Tokyo & Tohoku

Hiroto blog festivalI would like to write about the people in Tokyo and Tohoku that I met through the program.

First, l felt ”individual” toward people in Tokyo. We didn’t have many chances to relate with people in Tokyo; however people seem more strict and have their own, more individual and private area. 10% of population in Japan lives in Tokyo, but most of them weren’t born in Tokyo. They usually come to Tokyo to attend university or work there.

Tokyo is a place that many different people are put together so that’s why l think people keep to themselves more.

Next, my image toward people in Tohoku is ”connection.” People in Tohoku, especially in the countryside, welcomed us and were really friendly.

From my experience, when the disaster happened, people who lived around me helped us. We didn’t have any energy except gas. Our neighbors brought some vegetables and rice. That’s why l felt ”connection” toward people in Tohoku.

It is said that a big earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next few years. I heard that some of the people in Tokyo don’t know who lives in the next apartment to them. l wonder how they will be able to help each other in such a situation. Maybe l will attend university in Tokyo, so l’m really afraid about it.

That’s my impression about difference of people between Tokyo and Tohoku.

Hiroto Konno
Miyagi Furukawa Reimei High School

Kamashae’s reflection

When meeting the mayor of Minamisanriku, Jin Sato, I thought about a lot. I thought about my life, I thought about my father, I thought about how brave he was, and I thought about my mother.

I feel as though it was our destiny for the mayor to survive and for me to be selected in this program and for Mr. Sosha to have us meet with the mayor.

At that meeting I discovered a lot. I discovered that I needed to start listening to my father’s wisdom a little more than I have in the past. My father had always told me: give to others who are without and God will bless you far more than imaginable. His story just was an open example to the saying.

If the mayor wasn’t looking out for others, he might’ve been somewhere just a little over 6 meters and since that’s what they predicted the tsunami to be, the mayor could’ve been washed away, thinking he was on high enough ground. And since he was willing to risk his life for the people of his town by staying in the disaster prevention center to give people more information during the disaster, God let him fight through the tsunami. He said that night miracle after miracle kept coming to him. For example, another survivor had a lighter so they could make a fire to keep warm through the rest of the night.

I told my father this story, and I told him that now that I’m getting older, I see that he is full of wisdom and that I should truly cherish what he’s telling me. This meeting that I went to with Tomodachi will forever be an event of my life that will continue to be a huge lesson to me.

Kamashae Tolliver
Bell High School

Rio – August 11

Rio blog SunriseToday I woke up at 4:40 and went to the ocean, which was a few minutes far from the hotel and saw the sun rise. It was very impressive view and I stayed there for about 20 minutes. The scene was so beautiful that I cannot say a word. In the morning, we left our hotel, New Tomarizaki, and headed down by charter bus to Matsushima, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and delicious sea food. We had lunch there and I ate a seafood bowl. It was great and I enjoyed it a lot.

After that, we went to Entsuin, which is a temple that was designated as a national significant cultural heritage. There was a beautiful garden with many kinds of plants. Mr. Roger explained about the temple and Date Masamune, who was a samurai who lived in the civil war period. While we were there, I bought goshuincho, which is a notebook for stamps or signs of temples. I got the temple’s sign. I’m planning to collect many stamps/signs.

Rio blog notebookAnd then we headed for Fukushima, which is the prefecture where I live. Everyone seemed to be very tired and sleepy in the bus, but they enjoyed today. I want to say thank you to the bus driver for driving for a long, long time.

Rio Asami
Aizu-Gakuho High School

Clinard – August 11

Today was pretty much a day of traveling and sightseeing. This morning, we checked out of our hotel in Minamisanriku. After that, we were on a bus for 2 hours. It was a pretty comfortable ride. We were given a tour Matsushima Town, one of the “three most beautiful sceneries in Japan”.

Here’s my point of view standing from the watchtower overseeing Matsushima Town. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Clinard blog MatsushimaToday wasn’t really a day of learning morals or big lessons. Today was a day of learning more about Tohoku.  I enjoyed shopping today and I enjoyed hanging out with my Tomodachi friends.

The new hotel is pretty cool too. The dinner was great and it really filled me because it was a buffet. As I look back on what I have done since the program started, I feel as though I have grown much. In addition, I know that the program is getting closer to the end so I plan to be a part of the Tomodachi group as much as possible.  I want to truly cherish the last moments we have left together in this program.

Clinard Smith
Eastern SHS

Look at what we’ve been doing! – pt I

Attending a Minamisanriku Tourism Association presentation and group discussion with a survivor of the tsunami, a woman who moved to Minamisanriku immediately after the disaster, and two Taiwanese interns.

Minamisanriku Tourism AssocTaking in the scenery. Rio, E.N., Yeysi, and Tempestt could see huge waves because the typhoon is coming in!

Country walkVisiting Shinto shrines.

ShrineShrine visitVIsiting NPO Women’s Eye, where we interviewed survivors of the tsunami and then shared the stories with the whole group. Here A.O., Ayane, and Yeysi present Ms. Abe’s story.

