Monday, September 5, 2016


5th SWTJ Summer Camp in Senmaya! 

August 2016

Thanks to the wide support of people from all over the nation, SWTJ has been able to again organize the SWTJ summer camp for Tohoku kids! This year, 16 elementary and junior high school-age children from Kesennuma spent three unforgettable days together with seven camp leaders from all over Japan.  
We were blessed with fine weather, there were no major incidents, and everybody had a good time.  
Some of the kids have now been participating in the camp several times, and the average age of the kids has increased. We have therefore for the first time introduced a junior leader system by which interested kids can apply to be assisting staff. The successful candidates were in charge of running the camp together with the senior staff.  

Day 1: August 13

We all gather at Senmaya Station at 8:45am.
Some kids have been with us in previous years, and some are here for the first time! Everybody is looking forward to the next three days.

'Hi, nice to meet you!' say some, 'Hi, so good to see you again!' say others.

Once on the train, boys naturally gather with boys, girls with girls. Everybody has lots of questions: 'What are we going to do today? Which leaders are leading the camp this year?'
Some fun introduction games break the ice.

After arrival at Senmaya Community Center, we hold self-introductions, and teams are formed.  Then we draw up a map and mark all the places from where supplies for the camp have been sent to us. We then test our geographic knowledge in a quiz.

'Oops, it's torn!" Concentration is needed.
In this workshop, we make a lampshade. We take off the thin foil layer from milk cartons, and then each child cuts out a shape of her liking. The lampshades will serve as decoration during tomorrow's O-Bon summer festival. We are looking forward to these original lighting features!

Today the kids are excited about the upcoming ghost night. But this time, things will be different from other years: the kids will be in charge of scaring us! We are staying overnight in an abandoned former elementary school- the perfect stage for such a game.
The junior leaders take the lead in drawing up a strategy for the ghost night. Everybody has lots of ideas, but when the time comes some kids voice concern. 'I'm afraid to hide away all alone!' Hiding places are everywhere: in the toilet, in the gym, in corners all over the place. 

Scared screams of the senior staff can be heard all over the old school! 
Look at the kids' faces to see how satisfied they are with their success! 

DAY 2: August 14

Great weather today, ideal for river-play!  It is wonderful to play in the cool water of the river. The junior leaders get up early, and prepare the rice balls and the barbeque for the day. They all do a really good job! 
Going down the river on the raft is great fun! The raft is always full.
The junior leaders tend to the BBQ.
Following the example of the junior leaders, the younger kids also start to help. Doing it yourself is fun! 
Jumping into the river or trying to catch fish- playing in nature lets us be ourselves and sets our minds free.
No fun outing without the watermelon splitting game! But this watermelon resists all our blindfolded efforts...

While we play at the river, we unexpectedly see the head of Senmaya Community Center going by. When he witnesses the activities we conduct with the kids, he is moved and promises to ensure increased support for the camp from now on. We are grateful for these words of encouragement and for the cooperative spirit of a representative of the local community.  

At night, like in previous years, we take part in the O-Bon summer festival of the local community! We make banners and products to sell, make sure everyone in each team knows exactly what they are in charge of, and open up three stalls. "How would you like a homemade takosen octopus cracker?"

Left: Cutting pineapple and oranges and making fruit skewers.
Right:  Preparing the lampshades made in the workshop. Looking forward to seeing how bright they will shine! 

Left: Making octopus-cucumber skewers with supplies donated by our sponsors.
Right: Lots of ideas! We make octopus-themed hairbands that highten our festival spirit!

The SWTJ trademark cotton candy is of course not missing!
How lovely our lanterns are! They were very popular with the local community.

No festival closure without fireworks! We try to use our  handheld fireworks to draw pictures into the night sky. 
Today is the last night, and the children don't feel like sleeping. 'Our only chance to meet and chat is at the camp...'

DAY 3: August 15

On our last day, we have a team sports tournament at the school's gym. Each team can show how strong the bonds are they have formed throughout the three days of the camp.

Three-way dodgeball tournament within a circle-marked area.
The 'Tokyo banana' sweets donated by the staff must be earned!!

In the afternoon, we clean up the facility where we were able to stay. Again, the junior leaders play a big role in organizing the work. 
Finally, some of the kids who chose to practice the sanshin in their free time (a musical instrument from the southern Japanese prefecture Okinawa) give a presentation of their new skills. One of the senior staff leaders who comes from Okinawa has taught them! So, we can all experience the song umi no koe (voice of the ocean) from a far-away area.

Keen learners of the Okinawan sanshin! Cultures are meeting in the SWTJ summer camp. Tohoku and Okinawa are on opposite sides of the Japanese nation and both feature diverse and unique cultural features.

