJ interviews seaweed farmer Hatakeyama on the local wakame farm

2.Yasse, SWTJ Kesennuma Branch
SWTJ members Shuto and Inoue went to meet SWTJ contacts at the temporary housing site of the Former Tsukidate Elementary School. After visiting the SWTJ Tsukidate Community Space, they met evacuees Mr. S. and Mr. M., two former fishermen with whom we are in close contact as they regularly keep us update on the current situation of the local evacuees.

Space in front of the Tsukidate temporary housing. In the background: SWTJ's Tsukidate Community Space

Meeting former fishermen Mr. S. and Mr. M. in Tsukidate, Kesennuma.

We further met the members of KRA (Kesennuma Reconstruction Association) who have been doing their best to recuperate and repair tsunami-damaged photos of  the evacuee community. There is still a huge stock of such photos in the Tsukidate Former Elementary School, waiting for their owners to get them.  

Exhibiiton of photos, books, and other 'lost and found' tsunami-damaged objects.
At Former Tsukidate Elementary School.

The staff of KRA told us that people have various reactions towards the photo collection. There are those who are eager to find memories of their loved ones and who come again and again to see if someone brought in a photo of those they lost, while others say that they do not have the strength yet to face objects that so realistically remind them of what happened. The people at KRA, however, continue to clean photos one by one, and to save them at the school for the day when someone may decide to carry home the memory of a loved one.

At night, our two groups came together and we drove to Isaribi Park high above the Karakuwa Peninsula coast to meet the Y. family who has been helping us throughout the last two years to get in contact and work with the  local evacuee community. 
Next May during the public holiday 'Golden Week,' a public event including a flea market will be held in front of the Isaribi Park temporary housing. SWTJ plans to include the event in its May Activity Week as it is a great opportunity to meet many of the local evacuee community including the children who will be off school during Golden Week. 
We used the evening to discuss our plans with Mr. and Mrs. Y. who will support us in our decisions on how to organize our 2013 activities for the evacuees.

At Isaribi, the flower beds and planters we created with the evacuees of the Isaribi temporary housing complex in autumn 2011 are still in use, and the bulbs donated at that time by many donors in Kansai and beyond have been taken well care of and will soon flower again! (Photos courtesy Mr. Y.)

Tulips planted by SWTJ with Isaribi evacuees in full bloom in May 2012
Planters at Isaribi with tulip bulbs ready to bloom in spring 2013!

View from Isaribi Park on the  Karakuwa Peninsula

3: SWTJ Rikuzentakata Branch (Jan. 20)
After taking part in the 'Community Soba Day' that is held once a month at the Mori no Gakko Nature School at Former Tsukidate Elementary School, we drove north to talk to Yuichi and Noriko M., the vice-managers of the SWTJ Rikuzentakata branch.
Like most people in their neighborhood, Yuichi and Noriko M. lost all they had including their home and fishing boat in the tsunami and had to live in evacuation centers and temporary housing. They have been working extremely hard since, have kept helping others, and are finally back in small-scale fishing business with their own boat!
They know only too well that many others in their community will never have their own home or boat again- so they have been helping us since two years ago to establish contacts with those in the Rikuzentakata evacuee community who need mental and material support most.

We thank the M. family for their hospitality, for letting us board their boat, and most of all for being such wonderful contacts in Rikuzentakata whom we can always ask for advice regarding our long-term support activities!

Yuichi and Noriko M. (center) with SWTJ staff

Although our stay was short this time, we were able to meet many of our contacts in Tohoku and discuss the plans and strategy for the coming year with our local staff or contacts in three major regions of the disaster area.

Look out for our blog on our Activity Week in March when SWTJ will be in the disaster area for the 2nd anniversary of the March 11 Earthquake and Disaster.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


SWTJ presents
Japan's famous Irish Music Fiddling star 
Takahiro kunugi

at swtj's first 2013 charity live event: feb 3 (sun) 2013

experience takahiro kunugi's captivating irish fiddling performance while getting a rare chance to see a Fascinating traditional taisho period theater in the heart of kyoto from the inside

date: FEB 3 (SUNDAY) 2013


PLACE: GOJOKAN, KYOTO (former Gojo Kaburenjo Theater)
Shimogyo-ku, nishi takasegawa-suji, gojo sagaru

- 7 minutes on foot from Keihan Gojo station
- 9 minutes on foot from JR kyoto station (north exit)

in advance: 2,000Yen 
at the door: 2,500Yen

to reserve tickets in advance call 090 6977 8180 (Japanese only) 
or send an email in english to

SWTJ exhibition and charity goods will be available on site.
All profits from this event will be used for 2013 activities of swtj (solidarity with tohoku, japan).

swtj thanks artist takehiro kunugi for generously donating his fiddling performance to support our activities!