News Archive
Apr 14, 2011 - Updates from Peace Boat's Earthquake Emergency Relief Volunteers on the ground in Ishinomaki, Northeast Japan
Mar 28, 2011 - Peace Boat's first 50 Earthquake Emergency Relief Volunteers on the ground in Ishinomaki, Northeast Japan

Peace Boat's first Orientation session for members of the public interested in volunteering for the Earthquake Emergency Relief Project was held on March 23 at the Peace Boat Center, Tokyo. Approximately 300 people attended.

Of these 300, who included young people already carrying their own tents and camping equipment, people who experienced the major earthquakes of Kobe and Niigata, non-Japanese residents of Japan, trained disaster relief professionals as well as people with relatives still un-accounted for in the affected areas, 50 were selected to paricipate in the first dispatch.

The first busload of 50 volunteers left Tokyo on the evening of Friday, March 25. Since March 26, these 50 people have been working in Ishinomaki in three main fields:
1) Cooking and distribution of hot meals for those living outside the emegency shelters. Between 800-1000 meals are now being delivered daily
2) Supporting cleaning and organization in the shelters
3) Clearing mud from the roads and buildings in the town

March 30, 2011 - Report on Relief Efforts Providing Meals and Clearing Mud

Over a week has passed since our relief efforts in Ishinomaki have started. The 50 member volunteer team who left Tokyo on March 23 are still going strong!

Peace Boat has set up headquarters on the campus of the Ishinomaki Senshu University. Over the course of this week, Peace Boat has expanded its sphere of activities to cover other nearby elementary schools and retirement homes.

Food provision and delivery and the removal of mud and debris is the main component of volunteer work. Also, bazaars are being held for the local people.

On March 30, the annual graduation ceremony for Minato Primary School was finally held after much delay. Peace Boat volunteers helped to remove mud and debris from the school's art classroom so that the ceremony would be made possible. A detailed report of this will be coming up shortly so stay tuned! We hope, pray and work so that the kids of Ishinomaki may return to school as soon as possible, and that all people of Ishinomaki may retrun to their normal lives.

Warm meals are needed desperately in the area. The queue at our kitchen is always very long. Peace Boat is preparing 2000 meals per day, but this is still not enough. We will be increasing capacity so that we may prepare up to 5000 meals per day.

A meals-on-wheels type delivery service is also provided by Peace Boat to those with impaired mobility or living in far away areas.

The tsunami brought mud and debris into buildings (pictured). The removal of the mud is tremendously difficult and physically exhausting work.

The volunteers are divided into 5 member cells. Team work skills are an essential. All volunteers are living in tents so as not to impose on the already limited capacity of the local emergency centers. Volunteers bring their own tents, sleeping bags, and a weeks worth of food and water.

Peace Boat will continue to send volunteers up north, please come and join us!

April 1, 2011 - Graduation Ceremony Held at Minato Primary School

A long-awaited graduation ceremony for the departing students from Minato Primary School was held on March 29. The school premises are now being used as an evacuation center, one of the many from where Peace Boat's relief efforts are being coordinated and carried out.

The graduation ceremony was originally scheduled for March 18. However, the mammoth earthquake which brought the area to its knees quickly put a stop to this. The children of this school shall forever have carved in their collective memories not only the unforeseen destruction of property and infrastructure, but also a former classmate and his mother who got swept away in the tsunami, never to be found.

There are a total of 36 pupils in the sixth grade graduating class. Some of the pupils have evacuated to areas further afield and therefore not all the students were present for the ceremony. The school is not yet operational. Despite this, the members of staff and the parents of the pupils managed to put together this ceremony. It is a testament of their love and devotion for the children.

The gymnasium which would usually be the venue for graduation ceremonies is currently unavailable, as it is being used for the storage of relief goods and providing meals. So instead, the graduation ceremony was held in the art classroom/studio. Peace Boat, along with other NGOs and NPOs helped to clear mud and debris from the art classroom and prepare it for the ceremony. Other volunteers made paper decorations for the event.

