Friday, December 30, 2011

Ishinomaki Case Study: Recovery of Maruka Pro Fish Shop

Maruka Pro shop in November 2011

Although this article is a little different than what we usually post on FVJ, I thought it might be interesting to look at the current state of businesses around Tohoku, and discuss the steps they are taking in order to re-open.  

In the case of the downtown of Ishinomaki, the first business to recovery quickly with a unique plan that I had come across was that of the Maruka Pro Fish Shop. 
Fig 1: Maruka Pro Shop shown during the initial post-tsunami clean-up.

There may have been a time when recovery from a disaster for small businesses just involved getting the mess cleaned out, the damage repaired, new product ordered in, and hanging a "business as usual" sign on the door. However, this is no longer the case. Even for small businesses, the business model today is complex and being able to continue following an interruption of any kind relies on a wide understanding of all the influences that could affect it as well as having carefully prepared plans to get those influences back together following the disruption.

Not only do small and medium-sized businesses need to struggle and work hard and fast to survive commercially, when battling against big-box stores and internet-shopping. While potentially being exposed to incidents that are outside their control, small businesses in most industries also need to operate within tight-industry regulation, and to stay on top of their own business processes, personnel and procedures.

"80 percent of businesses without a well 
structured recovery plan are forced to shut down 
within 12 months of a flood or fire."
(Source: London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2003)

Sadly, as many as 80% of businesses hit by fire, storm damage, tsunami, or earthquake go out of business within a year because they have not planned effectively for recovery. The downtown Ishinomaki case makes this especially clear. Nine months following the disaster, many of the businesses in the downtown core, and the majority of businesses in the Watanoha district have failed to come back online. 

 May 25th Reopening poster for Maruka 

Estimates of the direct material damage of the tsunami are said to exceed ¥25 trillion ($300 billion), but insurance and government coverage will only be able to cover a fraction of those losses. Although there's not much that can be done in the cases where an entire business' physical location, and many of the management and staff members were lost, there are several other cases where the lack of a business continuity plan to resume business elsewhere, also contributed to the post-disaster closure of the business. The case of the Maruka Pro Shop in Ishinomaki is a strong case for following the Best Practices scenario for post-disaster Business Continuity Practices.

Business continuity planning is not only necessary to protect an organization against extreme disasters such as the big-three cases that affected the East Coast of Japan, it's also important to take into account the importance of preparing for electrical problems, IT failures, theft, damage, or irregular and unseasonal local conditions. What should a business do in the case that their best people suddenly resign? Or if one of their key suppliers goes under? Or a new competitor opens up nearby?  Creating contingency plans for all of these cases, on top of larger disasters, and understanding the impact on day-to-day business planning,  is essential for maintain both day-to-day business, and preparing for long-term profitability.

Despite being completely gutted by the tsunami, losing long-term access to the local fishing pier due to infrastructure damage, losing ice suppliers, and losing many of its customers in the local region, the Pro Shop Maruka managed to reopen its doors on May 25th (only 64 days after the tsunami) in the hard-hit coastal district of Ishinomaki, thanks to effective business continuity practices.
Pictures of the re-opening day of Maruka Pro Shop on May 25th.

The Maruka Pro Shop is managed by a Mr. Masahiko Sasaki and his wife, Mrs. Kazuko Sakaki. Mr. Sasaki has come to be known as the "Walking Fish Dictionary" thanks to his expansive knowledge of different types of fish, their habitat, uncountable ways of preparing and cooking fish, as well as knowing much about the deep link between the sea and Japanese folklore. He can always be seen first thing in the morning at the local sea ports, haggling and bidding for the biggest and heartiest fish to be caught.

Mrs. Kazuko Sasaki comes from a long lineage of fishermen. She is the eldest daughter of the president of "Miyamoto Fisheries" which has been operating since well before the Meiji Era. It was her idea to refocus Masahiko's business on the professional sector, to become a provider of top quality and bulk fish products for small and medium sized businesses across Miyagi.

The Sasaki's had lived through smaller disasters before. They were familiar with how a tsunami could affect local businesses and the fishery sector, by experiencing the tsunami generated by the Great Chile quake of 1970.  They knew that fishing supplies would be momentarily disrupted, and expected there to be damage to their main shop.