Finally, it is time to leave. Before we say farewell, we ask each child to mention their impressions of the camp. We also ask the junior leaders how they feel about what they achieved, and whether they think they will be with us again next year. The senior staff cannot hide their joy when many of the junior assistants say they want to be leaders again next year!  

This year for the first time, we had kids who acted as junior leaders in the camp. As a result, communication within the three teams occurred naturally, and the kids often started activities without having to be told so. The kids in the camp have grown and changed, and so has our camp! We are really looking forward to seeing 'our' kids again in the camp next year! 

Finally, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who supported the SWTJ 2016 Summer Camp! 
We could never have organized it without your help.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 SWTJ Summer Camp

August 2015: 4th SWTJ Summer Camp for Tohoku Kids in Senmaya

Thanks to the generous support of SWTJ supporters from home and abroad, this year again, the SWTJ summer camp for Tohoku kids could take place and was a great success! 
Ten volunteer youth leaders from all over the country came together to spend some exciting days in the comfortable Senmaya community center with elementary and junior high school-age kids from the Tohoku region. Some of the kids had already taken part last year, while others joined for the first time. Everybody had a great time, and even the rain couldn’t dampen our good mood.  

SWTJ youth leaders in their last meeting before the camp
In the photo above, some of the youth leaders make preparations for the camp on the day before the arrival of the children.

August 12:
This year again, we were able to rent the comfortable Senmaya Community Center (Senmaya Minami Koryu Center), a former elementary school in a village not far from Ichinoseki in Iwate Prefecture, right next to the border with Miyagi Prefecture.

Starting point: Kesennuma Station

Day 1: August 13:
Everybody gathered at Kesennuma Station, and soon it was time to say goodbye to the parents, and to get on the train with the cool volunteer camp leaders! Some of the children had participated last year alreadz, and were excited to reunite, while some others took part for the first time, and, while a little apprehensive, were full of anticipation.

Learning to play cup and ball.

Once we arrived in Senmaya, we made teams. There was a ‘play cup and ball’ workshop, and a handbell workshop, and the kids quickly became really good at their new craft! We aimed at organizing a handbell and a cup and ball performance at the end of the camp, and at obtaining the cup and ball player certificate of the Japan Cup and Ball Association! 

Each child paints his own cup and ball tool!

Curry rice, salad and fried chicken enjoyed by all! Everybody helped prepare the delicious dinner!

At night...the much anticipated ghost walk! After all, we stayed overnight in an abandoned former elementary school...

Even after seeing some scary things, the kids went ahead courageously. Some kids did start to cry...
All the volunteer leaders changed into ghosts and other scary beings. The kids sure screamed! And later beamed in excitement. A night of success.

Day 1: August 14:

Today, river play was on the schedule, but unfortunately, it was raining. So instead, we stayed inside and made colorful bags with the help of rubber eraser stamps. Look at these nice outcomes!

We made a map with the kids so that they could see from where in Japan all the goodies and camp supplies came from, and where the sponsors lived. Thank you to all the sponsors from all over Japan! 

Finally the rain stopped for some time and we could have a delicious BBQ outside! And we even had time in the afternoon to play outdoors. Yeah!

The blindfolded kid has to try to hit the water melon so that we can all enjoy it. Go go!!
Really looks like he's going to hit it in the right place!
At night we all participated in the local Bon-Festival Summer event of Senmaya village, a great opportunity to socialize with the local people. Many stalls were established in the school courtyard, and everybody enjoyed the music, the traditional dance, and the delicous food from the stalls. SWTJ's cotton candy machine worked full time too!

Some of our kids became really good at making cotton candy themselves!
Our last camp evening of course ended with the much loved fireworks.

Day 1: August 15:

On our last day, the sun finally came through!! Off we were to the river!

Big smiles!

A local resident lent us this marvelous raft- so much fun!

Back home there was only little time left- but we had some important projects to complete, most of all, show off what we had learned in the workshops!
The handbell performance.
Getting the cup and ball certificate from the licensed teacher!

There was one more ritual to be accomplished...every year we would mark the kids’height on a big poster. Some had grown over 10cm in just one year, and others had surpassed the camp leaders!
Soon, we had to say good bye... everyone was a bit sad...
But hopefully, we can meet again next year!

SWTJ would like to say big thanks to everybody who made this camp possible- to our generous sponsors, to the people who sent food or camp utensils, to our great camp leaders who donated their time and skills, to the wonderful people of Senmaya village who already welcomed us for the third time this year, and to the families who entrusted their children to us and allowed us to build strong bonds with these future leaders of northern Japan whose residents are so courageously rebuilding their lives after the tremendous tsunami damage of the year 2011.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

February 10/11, 2015: LOVE&HOPE FOR TOHOKU (7th Event)

This year again, SWTJ is organizing a 2-day charity concert/ family event in Kyoto!

