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Sharing KK Offerings in Japan

On March 27, KK-DC hosted a fundraiser for Japan relief.  When I went to Japan on April 2-17, I took the $216 we had raised at KK and some other donations from friends.  On my way home back to DC from Japan, I wrote up the attached report to tell my experience in Japan.  Thank you for the opportunity, Aya

April 17, 2011

Only an hour left in Japan, sitting in Narita airport, I look back my stay in Japan.  Two weeks passed quick and busy.  The frequent after shocks ("after shock" is an understatement.  These were individual big earthquakes but because they are related to the March 11 earthquake, they are categorized as after shock).  My mother described the 3/11 earthquake as "swinging" opposed to "shaking."  She was right.  I experienced large swinging movement for the last 2 weeks.  It felt different from traditional earthquakes I experienced when I was a kid.

One thing I constantly thought throughout my stay is how to help the earthquake/tsunami victims with the money I received in the U.S.  From my coworkers, Karma Kitchen friends and my personal friends, I raised total $1477.  I donated $600 to AmeriCares out of it, and took the rest of the money with me to Japan.  The information was flying all over the news how we can help but the most visible way to help was to donate to Red Cross.  However, I wanted to help the victims in more personal ways.  The only victims I personally know areMr. Goto's family.  Mr. Goto worked with my father for over 40 years.  He is from Sendai area and his family and relatives still live in that area.  Mr. Goto's brother lives on a small island off Sendai shore.  After surviving from ths tsunami, he found a boat and looked for his family.  He fortunately found his nephew and one of his sisters.  As of today, his other sister remains missing.  I offered the money to Mr. Goto and his family, but the offer was declined.  He suggested me to donate the money to the local government.  

I visited an evacuee camp 3 subway stations away from my parents' house.  There were about 20 people staying there and they had all the supplies/food they needed.  Then through a newspaper article, I found a twitter site which connects people in need in the disaster areas and people who are willing to help.  I found a twitter entry by a small town called Watari-cho in Miyagi prefecture which needed food and daily supplies.  I thought this is something I could do.  However, this turned into another mission impossible.  I biked to 3 different grocery stores looking for energy bars and vegetable drinks to send.  Believe it or not, all these stores carried barely 10-20 of these.  No way to buy hundreds of them to help 2300 victims in Watari-cho.  I also asked the courier service companies and postal office about the delivery.  Courier service companies did not accept any deliveries to the disaster areas.  Postal office accepted only non-perishable items.  After visiting the grocery stores for a few days and not seeing any increase in supplies, I finally decided to send the cash to Watari-cho.  The money was exchanged from $902 to 73200 yen.  I sent total 93000 yen to Watari-cho.  I hope this money will help the victims in any ways.  

Some websites and newspapers posted this article that the chance of another earthquake of M8 or bigger scale to happen around Japan within next one month is very high.  I don't know how reliable this source is, but we cannot underestimate the situation.  

My first personal encounter with the disaster was my flight to Japan.  From Toronto, it took the usual route until Sapporo (a capital of the northern island in Japan).  Airlines usually go south along the Pacific coast to Tokyo from Sapporo, but it took a detour towards the Japan sea and crossed the island to Tokyo.  This was obvious to avoid the nuclear power plant area.  As of today, yogurt and soda are still very low in supplies in grocery stores.  Water bottles are limited to one bottle per customer.  Stores conserve energy by turning off some lights.  My parents and I consciously turned off unnecessary light and electronics.  Subway is the biggest public transportation in Tokyo.  The stations closed their escalators to save energy.  I got really good exercise from walking up the stairs.  Every day on the news, TV crew followed different victims how their lives were affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and how they are planning to carry on.  I rarely saw victims in tears.  Even the 12-year-old girl who lost her family did not cry.  I am sure they cry behind the camera, but how can they smile even for a minute?  Where do they get the strength not to get drained in the despair?  I am flying back to the US soon and my life will be physically far away from the aftermath of the disaster, but I would like to keep helping these victims as much as I can.  

As of today, about 14,000 people are dead,  about 13,000 people are still missing and about 140,000 are living in the evacuation camps.  The total amount of donation made from all over the world for this disaster is more than what you can imagine.  However, the scale of the disaster is bigger than the donation could support.  The household with completely destroyed house will receive $4268 ($1 = 82 yen) from the donated money and the household with partially damaged house will receive less amount.  What can $4268 do when you lost everything?  Not much.  The continuous support for these victims is inevitable.  And I would like to keep taking the initiative to help them.  And some day, I hope Japan will come back as strong and powerful as before. 


--Aya Takeuchi on Apr 29, 2011

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