The ceremony was attended by the graduating pupils and their teachers as well as family members, volunteers and persons currently staying in the evacuation center. The homeroom teacher for the departing sixth graders had this to say to his soon-to-be former pupils:
?g8 years from now, you will all be exactly 20 years old. We hereby make a pact that at 2:46pm on March 11th (the exact time the earthquake hit) 8 years from now, we shall meet again in this classroom. I look forward to seeing how you all put this tragedy behind you and move ahead in life, to become the fine, upstanding people I know that you are all capable of being. I look forward very much to seeing you again!?h

The graduation certificates given to the students were already once swallowed up by the tsunami which struck. They were kept inside of a safe in the school office which was swept away once, but found and retrieved by members of the Japanese Self-Defence Force. The contents of the safe were covered entirely in mud. The school staff discussed whether these original documents should be handed out as the graduation certificates, or whether new ones should be re-printed. It was decided that the original mud-covered certificates would be restored, as a commemoration of the disaster.

After the ceremony, evacuees, the volunteers and members of the Self-Defence Force lined up in the school courtyard to see the graduating students off. As a surprise gift to the pupils, the Peace Boat volunteer team cooked up a warm meal of 'omelette and flavoured rice,' a special favourite with Japanese kids. Suffice it to say, the treat was eaten up quickly and appreciatively by the kids! One of our volunteers is a professional chef who runs a Spanish restaurant in Tokyo. He made banana and chocolate crepe for desert, another favourite with Japanese children. Smiles beamed.

We believe that every little bit helps in getting the local children on the road of recovery in the right direction.

April 5, 2011 - Minato Cafe, a much needed place of rest and relaxation

A makeshift café has opened up on the Minato Primary School campus by the Peace Boat team of volunteers to create a space for relaxation and respite for evacuees and nearby residents. Appropriately named ?eMinato Café?f after the school.

The school administrative body and local legislature were consulted before commencing operations. Everything is free of charge and the idea was formulated by Peace Boat team members based there. The suggestion came from seeing local people having to eat standing up because there wasn?ft enough space to sit down. By creating a café space, the same venue (the school gymnasium) may be transformed into a place for relaxation and some much needed communication and camaraderie.

The number of Peace Boat volunteers in Ishinomaki has increased from 20 or so 3 weeks ago to 90 persons this week, including volunteers from all walks of life - chefs, chiropractors etc?c different professionals with different skills whom can all contribute in their own way. A chiropractor volunteer has spent his evenings offering massages to the evacuees, and has single-handedly massaged more than 70 people over three days!

Journalists have arrived as well. From ?eAera?f magazine in Japan, two writers came on a 4-ton truck loaded with relief goods.
The World Food Program donated some large scale tents and prefabricated storage structures for Peace Boat's use in Ishinomaki. Italian technicians came with the tents to instruct on how to erect these super-durable structures.

The increase in numbers of volunteers is very good news indeed. However, owing to this growth in capacity, local operations are becoming increasingly complex. The Ishinomaki local authority is currently drawing up a guideline for any groups or persons providing meals within the city, so that the operations may be standardized across the board and monitored in order to provide the smoothest and most effective operations for all.

Over the past 2 weeks more than 1500 persons have joined the Peace Boat Relief Project orientation sessions in Tokyo. This week, we have dispatched 100 volunteers to Ishinomaki. Volunteers are also helping out with operations in Tokyo.

April 6, 2011 - 28 days on...a report from the ground

Today's report will consist of writing and photographs from Peace Boat staff member Ueno Yoshinori who went to Ishinomaki one week after the quake.

All electricity, gas and water infrastructure was destroyed in Ishinomaki. There are absolutely no light sources after sunset. Three weeks have passed since Peace Boats' relief efforts locally began.

One month on from the quake, some areas have electricity running again, but the former center of town and the coastal areas remain without. This complete lack of electricity makes cooking to provide meals very difficult, especially at night.