Feb 10 (Tue) and 11 (Wed) 2015 
All profits of the event will be used to send musicians to Tohoku to play for evacuees in temporary housing or in homes for the elderly during the 4th Anniversary period of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11 2011.
Come join us on Feb 10/11 ! 
Have fun, meet some great people, and help us send musicians to Tohoku for the Anniversary in March! 

Kawaramachi Sanjo Hitosuji Sagaru
Daikoku-cho Kitagawa VOX Bldg. 1F

From Keihan Sanjo Station in Kyoto: Cross the bridge, turn left to the south immediately, walk along the road that looks down to the river for a few meters, then turn right into Daikoku cho. The VOX Building is a few meters ahead of you, after crossing Kiyamachi-dori, on your right.
From Kawaramachi/Sanjo: walk to Sanjo Bridge, turn right and walk south along the river up to the first turn, turn right into Daikoku cho, the VOX Building is a few meters ahead of you, after crossing Kiyamachi-dori, on your right.

PROGRAM Tuesday Feb 10: 
FIDDLE AND GUITAR CONCERT by the fantastic Tabula Rasa (Takehiro Kunigi, fiddle; Fukue Genta, guitar):
TICKETS: 3,000Yen at the door (2,800 Yen for tickets reserved in advance). Reserve your ticket by sending an email with your full name and the number of tickets you wish to reserve to:

Also enjoy:  Drinks and snacks for sale at BAR-CAFE TOHOKU/FOTO EXHIBITON of SWTJ activities.
BONUS: Your concert ticket entitles you to free entry on Wednesday Feb 11 for a daytime fun event with live music of some amazing and well-known Kansai musicians! 

PROGRAM Wednesday Feb 11: 12:00 - 21:00 
Solidarity Ticket: 1,000 Yen (buy ticket at the door): 
9 hours of SWTJ photo exhibition, live music and workshops for people of all ages. Great fun for families!
Kids elementary school and younger: entrance free.
Live music, games, workshops!
(a fee for materials will be requested for some workshops). 
13:00 Sidewalk Salon Orchestra
15:00 Yoshiko Stonpea
17:00 Goto Yuzo and Mori Sense
18:30 Beetorusu
20:00 Fanfare Roma'n Guilde 
WORKSHOPS: Free fun Tambourine Workshop with amazing artist Tajima/ Yamaguri Puppet Making (small fee for materials)/Naruto Kokeshi wooden puppet painting (small fee for materials)/Wooden Broach Painting (small fee for materials)/ 
St. Valentine Chocolate Cookie Decorating and Wrapping (small fee for materials)/ Bag Decorating with Potato Stamps (small fee for materials). 
Snacks and drinks will be sold at the event. Look out for our   takoyaki dumplings and cotton candy!

SWJT Musicians play for evacuees in Tohoku (Photo from Anniversary Activity in 2013)

Be part of our commitment for Tohoku:
We Won't Forget- We Will Continue!
All profits of this event will be used for SWTJ activities for evacuees during the 4th Earthquake and Tsunami Anniversary in Tohoku! 
Watch out for our report after the Anniversary in mid-March. 

Below: text and pamphlet in Japanese for your Japanese friends:


ご家族とお友達と。来月震災から4年を迎える東北への想いを馳せて過ごす時間に、ぜひお越しください。SWTJはこれからも、ー わすれないとは、続けること。ー をモットーに活動を続けていきます。

開催日:2015. 2. 10(火)、 11(水/祝)
京都市中京区河原町三条下る一筋目東入る大黒町44 VOXビル1F

− DAY1| 2/10− 

Tabula Rasa (功刀丈弘+福江元太)LIVE 
feat. SWTJ CAFE 「東北のおいしい時間」

時 間:CAFE OPEN 18:00 / LIVE START 19:00
入場料:前売り ¥2,800 (小学生以下無料)当日券:¥3,000
特 典:このイベントにご参加頂いた方には、翌日のお祭りイベント入場を無料とさせていただきます。

関西の誇るアイリッシュフィドル奏者、功刀丈弘率いる Tabula Rasa のライブと、SWTJがお届けする「東北のおいしい時間」。普段お目にかかれない、東北の食や飲み物などを素敵な音楽と一緒にお楽しみいただく予定です。

− DAY2 | 2/11− 


時 間:OPEN 12:00 / CLOSE 21:00


●13:00 〜 Sidewalk Salon Orchestra:瀬戸信行(クラリネット)+ 山田やーそ裕(六弦ギター)+ 池田安友子(パーカッション)
●15:00 〜 よしこストンペア
●17:00 〜 ゴトウゆうぞう+森扇背
●18:30 〜 ベートルズ
●20:00 〜 ファンファーレ・ロマンギャルド
瀬戸信行(クラリネット)+ 登敬三(サックス)+ 山田やーそ裕(六弦ギター)+田島隆(ギター)+ 池田安友子(パーカッション)



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