Women's EyeMaking kiriko (paper cuts).

KirikoSkyping with Fareed and Evey at the Pulitzer Center to receive feedback on our Everyday DC and Everyday Tohoku projects.

Pulitzer discussionReflecting on our experiences.

ReflectionPreparing for a BBQ at Sosha’s.

Making dinner at Sosha's

The 8th wonder

I really have to reflect on how this day has affected the contemplation of my mind. In the early morning, we did traditional kiriko (paper cut) making. This is an art that the Japanese used to give to the gods when they had nothing left. They use it to show appreciation for what they have and to keep the tradition going. Also we learned about how the top of the shrine means heaven and earth, the two sides mean man and woman. So the earlier morning was basically an art class.

In the afternoon, we actually went to Mr. Sosha’s house!!! His house was fun and he has a dog. His dog’s name is Chuck and his house is like a traditional Japanese house. We had a workshop with a non-profit organization called Sokoage. They help youth with ideas on how to improve their communities and start NPOs (non-profit organizations). Then after the innovation session we had a Barbecue!!! The whole day was the best, because I bonded with my Japanese friends and I took a great picture of the pattern on Mr. Sosha’s carpet. I really enjoyed today with all my friends. I think the number one thing I need to remember is time is so precious in Japan. Also Japan is so beautiful in all aspects. So I’m going to end it like this….

Who ever said that it was only 7 wonders in the world….didn’t see Japan.

Elijah blog carpetElijah Davis
Eastern SHS

Hayato – August 10

The morning of this Wednesday started by visiting a shrine in Minamisanriku. The shrine was something that had gone through two huge tsunamis and survived. There was a lot of facts that I never knew about shrines even though I am Japanese, including how visiting the shrines carries a meaning of going back to your birth because inside the shrine represents a mother’s womb. This was nothing that I expected nor had I paid close attention to before today. After looking around the shrine we moved on to working on “kiriko,” a paper craft originally created to offer to the gods when they could not offer real food due to poor harvest, etc.

The afternoon was the most inspiring workshop I had through the Japanese part of this program. First of all, I was fortunate that our chaperone allowed me to try being the translator for this long session that we had. Translation was always something that I was somewhat interested in since I speak both Japanese and English, and also because of how you have to convert these two languages instantly. To fulfill this job was a very significant thing relating to my confidence as well as my ability in being able to immediately output the information and correctly wording some factors.

To talk about what I was inspired by with the organization itself, their whole idea was something around within my range. What I mean by this is that what their organization associates with students, especially high schoolers, originally volunteering by teaching and connecting them to the community. They also make adults get involved with this as well. This was all something that I have thought about before as what we can do and what I want to do. Therefore hearing about them and interacting with these fabulous people was a very valuable time for me.

Here are Atsu-san and Kazu-san smiling at the camera at Sosha’s house in Minamisanriku on a Wednesday night, since they knew they were going to get photographed with their best smiles before Kazu-san leaves to his house.

Hayato blog Atsu KazuH.K.
Keio SFC High School

Ayaka – August 9

Today we were supposed to experience fishing. However, since the typhoon, the waves were crashing to the sea wall making a big splash that made most of us astonished. Honestly, I was looking forward for the BBQ lunch that was been planned but we eventually couldn’t do that too because of the horrible weather. Nevertheless, we were able to listen to the story of Mr. Muraoka, the fisherman that we also met at the fishery market on 8/7. His story was unbelievable and I was not able to imagine how he felt seeing all the disaster happening in front of him but having the responsibility to protect the residents in the community including his precious family.

Mayor Sato Ayane AyakaIn the afternoon, we went to meet Mr. Sato, the mayor of Minamisanriku, to listen about his valuable experiences and discussing about the future of the town. The story that stuck to my head was about the meeting that was held with the residents about preserving the Disaster Prevention Center. I was able to understand both feelings of the people who were disagreeing and agreeing. People who disagree said that they did not want to see the place that their sons and daughters have died. In the opposite, people who agree said that they wanted to preserve the place where their parents tried hard to protect the people in the town to evacuate as soon as possible by risking their lives. “Having the responsibility to decide which one to choose was one of the most hard things through out my life.”(Translated from Japanese to English) said Mr. Sato, and as a result, he decided to choose to preserve it. Deciding to preserve the DP Center, although he was almost killed by the tsunami there, was something unbelievable for me and also made me realize how this mayor is such a wonderful person always thinking about the people that live in Minamisanriku.

Disaster Bldg 2A.O.
Keio SFC High School

Tempestt – August 9

Tempestt blog-Aug9Today August 9, 2016 we were supposed to go on a fisherman boat to learn how to farm, but the waves were too strong from the typhoon passing by us. Kindly the fisherman named Mr. Muraoka was kind enough to take time out his day to speak to us on his experience of being a fisherman who saw first hand that a tsunami was coming. For lunch we went to a shopping town center that is temporary until the permanent Minamisanriku shopping center is built. Lastly we met the mayor of Minamisanriku.

Mr. Muraoka had a very touching story towards the Great East Japan Tsunami. Before the disaster Mr. Muraoka, along with other fishermen from Minamisanriku, harvested four main products which were Oysters, Scallops, Wakame Seaweed, and Hoya (Sea Pineapple).

  • Oysters begin to get harvested in October. They can be eaten raw from October to March. Oysters have been harvested here since 1962.
  • Scallops are harvested from November to May.
  • Wakame Seaweed is harvested from January to April. They are the fastest growing product on the farm.
  • Hoyas (Sea Pineapple) are born in December. In the beginning they look like little tadpoles. They travel for 3 days and 2 nights. Then they turn into a fish. They find eggs, and after three years they are full size Hoyas.

Before the Great East Japan Tsunami there were many farmers. The town of Minamisanriku is mainly about farming and harvesting. Frankly, it still is but many fishermen lost everything they had – their boats, farms, and even their homes. Everything was washed away. The question for them was “What do we do from here?” They made all their profits from farming. Today Minamisanriku has an average of 6 fishermen who came together to build back their businesses. They make their profit by marketing their products. They believe that they have to stick together to build back on their organization. They have received a certification that verifies that they have sustained fish.

After lunch at the Minamisanriku shopping center, we went to go visit the Mayor of the town of Minamisanriku, Mr. Sato. He experienced the dangerous tsunami as well. The day of the tsunami he was doing a speech at a center when the earthquake first hit. He knew there was a tsunami coming, so he immediately rushed to the Disaster Center where he has to always report to in a time of danger for their town. The building he was in had 3 floors. It was reported that the tsunami was expected to be 6 meters tall. So all the workers went to the 3rd floor. Once they noticed the tsunami was bigger, everyone rushed to the roof. 53 people were on the roof and only 10 people survived. The after facts of the tsunami for Mr. Sato were very hard on him. He suffered from trauma, and diagnosed with PTSD by an American doctor. He has overcame his PTSD, which is a miracle.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to speak with Mr. Muraoka and Mr. Sato. Their stories were very inspiring and motivate me to know that the sky is the limit. I’m sure that everyone was touched in some way by their stories. Emotions show everything. Thank you again, Mr. Muraoka and Mr. Sato.

Tempesst Martin
Friendship Tech Prep

E.N. – August 8

We started the day with a reflection on the Tohoku trip. One thing that really surprised me was Hiroto’s remark. He talked about memorials in DC and the elementary schools in Japan. The Japanese group said that the memorials in DC were a very good idea. Hiroto stated that we have the elementary schools which are like memorials. Though from what I thought was by just looking at them, I cannot fully imagine about how parents who lost their children who go to these schools feel when they see them. So, these schools are more than what I can see, which makes these something that are more than just memorials.

Next we went to hear a lecture by people from the tourist association. Before the earthquake there were about 17,500 people in Minamisanriku. Last year, the population was less than 14,000. It has gone down to this number because people are moving out of this city to evacuate and because their jobs are gone. When this city needs people to recover, people moved out and still there are people moving out of the city.

What interested me the most was one of the people’s experience. He was my age when it happened and he told us how it was like in the evacuation area. He said there was no privacy. I cannot imagine how it would feel to have no privacy for one and a half months, though it must have been a very hard experience.

Thirdly, we had lunch with people in the Woman’s Eye. We split into a couple of tables and different groups heard stories from different people. I heard stories from Mrs. Tomoko Yamauchi. What was impactful was her son’s story. She has two sons and one of them was affected directly by the earthquake. He was helping people to evacuate and while he was doing so, the tsunami came. He clung on to the nearest electricity pole for a whole week until he was so tired that he thought he could cling on no more. When he saw a stranger pass, he told him, “Tell the others that I was washed away.” This quote was very powerful and I couldn’t imagine what he felt like when he said it. After he said this, he was rescued but got paralyzed for 10 days.

Also, what I learned was how important it was for the mayor to tell people who live in other parts of Japan about the disaster when it happened. In Tohoku, many people heard about it and came as a rescue team. Unfortunately, in Kumamoto there was a very big earthquake too, although they don’t have enough volunteers helping out. I thought that needs to be changed, though I can’t think how yet.

We ended the day with another reflection. We thought about, based on what we saw or experienced, what we could do to make a better future. Many people talked about making organizations to bring people together or starting a club to give information on the tsunami. Also, I agreed with what Kan said about how we can’t avoid these natural disasters but how they make people stronger like the people in Tohoku. He talked about how we can never predict what nature will do to us, so all we can do is be strong.

The photo below was taken by Kan in the morning when we went to the tourist association. We discussed about the tsunami. I chose this photo because it showed the people who experienced the tsunami and people from outside of the country who learned about this. I think it shows how people communicating is important.

Ena blog Aug 8E.N.
Keio SFC High School