Wakayama prefecture has been organizing a ‘Volunteer Bus’ to work over the weekend in Tohoku. It started in the first weekend of April, and this weekend (18 June) is its 6th trip. The bus leaves Wakayama Friday afternoon and return early Monday. The destination is Otsuchi, Iwate, some 1,300km north, so the trip takes about 18 hours. Every bus takes 20 civil volunteers with various experience, age and background. They share the desire to make any contribution to the people affected by the earthquake. It is a town of some 15,000 people, but about 1,000 have been lost, including its mayor and 3,000 are still in evacuation centre. The town spreads along a river, where tsunami travelled almost 2km upstream. Otsuchi may be remembered for the striking scene of a cruise ship ended up on top of a house. The ship, once thought to become a monument, was taken away for a safety reason.
Ishinomaki, 50km north of Sendai, is a major fishing port as well as an ideal farm for oysters and seaweeds. Many boats were saved, as fishers took them out to the sea when tsunami hit, but many of the factories at the Ishinomaki port were destroyed. Many fishers feel it is not appropriate to go harvesting from the ocean, where some 8000 people are still not accounted for. The sea has become in a sense a graveyard, which if on land will be saved from any human activities. Moreover there is a concern about radiation contamination. It is uncertain whether the seafood is safe, as Fukushima some 100 km south are becoming no-go and no-return zone. There is sense of fatigue and frustration in the communities, as no financial support has been given. Although houses are eligible for compensation according to the degree of damage (which itself is controversial), boats and factories are not. While fishers come under Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, fish processing business is under Ministry of Economic. There is amounting fatigue, frustration and uncertainty in the community. Worst hit and most needing support are children and elderlies. Many kids fear aftershocks and unsettled – those who lost their school travel far to other schools, school lunches are often only bread and milk, there is no safe playground, nor play goods, books, music and many of their favourite things. “We want our kids to smile, not scared or worried”. So we welcome any help to put a smile on the children in Tohoku.