Tohoku Volunteer Weekend and Friendship Festival 2016 Trip Report by FAHC Chair, Tim Barnstable
The 8th Tohoku Volunteer weekend was blessed with great weather.
After meeting at Kurikoma Kogen station the first stop was the Sun Sun shopping village.
Sun Sun is a temporary shopping mall set up in February 2012 by 32 local shop owners while they await the reconstruction of the town. While at the shipping mall, participants also had to opportunity to visit the Tourism Portal Centre where they could see a photo exhibition of the tsunami.
Next stop was the Disaster Prevention Centre which is now nothing more than a bare steel frame, and still stands as a monument to the devastation brought on by the tsunami. The town had decided to demolish the structure but the prefecture has offered to obtain and maintain the site until 2031, 20 years after the quake, to give local residents time to consider its fate.
The group then split into two with 20 people enjoying a seafood BBQ with kataribe (story telling) by a survivor of the tsunami. There was a little drama at this point as the bus got stuck in the car park and needed a little help to get it back out into the road.
The second group arrived at Kamiwarizaki Camp Site shortly after and met with members of Club Australia, the Street Rugby Association, OGA for Aid and the US Navy from Misawa Air Base. In addition to the street rugby there was face painting and other activities for the kids.
Following is feedback from one of the participants. “My son and I had a lot of fun, the time went by so quickly. Kids normally have to play in a contained space, so it was great to see my son run around freely for three hours. His eyes were sparkling when he told me he was very happy he got to play a lot with other kids. We the moms were able to chat a lot in the meantime so we had a lovely time as well.”
After lunch the first group moved to Koala house for afternoon tea with locals. Later the second group joined and two Wattles, that were donated by Club Australia, were planted in front of Koala house by Grant Knuckey, CEO of ANZ Bank Japan, Melanie Brock, ANZCCJ Chair and Mr. Abe, current head of Koala House, director of Lifelong-learning centre.
The final activity for the day was to take a boat cruise around the bay which included a running commentary by the Captain. The back of the boat was open and when we were underway Seagulls were attracted with snacks providing great entertainment for the kids and generally everyone onboard.
The members were then dropped off at their respective minshuku or the Kanyo Hotel for a fantastic local dinner.
We were greeted on Sunday morning with another perfect day and we met at the Fukko Market where Ivan and team from the Embassy had the BBQ's fired up and preparations well underway.
Fukko in Kanji means “to be happy” and “to revive”. The market was first set up just 50 days after the disaster in a school yard. The Fukko Market continues to attracting many people and there are direct economic effects brought by visitors buying Minamisanriku’s products. But the market is also a place to form connections between people, generate enthusiasm again in people who suffered from the disaster, and get the people who have given up the power to reconstruct their stores or companies and challenge for revival.
The market kicked off at 9am with rousing speeches by the Organisers and ANZCCJ Chair Melaine Brock. In our bright yellow "Australia with Minamisanriku" t-shirts our presence was hard to miss.
In addition to the Australian beef burger bentos, complete with beetroot, Australian and NZ wine was available thanks to Sally Townsend from Jeroboam and Australian beer and coffee were available thanks to Club Australia. During the afternoon 100 bento’s were prepared and donated to the other stall holders.
In the end our group raised 178,900 yen which will be used by the town to facilitate the Summer Festival, specifically the dance contest which has been cancelled since the earthquake. The festival will take place on the 30th of July from noon until 9pm near the local fish market.
A special thanks to MLA for the beef used and to Kirin for the sports drinks which were given to the kids playing rugby.