The Self-Defence Forces are averaging 8000 meals per day, and the NGO/NPO sector is managing to provide 12,000 to 20,000 meals per day to the affected people. This may sound like a lot, but it is nowhere near enough.

Ishinomaki City had a population of 180,000. There were 128,000 houses in the center of town, out of which 80,000 homes have either been completely or more than partially destroyed by the tsunami. The debris and mus dredged up from the sea bed during the tsunami is proving to be the major factor that is impeding relief efforts. Therefore, a major part of volunteer work is the removal of mud and debris from the inside of homes and buildings which are still standing.

The local municipality has joined forces with the network of NGOs and NPOs working in Ishinomaki to establish the 'Ishinomaki City Relief Work Committee'. What was only 20 or so volunteers three weeks ago is now a large local network of more than 40 civil society organizations. Information is shared in regular meetings and the ever-changing needs and criteria of work are discussed and established. Also, sending out soup kitchens and relief goods to the more remote areas is coordinated within this framework.

On the night of April 5, Peace Boat representative Yamamoto Takashi met with Mayor Kameyama of Ishinomaki City, also joined by representative of AP Bank Japan, Kobayashi Takeshi.

Below please find photo reportage (coming shortly).

April 10, 2011 - The significance of volunteering for disaster relief work

On April 10, Peace Boat held a seminar at the Tokyo Gaien Campus of the Kyoto Zokei Geijutsu University. The content of the seminar was reports and testimonials from the first batch of volunteers who have now returned to Tokyo.

Visitors to the seminar were volunteers helping out in Tokyo, and other members of the public who have been following our twitter feeds and website updates as well as friends and family of the participants. Also, former passengers of Peace Boats' global voyages were in attendance, along with a large media presence showing keen interest in our activities.

Content was divided into Peace Boats' past relief efforts both domestic and overseas, as well as reports from how things are in Ishinomaki currently. The one and half hour session was filled with very relevant content.

The Japanese Ministry of Education has recently announced its intention to give university credit for students who participate in volunteer work. To illustrate the significance and importance of this potential turning point in Japanese educational history, we chose 6 young volunteer members from the first dispatch group to share with us their experiences.

First, we had Kawagishi Junko, who is a professional dancer. She works as an instructor in a dance school located just a few minutes away from the Peace Boat Center in Tokyo.
She found Peace Boat's activities via twitter. Despite a lot fear and apprehension, all the news footage she saw of the devastation in the Tohoku region gave her the courage to join in and 'do it'.
Her main scope of work in Ishinomaki was food delivery. With her natural charm and vivacious personality she instantly became very popular locally, especially at the Eiganji temple, which was the main evacuation center she was delivering to.

"I felt it was my responsibility as a volunteer to be cheerful and buoyant at all times, otherwise it would be rude to the victims of the disaster" she says.
She started every day with group morning stretching exercises at the Senshu University campus.

After her return, she has taken it onto herself to spread the message about the significance of volunteering. She has been interviewed by a number of dance-related magazines and has shared her experiences inIshinomaki publicy.

Tanaka Daiki is a chef in training in an exclusive traditional Japanese restaurant in the high-end district of Akasaka in Tokyo. His superiors at the restaurant told him to "make delicious meals for all those who have suffered" .
He helped out wherever necessary (such as mud and debris removal) - however, being a trained chef, his talents were utilized in our soup kitchen. Having to prepare meals for 500 people, outdoors without any running water or proper equipment proved to be a steep learning curve for him!
He was given a drawing from the kids in Ishinomaki as a gift. He now has this framed, and kindly shared it with the audience.

Saza Shinsuke is a university student. Like many others, he found out about Peace Boat's relief efforts via twitter.
He helped out with providing meals, mud removal and relief goods delivery during the week he was there. He also helped to make the crepes for desert at the Minato Primary Schools' graduation ceremony featured earlier on this page.
He was making crepes in the classroom next to the one where the graduation ceremony was taking place. He says that he could hear the children crying...
Mr Saza will be joining us on another volunteer mission from the 23rd of this month.

