TelTell Tohoku Tour (2) Minami Sanriku, Ohara and Ishinomaki

(Read part 1 of this trip here.)

After Kesennnuma, we headed to Minami Sanriku cho. The population of the town before the disaster was 17,378. Now they report 614 deaths and 226 people are still missing. The video below is shot in front of the remains of the town’s Department of Disaster Prevention. About 30 people climbed up on to the roof of the building, but only 10 people survived. The story of a young woman who kept announcing to the town folk to evacuate to the higher ground is utterly tragic. I lost it reporting it here.

We drove by Kitakami river toward Ishinomaki city. Population as of March 2011 was 160,394. Number of deaths 3,490.

I could not believe how stunningly beautiful it was around the river. Green mountains and blue water…Cali and I talked about how such breathtakingly beautiful nature can be so devastating.

Kitakami riverKitakami river 2

Then we arrived at Okawa Elementary school. They lost 70% of students due to Tsunami.

Okawa schoolThere were a lot of people praying here. Heartbreaking. There was also a newly built memorial.

Okawa school2

After that we drove to Ohara to see my friend Caroline. She is from UK but volunteers at Ohara. When we got there she was painting a shed. We met online and I love her pragmatic attitude towards rebuilding. If you wait for people to come help, you would be waiting for a long time. So, she fundraises on her own and does what needs to be done. Ohara is a small town of population around 120, but with Tsunami they lost about 50 people. Please consider supporting this small community by donating directly on her site.


Next we headed to Ishinomaki city for Yahoo! Japan Fukko Base. Fukko means Reconstruction in English. Here we did a Ustream show and interviewed Mr. Sunaga from Yahoo! Japan.

Yahoo ustreamAt Yahoo Fukko Base, they are offering the space for different creative project to support reconstruction of Ishinomaki area. I did a quick video here as well:

That was it for the Tohoku tour. I know what we saw was the tip of the iceberg, and there are so many people still living in temporary housings. It is such a huge disaster, many people almost feel helpless, not knowing where to begin. At the same time I got to see many people volunteering their time to make at least a little progress a day. This was one of the few positive things I saw.

We headed back to Tokyo. And the next day, we met with several Japanese alpha bloggers – Japanese term for widely read bloggers – to discuss TelTell app and also how we can contribute to Tohoku reconstruction. It was great to meet all the bloggers! John said we needed to do something big if we wanted people’s attention back to 311 reconstruction. I agree; since 311, there was Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters;  economy is bad and people in other parts of the world are too busy worrying about their own problems. I also suggested TelTell can be the app for people around the world to directly communicate with people in Tsunami affected areas. It was a meaningful discussion and I feel we planted seeds for next projects here.

Japan/US Blogger Summit

Thank you TelTell and Tasukeai Japan for this incredible opportunity to visit Tohoku.

Special thanks to Yuuki from Tasukeai Japan. We took a photo with same order as last year. I hope to be back in Japan soon!


One year…

One year from the biggest earthquake and Tsunami in Japanese history.
Where were you last March 11, 2011?

I was here, in Victoria. That day, I went to see my son play in school musical. He did so well. I came out from the theatre, so proud, when I looked at my phone. I found several tweets from my friends talking about big earthquake in Japan. Some tweeted to me asking if my family was OK.

What earthquake? Where?

I got home and turned the TV on. What I saw there was devastating footage of Japan’s Tohoku area being destroyed by Tsunami.

It is hard for me to describe the feeling and sensation I felt while I was watching all the coverage. Have you ever experienced the fear of your home country being destroyed? The terror of mother nature. Big buildings and cars, swallowed by giant waves within seconds.

The helplessness. Hopelessness. Guilt. That overwhelming sadness.

It was stressful enough for me, who was merely watching it on TV, in a country 7500km away. Imagine what it’s like to be there. Your family, your house, your friends, your pets….all gone.

Last night, I watched a special TV program on 311 on TV Japan. On the show, they were reporting updates of each municipalities. Nothing, almost nothing is back to normal. The debris are still there in most of the municipalities because there are no means to clean them,  and so much empty lot there, as nobody wants live in fear of another Tsunami, and/or because the foundation there is not strong enough to build anything on. Many people are moving up on the hills, but there are not enough housings, and of course there are so many delicate and complicated issues such as needs of elderly, schooling, small businesses, etc.

Since 311, several friends and I put together Hope Love Japan fundraiser here in Victoria and we raised $14,000 CDN. I’ve also joined Tasukeai Japan to help with translation.

And now, it’s been a year.

Just like any other disasters, I know this has literally become “Last year’s news” to some of you.

Yuuki, my friend from Tasukeai Japan (Tasukeai means Supporting Each Other), who’s been to Tohoku to help out, said to me;

“For the people in Tohoku, what they fear most is to be forgotten.”

How do we keep it from withering away?

Tasukeai Japan and their amazing volunteers created the video above to send the messages from Japan to the world.

330,000 people are still displaced. 3,000 people are still missing. This is far from over.

Please share the video. We want any people as possible to see it.

Thank you for sharing. Thank you for supporting. Thank you for remembering.

Special Thank You to Daisuke Yamamoto who created the video!