They studied the breakdown of their business, and worked hard in developing business continuity planning processes and practices that would ensure that, whatever the disaster, the day to day activities of their shop would be able to get back up and running quickly. This included clear processes for their employees so that there is no doubt what action to take, whatever the circumstances. In the case of potential tsunami, the shop workers were well trained in escape routes to nearby hills. The Sasaki's emphasized that personal safely was the first priority, and told their staff to drop what they were doing, and to run to the hills.  

Since Pro Shop Maruka is a middleman, acquiring fish directly from the ports, and selling it to smaller and mid-size businesses, rather than walk-in customers, they were very dramatically hit by the tsunami. Since most businesses in the downtown district had their first floors devastated, and partial flooding of the second floors, many businesses ended up going out of business completely. Since insurance companies refused to cover coastal businesses with tsunami or flooding insurance, and government compensation would only be enough to cover personal living expenses, most businesses without and effective business continuity plan have been unable to cope post-tsunami.

Employing teams of local volunteers, coordinated through local Volunteer Centers, and by visiting the temporary offices of Peace Boat and other local post-disaster NPOs, the Sasaki's were able to get their shop cleaned out, remove the tsunami sludge, and remove any rotting insulation within the first couple weeks following the disaster.

Once their store-front was moderately recovered by early April, they followed up with a plan to offer the front part of their shop to their pre-disaster customers. Since the majority of coastal businesses were devastated, this means that many of their own customers had also lost their shop fronts. An important element of disaster planning involves contingency plans for not only the acquisition of materials, and relocation, it also means finding ways to protect or recover your customer base.

In Pro Shop Maruka's case, they extended the offer to four of their local customers, who had lost their own businesses completely. The Takigawa Japanese restaurant, Baorai Sushi, Ishikawa Sukiyaki, and the Loulan Chinese Restaurant. With a date set for a May 25th opening, the Sasaki's invited the four businesses to set up small stalls in the front of the Pro Shop Maruka. They worked with the Ishinomaki 2.0 and IDRAC (Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery Assistance Council) to secure loans for buying new stoves, fridges, and supplies, and used the power of social media and local newspapers and radio broadcasts for promoting their business.

Pro Shop Maruka excelled at putting their Business Continuity Plan into action, and serves as a beacon for other tsunami, and disaster-affected businesses to prepare for worst-case scenarios comprehensively and effectively. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We Will Always Remember You

In October, Kenji Araki, a director from NY came to Tohoku to film a video as part of another project, and joined the It's Not Just Mud crew for a couple days. This video is addressed to international citizens as a thank you message from the people of Tohoku, and really conveys a warm and encouraging message.

To the people of the world: there is a video we would like you to see.
On March 11, 2011, at 2:46pm, the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region of Japan was hit by the most powerful earthquake the country had ever experienced. As the overwhelming scale of the destruction from the quake and resulting tsunami became clear, and the number of lives reported lost continued to climb to reach over 10,000, the people of our country were devastated with grief and a sense of dejection.

It was during this time that you, the people from different countries across the world, called out to us with a message of strength and support: “Ganbare Nihon!”—Be strong Japan! You lifted out spirits and gave us the courage to keep our heads up and move forward.

Nowhere is this feeling of appreciation stronger than it is with the people of Tohoku. Anyone who has spent time helping with the rebuilding efforts knows how strong these people are, and how thankful they are.

This video by Kenji, titled “We Will Always Remember You” begins with a series of video footage showing the terrible disaster the earthquake wrought.It then turns the spotlight to Taylor Anderson (then 24), an American assistant language teacher (ALT) in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture—one of the areas hit hardest by the disaster.

Anderson, was teaching at an elementary school when the earthquake hit, stayed with the frightened children until they had all been safely evacuated. However, on the way home, Anderson herself fell victim to the tsunami that came rushing in after.

Anderson’s students appear in the video and speak of their memories of their teacher: “Taylor sensei was really nice. She really cheered us up when the earthquake struck.”

There were many other touching scenes in the pre-production footage that Kenji showed the It's Not Just Mud crew when he stayed with them in October, and it's great to see the wonderful final product. As Jamie of INJM puts it "If you have been to Tohoku post disaster on any kind of relief mission, this video is relevant to you. Feel free to share."

It's only 7 minutes, but definitely worth watching. I'd recommend having a box of tissues handy nonetheless.

Update: Since the video was pulled from YouTube by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York due to copyright infringement, despite the wish of the director for the video to find as large an audience as possible, we have embedded a version shared on a Japanese video sharing site below. Please check it out. 

Here is an earlier video also by Kenji Araki filmed on March 17th, and conveys a message of support and solidarity for Japan. Ice T and Robin Williams also make appearances in the film.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Please fill in the Survey on tokyo hazard vulnerability and preparation

Relief supplies for Minamisoma - During delivery by Rescue Japan

Please fill in the Survey on tokyo hazard vulnerability and preparation

This survey aims to gather information related to disaster preparedness from residents in Tokyo targeting 4 Wards (Edogawa, Koto, Meguro and Minato)

It focuses on the following hazards Floods, Tropical storms and Typhoons, Water scarcity, Fire, Extreme heat, Extreme cold.

Fill in the form here:

Results will be used for a presentation in December and essays to be completed by the New Year. Basic data will be posted in mid December (



Please share this link for the J survey on hazard preparedness:


こ の調査は、国連大学の災害と人道援助のコースの履修生によって行われています。東京都民の災害に対する防災意識についての情報を収集しております。洪水、 熱帯性暴風雨、台風、水不足、火災、猛暑、厳しい寒さといった天候に起因する災害に焦点を絞ってご質問させていただきます。 お近くにお住まいの地域の方々にもこのアンケートに答えてくださるようお誘いいただければ幸いです。東京の住民のウェブサイトにもお載せいたします。


Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's Not Just Mud

INJM Working on a landslide-relief project in Onagawa town.

This is one of the groups in Tohoku that has played gracious host to Foreign Volunteers Japan members on several visits up to Tohoku so far. The group was originally formed in the famous "Tent City" in Ishinomaki, that ran from mid-March until September 30th, on the grounds of Senshu University in Ishinomaki.

The founder of the group, Jamie El-Banna, is known as the go-to-guy for information regarding local conditions in Ishinomaki. He has worked closely on projects with the British Chamber of Commerce, Ishinomaki 2.0, Samaritan's Purse, and several others. 

Jamie (far right) welcoming a new group of volunteers to INJM HQ.
While working in Osaka, Jamie travelled out to Higashi-Matsushima on a volunteer trip in mid May. Although that was well after the initial rescue phase of the tsunami relief efforts, the level of devastation and unmet needs of the refugees that Jamie encountered, made him realize that there was still tremendous amounts of work that had to be done for the relief efforts. 

After returning to Osaka, he didn't feel right settling back down in the city. There was still so much to be done in the tsunami-affected regions. After a few weeks, he made the dramatic decision to quit his job, sublet his apartment, and moved out to Tent City in Ishinomaki. That was where the core organizational group behind the It's Not Just Mud project was formed.  

Long-term volunteer Manish already muddy by 10:00am.
The name for the project of course, comes from the initial challenge facing anyone getting involved with post-tsunami clean-up and relief work. Not only did the devastating force of the tsunami destroy much of what it came into contact with, it also covered nearly everything else with a thick layer of toxic, bacteria-breeding, noxious and thick mud. 

Much of the clean-up efforts have been focused on removing this mud… but, as Jamie puts it "it’s not just mud. It's about the people who are living through this terrible tragedy, and helping them get back to a normal life." 

Although the early days of the project revolved around clean-up projects coordinated through local volunteer centers, INJM has since expanded their projects. 

As of the end of September, the It's Not Just Mud project has now moved into two neighboring houses in the Watanoha district of Ishinomaki. Impressed by their volunteer activities, the houses were actually offered to the group by refugees who had been able to move to another district of the city.

Half-restored INJM house in late-September
 When the group first moved in, the first floor of both houses were hollowed-out. The walls and floors had been badly damaged, festering sludge under the floors, and rotting insulation in the walls all needed to be extracted, and shattered windows needed to be boarded up. 