Fukushi Eri (known to her friends as 'Fuku-chan') was a participant on the 33rd Peace Boat Global Voyage. She is now a Japanese language teacher, and she was able to afford some time to volunteer as the start of her new job has been delayed by the quake.

She was helping out in inventory keeping in the storage space of relief goods. It is definitely backstage work, with not much opportunity to mingle with others. On top of this, it is hard physical labour. As she was inside the storage space almost every day and night, she was not able to witness directly the activities going on outside. However, she was able to gleam a sense of what was happening by the changes in the variety of items she had to provide to the outside team day by day.

She said it was the first time in her life she came face to face with the significance of 'quality' in relief goods - especially clothes. Donated clothes were a mixed bag of newer and well maintained clothes and others not so. Being in the thick of things in the disaster stricken area, and (she herself too) not being able to bathe for days, was always overwhelmed with a sense of wanting to provide only the nicest and best maintained clothes to the victims.

Koyama Daishi, university student and professional lifeguard. He is also a part-time carer.
"I felt that I could be of some use," he says about his motivation to become a volunteer.

He carried out a lot of delivery work to families stranded in their homes. Therefore he had witnessed first hand a lot of the devastation. Exploded sewer pipes, dead and rotting fish and marine life strewn across dry land, the stench caused by the mud and debris which covers the area...
"It opened my eyes, in a way I didn't think possible" he says.

He stated his interest in travelling the world by Peace Boat in the future.

Kamoshida Jun was also a former Peace Boat participant and volunteer, now a high-school teacher. He also learned of Peace Boat's disaster relief activites via twitter.
He mainly helped out with mud and debris removal. During his stay he worked on 3 houses. He mentioned that the tatami mats (traditional Japanese straw carpeting) which had soaked up water and mud were incredibly heavy.
Having to carry mat after mat was very strenuous physical labour.

Perhaps the most trying trying time was when he was removing mud from a young married couple's home.
There were many children's books and toys...but no sight of any child.
The young wife and husband were silent in their grief.
"Picking up memento after memento of a child no longer of this world. I still cannot comprehend these feelings that swept through me. Howver, I am glad that I volunteered."

Goda Shigehiro of Peace Boat says, "I learned about the powerlessness of humans in the face of natural disaster. However, I also learned that those who have survived are able to help each other. There are many strong and physically fit people here in Ishinomaki. However there is not enough. Mud and debris removal will still have to go on for months. We still need more people"

Next up on the microphone was director of Peace Boat, Yoshioka Tatsuya.
"There is a significance and effectiveness to volunteers from civil society to help out in disaster relief. It should not be solely the domain of government, specialized organizations or large-scale NGOs only.
I would like to share this story with you from one of our staff members here. He was helping out with mud and debris removal in a house where a mother sat alone. Her husband and children all swept away by the tsunami.
Picking out the items he was retrieving, he would hand them to the mother, thinking that she would of course want to keep it. She kept refusing, and asked him to dispose of it all. He came across an old photo album, and once again handed it over to the mother. Even this, she refused to take, and asked him to dispose of it. Is it a way of coping with the pain? Who will ever know unless it happened to you directly?
The logic that he applied to the situation (as an outsider) was at odds with what the mother felt or wanted.
What would YOU do in this situation?
I have absolutely no idea.
Maybe there is no answer.

Once again, I was left thinking about the significance of volunteering in disaster stricken areas.
It may be easy to bring in a bulldozer to an already flattened area to just 'clear' all the debris and objects.
However, it is not merely 'debris' - it is the remnants of personal belongings. The every day items of every person.
Perhaps herein lies the significance.
The significance for people to go, and to reach out. To share the problems together.
Thank you very much for joining today."

Updates from hereon will be made on the separate dedicated page: in English and herein Japanese.
Documents for download
Emergency Relief for Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake