Report of the activity in Ishinomaki, Miyagi

I had worked on a project named "Smile Challenge" and visited Ishinomaki City which got a severe damage by tsunamis, a few days ago.

I started this project with thinking of children living at places of refugee under a lot of pressure and I wanted to provide the goods which help them relieve the stress. So, I decided to deliver books, especially comic books, to their place.
I started the project with one of my friends two weeks ago, and then I made a website which became a base of this entire project and started spreading information on Twitter.
The details of this project is here.

In Smile Challenge, we suceeded in collecting over 1,700 books, including about 1,100 comic books, 500 picture books and 100 novels by getting lots of support from many people, though our first goal was to collect 1,000 books.
My friends were kind enough to provide their books for this project and also people we got to know through Twitter donated lots of books.

Then, we headed for Ishinomaki City which is one of the most damaged areas in northern Japan on Friday night.

We first passed southern Fukushima which unfortunately became famous for the nuclear power plants on the way to Ishinomaki. It was very strange that we saw only a few cars which go to Fukushima and didn't see much light from the city there.

It was like a huge ghost town.

After we passed Fukushima Prefecture and got in Miyagi Prefecture, we gradually began to see the trail of huge tsunamis. The highway runs inland and I couldn't see the coast from there. However, I could easily find the trail of huge tsunamis such as the debris of buildings and broken cars on fields. I was very shocked to see this terrible scene at first and could then realize that huge tsunamis really swallowed the people's lives in those areas.

Picture in downtown of Ishinomaki


We arrived at Ishinomaki the next morning, but the situation there was much worse than any other area we saw by then. Most houses in the city were seriously damaged and broken, debris piled up literally everywhere in the city, cars were floated and some were on the roof of houses, and the city smelled terribly with sludge brought by tsunamis.
About a month has already passed since the first quake, but it seemed the situation there was still terrible and the time has stopped after the quake.

In Ishinomaki, we collaborated with a volunteer whose name is Yamane. He has worked on a project called "Book Library Project" locally, so our activities are similar and we decided to cooperate each other.
He first took us to Ishinomaki Library and we had a chance to talk with the chief of the library. Then, we knew that Kitakami area of Ishinomaki which is located near the coast got a severe damage by huge 20 meter tsunamis. He also told us that tsunamis hit the large part of villages there and the area was devastated.
Therefore, we decided to visit Kitakami area and give all the books we brought.

We were all literally stunned by the damage of tsunamis in Kitakami area. The whole village was diminished and only a few houses were barely standing.
I could easily understand that many people lost their lives by huge tsunamis which hit the village.
Two days has passed since I visited there, but I still clearly remember the terrible scene of Kitakami.

Kitakami Area

The facility we brought books had a functionality as a center of whole Kitakami area. Fortunately, staff there welcomed us warmly and they looked pleased to get support from us. It is mainly because Kitakami area is located far from downtown area of Ishinomaki city and it hadn't got enough leisure goods by then. So, they said that the goods given by us were greatly helpful for children and promised to distribute the books to each facility the next day.
So, we donated all 1,600 books to them and felt very happy to provide the goods to the people who need for the most.

After we unloaded all the books, we talked with the staff there.
They told us that there used to be 3 elementary schools and a middle school in Kitakami area. However, they lost 2 elementary schools and a middle school by tsunami and quake. So, they are now in a process to start a school at the safely remained elementary school.
I promissed to give them help as much as I can, and I am now thinking to come back this place sometime soon and want to contribute to the process of restructuring of this hugely damaged area.

This time, I visited the stricken area and saw the current situation there. As I wrote above, the situation there was lot worse than I had imagined.
Peple never doubt that they lose their life so easily and in one moment before the quake and tsunamis in 3.11. Now, they are forced to live under the huge pressure and with fear.
It was just a different world I know of Japan.

I will keep being a part of power which helps people get back the life they used to have before.