Over the last two months, Jamie's group has worked on-top of their other volunteer projects to restore the house to working shape. By the end of September they had floorboards and walls extracted, and removed the tsunami sludge. Soon after that they put up new walls and floorboards (generously provided by Samaritan's Purse), as well as restoring the water and gas. By early October they replaced the electrical sockets, and soon will have a water heater installed. Even without the water heater, Jamie explained that volunteers are able to visit the local temporary hot-springs facilities for a hot bath.  
Knocking down a wall on a recent project.
As for the specific projects of INJM, here are their current four main aims:
  1. Encouraging volunteering – They do this by offering assistance in coming in terms of advice and logistical support.
  2. Salvaging homes in the Ishinomaki area – In many cases, only the ground floor of the home was flooded, and in some cases soaked in sea water for up to three days. Months later, the building materials are waterlogged and rotting, and must be removed. This means removing the walls, ceiling, insulation, and flooring, then the 3-5cm layer of mud that is under everything.
    Normally, this kind of work would be undertaken by a professional builder, but because of the enormous number of damaged homes, the waiting list to get a professional builder is extremely long, and the process is costly. They work with experienced volunteers (several of which are trained builders) to perform this manual labor and gut houses, taking them one step closer to being liveable.
    For some families, they have been living on the second floor of their damaged home for months, passing through the rotting and hazardous first floor daily. Making it safe and clean is a significant improvement for these people.
  3. Salvaging homes further afield – INJM work with both local groups in central Ishinomaki and in more remote areas of the region. They have identified the need for this kind of service in towns across the Oshika Peninsula.
  4. Delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to areas that don’t have access to such things. Now that the Winter is coming, INJM has begun focusing on the distribution of Winter coats, kerosene heaters, and running a 'kerosene pickup and delivery service' for residents of refugee shelters and temporary housing units without access to a car.

INJM volunteers helping a local sake-shop owner restore her business. 

A popular aspect of the group, is the members' great sense of humor, and the openness to new volunteers. The INJM page documents various F.U.Es. Those are the "Frequently Used Excuses" that unfortunately have been preventing many potential volunteers from making the short trip to Ishinomaki. Here are the official F.U.E from the INJM webpage: 

F.U.E – Frequently Used Excuses

Below you can find some of the most common reasons people use to not come. They all have a valid basis, but after reading below, I think you’ll find that in actual fact, there’s nothing to worry about!

I’m worried I’ll find something really scary in the rubble!!
 The Self Defense Force has cleared most of the large debris in Ishinomaki. Most of the work we do is clearing mud that is 2-4cm thick from homes and properties. You might find something that is emotionally troubling, for example people’s personal belongings or photographs, but it is unlikely you’ll find something truly troubling with the kind of work we do.

I don’t have any experience!!
 Everyone has to start somewhere! You will always have someone experienced working with you who can answer your questions and tell you what to do and how to do it. It’s not too difficult, and after a day you’ll quickly learn what needs to be done, and will be able to teach new volunteers yourself.

I’m not very strong!!
 You won’t be asked to do anything you can’t do. Some jobs do require strength, but if you aren’t cut out for that, there are plenty of things you can do. Plenty of women and older people work with us!

I don’t have any equipment!!
 All the professional building equipment will be provided. Please look here for what you should bring!

I can’t book a bus, I don’t read Kanji!!
 Contact us with your dates and we can arrange someone to do that for you.

I don’t speak Japanese/English!!
 That’s OK! On the work site we will always make sure you understand what you’re supposed to be doing, and there are plenty of people around who can help out if you don’t understand. 

If you would be interested in joining the INJM project, please feel free to contact Jamie directly at: jamie[AT]itsnotjustmud[DOT]com


Or visit their Facebook fan group to ask for more information: 

Friday, October 7, 2011

 Foreign Volunteers Japan has begun campaigning with Kanto-based International Schools to collect coats for children affected by the disaster in Tohoku, who will soon be facing a harsh Winter. If you work at, or are involved with a school that might be interested in getting involved, please feel free to contact us at foreignvolunteersjapan (at) gmail (dot) com.

The initial campaign will be centered around allowing students to help students, but will soon to expanding to a larger campaign for collecting halogen and kerosene heaters, heat pads, heated blankets, and other Winter essentials, depending on local needs and requests in the Temporary Housing communities across the Tohoku coastal area.

Please stay tuned and further details will be posted as the campaign evolves.

Thank you sincerely for your support!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Foreign Volunteers Japan - Face To Face

Foreign Volunteers Japan - Face To Face

Come and enjoy an evening of fantastic music and guest speakers, whilst raising money for Tohoku. We welcome everyone interested in learning more about volunteerism.  It is also an opportunity for FVJ and other NPO/NGO volunteers to meet face to face beyond the confines of Facebook.

Let's come together and discuss the successes, failures, joys, frustrations and aspirations of all those trying to help the survivors of March 11th.

Admission fee is 2000 yen (includes 1 drink).
Tickets available at the door.


*Zazushii Monkey*
*The Dead Flower Children Unplugged*
*Chris Grundy*

Prudential Tower 1F, 2-13-10 Nagatacho,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 〒100-0014

Akasaka Mitsuke Station
Exit 11 (Sanno-shita District Gate) 1 min

Akasaka Station
Exit 1 (5 min)

Nagatacho Station
Exit 8 (2 min)

Tameike-sanno Station
Exit 8 (2 min)
Advanced-Tickets available via Wazoo:

For further enquiries contact

Monday, September 26, 2011

Collating listing of NPO/NGOs focused on longterm Tohoku Recovery.

Sarajean Rossitto of JapanVolunteers is currently compiling an updated listing of organizations focused on the longterm relief and recovery of the Tohoku region. 


She is compiling the list on her JapanVolunteers NGO advisory blog, under the heading "Your help needed - Tohoku relief and recovery org listing."I have taken the liberty of reposting the tentative listing here as well. 


If you see any missing links, or any other groups that you feel should be included. Please feel free to comment directly on her blog, or to post your comments here and I will share them with her. 


Please send the names of the organizations in English and Japanese if possible, and include any relevant links to their webpage, or a bio of their activities if available.


The tentative list is as follows:

  • ADRA Japan NPO法人 アドラ・ジャパン(ADRA Japan
  • NPO Aichi-net 愛知ネット

  • Association for Aid and Relief, Japan難民を助ける会
  • URL:

  • AMDA - formerly Association of Medical Doctors of Asia
  • 特定非営利活動法人 AMDA (元アジア医師連絡協議会)
  • URL:

  • Care International Japan 公益財団法人 ケア・インターナショナル ジャパン

  • CRASH volunteers


  • Good Neighbors Japan グッドネーバーズジャパン
  • URL:

  • Hope International Development Agency

  • Hope World Wide

  • The Japan Asian Association and Asian Friendship Societyアジア協会アジア友の会

  • Japan EQ Animal Rescue and Support JEARS

  • JEN ジェン
  • URL:

  • MDMJ Medecins du Monde Japan / Doctors of the World
  • 特定非営利活動法人メドゥサン・デュ・モンド ジャポン
  • URL:

  • MSF Japan: Medecins sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders Japan
  • 特定非営利活動法人国境なき医師団日本 
  • URL:

  • Nippon International Cooperation Community Development NICCO 社)日本国際民間協力会 (NICCO)
  • Online donation in Japanese

  • Nippon Volunteer Network Active in Disaster, Inc.
  • ()日本災害救援ボランティアネットワーク(NVNAD)

  • O.G.A. for AID


  • Peace Winds Japanピース ウィンズ・ジャパン
  • URL:

  • Peace Boat ピースボート

  • Rescue stockyard レスキューストックヤード

  • Rescue Japan

  • Save the Children Japanセーブ・ザ・チルドレン子ども基金
  • URL:

  • Shanti Volunteer Association 公益社団法人シャンティ国際ボランティア会

  • Uniken, Japan Universal Design Research Institute:(Japanese only)

  • World Vision Japan ワールド・ビジョン・ジャパン

  • NETWORK organizations
  • They have links with information on the hundreds of other groups involved:

  • Japan Civil Net – Network of the groups working on the Japan EQ/tsunami relief efforts

  • Japan NPO Center – a nation wide network of Japan-based local nonprofits and volunteer groups

  • JANIC –Japan Association of NGOs in International Cooperation – a network of Japanese NGOs that are involved in international development work
  • Japan Platform – Network of Japanese NGOs engaged in emergency and relief work

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Romeo for Tohoku (Aroma Rich Juliet contest – I need your vote!)

Posted on behalf of hard-working Tohoku Volunteer Dean Newcombe, in support of his work with Intrepid Model Adventures and their long-term volunteer project in Ishinomaki:
Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story, but perhaps most of us don’t get the chance to be labeled as ‘Romeo’! That’s exactly where I have found myself though.

Living in Japan has granted me many opportunities, and many of them very surreal. I certainly didn’t expect to be standing as 1 of 8 gentlemen hoping to become the image of Romeo here in the land of the rising sun, and further more, I didn’t realise how passionate I would become at taking the 1st prize!

Agencies searched Tokyo for talents that stood out, who did something a little bit special. Guys who present sport on TV, guys who perform magic and dance, but I had other ideas…to further establish the ‘Volunteer / Model’!

So here I stand, the ‘Sweet Passionate Model’ (not self labeled I should state! ;) ). I won’t be calling up to any balconies, or delivering romantic lines, but I will be doing something which I believe is much more important! I will be taking Romeo’s spotlight to Tohoku, and I will be showing what a modern Romeo would really stand for! I will donate all the money I get from winning this contest to those in Tohoku!

If you believe in this cause…
  1. Visit – – From anywhere in the world you can register a vote. You don’t need to speak Japanese. Just hit the gold button and when the box with Twitter and Facebook links comes up, you have voted. Thank you!
  2. Visit – – This is the event on Facebook and has more information. Join the group and invite others explaining why they should care.
  3. Keep voting. This is not a one off, you can vote daily! Each device you have and each browser (Firefox, Chrome, Explorer) can register a vote, and I need them all.
  4. Spread the word in any other way you can, and let me know that your there supporting me so I can thank you personally!
Against all the odds, can the Volunteer Model pull this off? With your help…yes!
Fashionista's Romeo - By Nathan Berry of ECA Photography - Tokyo 2011

Modern Day Romeo By Anatole Papafilipou of Moonlight Studios, Hiroki Takeru of Studio 47 and Chanyn Kirtman of Chanyn Cheree Styling - Tokyo 2011

See more from ECA photography.
See more from Moonlight Photography
See more from Chanyn Cheree Styling

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reflections and Narratives of Relief Work for Japan

* by David H. Slater

The measure, experience and meaning of a “disaster” is in large part a function of the relief that is, or is not, provided to those in need.

Focus: This is an open call for short (less than 700 words) pieces on the topic of relief and volunteer activities around the events collectively known as 3.11. We understand “relief” to include a wide range of support: from asking for donations on the street corners of London to digging mud in Ishinomaki; from running up food supplies to Fukushima to housing displaced kids in Kyoto; from fighting the April snows to the August rains; from acting as a part-time counselor to victims to leading corporate social responsibility programs at multi-national companies. Japanese and foreigners, students and adults, professionals and amateurs, practitioners and volunteers of any sort are welcome here.

Send your entries NOW in attached MSWord files to:

Goal: We want to document the relief effort as it is going on. At a time when 3.11 has been largely pushed out of the news cycle, even in Japan, even though huge amounts of work still need to be done, one of our goals is to let others know about the work being done, the work you have done, and maybe the work still needing to be done. This is direct and maybe intimate, but it is not voyeurism. It is also not promotion for a single group, but please feel free to tell us the groups you are working with.

There is a strategic element to this call: to spread the word, to encourage others to contribute, to keep it going.

The single biggest reason that people do not volunteer is that they do not really know what it involves. Let's tell them.

Format: These pieces must be short (less than 700 words) and to the point, vivid and direct, taking a single aspect of relief that can be captured and made meaningful in this format. No footnotes or bibliographies, but you could include links. The format is somewhere between an essay and a blog entry: it is shorter and more informal than an essay, but more focused on a particular topic or aspect than a blog entry.

Source: Your topic can be based on some sort of local practice, but your piece should be directed to a wider audience, beyond your academic discipline or professional context. First-person narratives are very welcome. This is a chance to digest and present some parts of your experience in ways that communicate to others.  It could be sad or funny, desperate or hopeful--all important parts of the relief experience.

Time-frame: If at all possible, review your older notes so we can include something from the earlier months: clearly, working in April was much different from working in August. Send both.

Your entry: We ask you to do your best to present a finished copy, but we will have the resources to proof-read your work when necessary. Japanese or English are both welcome. We encourage non-native English speakers to write something in English, and we can give it a “native check.”

Collective Product: In the end, we will collect, proof-read and present your entries digitally.  Pending some more funding, we will translate Japanese into English and English into Japanese. We are now arranging for newspapers, journals, universities, relief sites, and others to feature your work and offer links to your work. We will have a web-designer—not me—to make your good work accessible to others.

Clearly, we cannot tell the “whole story’ in 700 words: our intent is to provide enough different pieces to allow readers to understand some of the range and complexity behind disaster and relief.

Note: Multiple submissions from the same author are welcome. Selections from larger pieces are also fine (and might be a good way to draw attention to other related projects). You can use your blog entries if they are suitable or any other source that does not violate copyright.

Deadline: October 1st.  

Check Out Some Others' Sample Entries Here

posted Oct 19, 2009 10:41 PM by David H. Slater   [ updated Aug 10, 2011 2:52 AM ]
Here are some examples of  others' experiences. As you can see, they are of vary different styles and focus--which is just what we want.  Of course, since all of your expereinces are different, your entries will be different also.

Attachments (4)

  • Approaching a house.rtf - on Aug 8, 2011 4:04 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    3k Download
  • Fieldnotes from Iwanuma.rtf - on Aug 8, 2011 4:13 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    11k Download
  • Unstable Ground.doc - on Aug 8, 2011 3:30 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    28k View Download
  • What I saw in Tohoku.doc - on Aug 8, 2011 3:41 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    29k View Download 

More information can be found directly at the project page:

David H. Slater is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. He has been active in the relief effort from the start. He has also been collecting narratives and reflections from volunteers, and now wants to put them together and bring them higher profile.

You can find out more about him here:!/david.h.slater

Please feel free to contact him with questions or suggestions for improvement directly at:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Smiles & Dreams: Tohoku Kids Project

Hi my name is Paul Yoo, Co-founder of volunteerAKITA and The Fruit Tree Project (  Along with our on-going activities, we are also involved in the “Smiles & Dreams:Tohoku Kids Project” led by Living Dreams/SmileKidsJapan ( and Right now, we are working as Home Communication Managers (HCMs) to two orphanages in the Sendai area.  Our role is to act as contacts for the orphanages, and relay any needs they may have.

What we need right now:  A boy, in his 3rd year of high school (his final year), at one of the orphanages we are in contact with, has become the first orphan there to ever express interest in going to college.  He wants to attend Yamaguchi Hukushi Bunka Daigaku (University of Human Welfare and Culture) and study hoiku ka (child care).  It is a four year program and the university will cover tuition for the first 2 years of the program, along with 50% of the 3rd and 4th years.  Our goal is to raise¥1,154,000 which includes ¥970,000 in tuition costs for the 3rd and 4th years, along with an ¥184,000 mandatory insurance cost over 4 years.

We are currently accepting PLEDGES to donate to this fund because he still needs to pass his college entrance exam.  Once he does, we will move forward in collecting funds and transferring the money into an account that will be handled by the orphanage.

We welcome any grants, scholarships, or personal donations to get this young man to college, and most importantly doing it without leaving him in debt after he finishes school, since in most cases, once an orphan has finished high school, he is on his own.

It is truly inspiring that he plans to go to college and is the first from his orphanage to show interest in doing so.  Successfully sending him to college would be such an amazing gift, and would inspire other orphans to follow in his footsteps, knowing that they too can receive a college education, and strive to become whatever they want to be in the future.

If you have any questions regarding this proposal or can help us out, please contact me.

Much Love,

Paul Yoo

Paul Yoo
volunteerAKITA / The Fruit Tree

Monday, August 1, 2011

Aussie Beef

*Written by Jamie El-Banna
The day started quite differently to others, as I had the morning off. I had stuff to do in the afternoon, but was free in the morning. I opted to spend my free time catching up on emails, listening to some beats and enjoying the breeze from the sanctuary of the shade. And taking a dip in the river. I honestly can’t get enough of it. 

I knew that all my friends back in Osaka would be hitting the beach today. Even though it’s an incredibly dirty beach, it made me feel a bit lonely. But swimming in the river and looking up at the blue sky made me feel a little bit better. 

I would be assisting at a 炊き出し (if you forgot, this is giving out food) and festival type event in Watanoha, which is in East Ishinomaki. I went with Chiyomi, Michi, “A-chan” and CKD. We got there a bit early so we looked around.

This group was making mochi, which is pretty fun. First the rice gets crushed by two people walking around in circles pressing it with the big mallets. After a while, one guy starts hitting it, while the other one puts it back into place. 

So it’s WHACK reset WHACK reset. When pros do it, the guy resets it after each hit, and they have a good rhythm going on. When amateurs do it, they don’t reset it each time, because it’s just too dangerous. The mallet Yuki-kun used is still enough to break a finger or two, although maybe not with his strength. The one I used would do some serious damage.

As well as this, there was some live music, several food stalls, some stalls giving out clothes, shaved ice, and drinks. I tried some mochi and shaved ice, but didn’t have anything else, as it was too hot for food! When I was pounding mochi I noticed one person looking at me very intently, and it turned out to be someone I had met about 3 weeks ago. 

She was surprised to hear I had been in the area the whole time (she had returned to Chiba, but came back for this event). The group started packing up at around 1/1:30, which is when the other groups arrived. They would be doing their 炊き出しand festival from 5.

I first heard about the activity going on here from Foreign Volunteers Japan. Their blog is updated with stuff they are involved in, but much more active is their Facebook group. They have created a great network of people who are eager to help Tohoku.Through this group I have got into contact with lots of very active people, and it’s been invaluable in the spreading of information. Anyway, Mike Connolly contacted me about helping out with a BBQ. He had, with the help of some contacts, been able to procure a large amount of Aussie Beef, in the shape of 200+ steaks. *drool*

There were people from two groups here (not including FVJ), Grace City Relief, a church based group from Chiba and another group that GCR have some sort of connection to, Help Tohoku (in Japanese). There were a lot of high school kids from an International High School with them. It’s been AGES since I’ve talked to foreign teenagers, I forgot how funny they are. In some ways they seem more mature than their Japanese counterparts, in others ways less so, but they are just as amusing.

As we would just be frying steak, there was very little in the way of preparation to be done. Once the tent was up and BBQ in place, we had nothing to do, so helped out where we could.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time to plant those seeds.

* Entry written by Dru Taylor
Dave Enright, who held a fundraiser and bought this tractor, posing with his son after a job well done.
I dont normally write stuff like this but this story is lovely. A couple of weeks ago we put an advert up in the BCCJ "We Care Japan" website for a tractor to help the people start growing their own fruit and vegetables in Minamisanriku AND within a few days a total stranger Dave Enright and his lovely family Mariko Sage and Airi from Hakuba answered to say they had organised a fundraising reggae event.
 Using the money they raised from the event, they went right out and bought a tractor which they delivered last week to OGA who are doing amazing things. After 2 days of talking and organizing with a lovely guy from the Joyful Honda home centre ( he worked all day thursday helping us even though it was his day off ) my wife Kyoko got a unbelievable price. 
On Saturday (actually 2 o`clock sunday morning as it became another epic journey/day) we managed to deliver 1400 seedlings to OGA for AID, 500 tomatoes, 500 peppers, 300 okra and 100 aubergine seedlings, along with the tools and poles for the tomatoes. 
We started planting on Sunday morning before having to leave to get the rental truck back to Chiba and now Peter of OGA, and the local people have been planting the rest. 
This story is the start of something fantastic in the rebuilding of Minamisanriku to get the people working making money but mostly seeing a future. Many people have worked hard to make this happen so I bow my head and thankyou all.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Announcing the FVJ Community Forums

 I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the Foreign Volunteers Community Forums. Although created by Max Hodges a little while ago, I have to admit that I've been a little slow on the ball to promote and encourage discussion on the Forums. 
Although most of the FVJ discussions have been taking place via Facebook, there is a lot of information that gets regularly buried under newer threads. That is why the FVJ Discussion Forums have been designed from the ground up to provide a much easier system to interact, plan and organize activities.

These forums are designed to be a friendly and valuable place for like-minded people interested in playing a role in Japan's disaster recovery efforts to share ideas and opportunities and get connected to and inspired by others.

FVJ Community Forums run on a brand new platform with some snazzy features. We think the design and functionality is very contemporary and fresh and, most important, it feels more social than other systems. A few of the many cutting-edge features include:

-Social Engagement - An intuitive "like" system makes users feel appreciated for their contributions, while integration with Facebook and twitter allows easy registration and sharing.

-Recent Activity Stream - Allow you to easily see all the recent happenings on the forum, beyond just the messages posted. You can follow other members to get your own personalized news feed showing the content you want to see.

-Alerts - Make it easy for you to stay up-to-date with relevant updates. You'll receive alerts when someone quotes your post or responds to a status update, when you receive a new trophy, and more.

-Private Conversations - are like private threads. Nobody can see your private conversation, not even the administrator. Now here is the cool part; you can invite as many people to your conversation as you like, sort of like three way calling. Go here to start a conversation or click on a persons avatar to invite them to converse. Or access conversations from your inbox above. You can also invite in more people from the conversation thread (you will see the Invite More link over on the right hand side of the conversation).

We look forward to your participation in making the FVJ Community Forums the most valuable destination possible for Tohoku relief volunteers.

You can register with your Facebook account: