Another visit up north
After a great taiko performance in Jiyugaoka; before the big rains came, we headed off to Ohana International School to load the van with John. Once again, the van was filled to capacity. This time, with water, T-shirts, child car seats, strollers and canes for the aged with no room left for a flea. The heavens opened while we were loading and we carried on undeterred; loading in monotonous precision; Moko and I worked filling the spaces so that we could fit everything in. Unfortunately, we could not! A few cases of water await the next ride to Tohoku and a tricycle, a chair and a third child's toy found their place in the rain sodden park and hopefully have been used by the children who play there. Moko and I were swimming in our taiko gear, unphased and full in our hearts and souls from the preparations for another trip up north to Tohoku. After collecting Einat and dropping Moko at home, we left Tokyo at 7pm.The darkness and rain traveled with us for a while and the traffic stayed away. We were not the only crazy people driving on the highway at this time of night however as we neared Matsushima, we were alone. Alone in the darkness and trusting that we would arrive soon. The time - 12.30am. The young man at the combini told us that after two Sunkus's we would arrive at a T junction; his directions were spot on and we eventually arrived at Shintomitei ryokan......the silence greeted us; the lights were on and so was the ofuro (Japanese bath)......the heat soothed our tired bodies and we were soon lying on our futons, fast asleep.
The same day dawned and after a 6.30am breakfast, we were on the bus with William and Yuki and a large group of volunteers, heading towards Ishinomaki.
Our job for the day was to clean out the oil and tar sodden soil from under the floorboards of a house owned by an 80 year old man. It was literally backbreaking work and once again our team did a great job shoveling and filling sand bags for 6 hours. We met the family who own the house next door and were invited for afternoon tea with another group of volunteers - green tea, candy, cookies, chocolates - generosity in true Japanese style. There was also the garden to clean - of more oil soaked soil with a stench of decomposing something!
We bade farewell to the friendly neighbours; left a XXX dvd that we found in the garden for the "ojichan" and headed back to the building that was our base for the day. The bus took our weary bodies and full hearts back to the hotel for some well deserved soaking in the onsen, a feast for dinner and an early rest.
The next day Einat, William, Yuki and I headed off to meet Akino who survived the tsunami...his story is tragic and heartening and will be told another time. He took us to the Ojika Hanto to deliver the things that were requested by his family living in a small village there. The Ojika Hanto has to be one of the most exquisite areas of Japan with magnificent bays and inlets - on the ocean side their beauty is unparalleled; on the land side, their destruction is unparalleled.
The small seaside village we went to was fortunate. Everyone was saved as they heeded the tsunami warning and ran to higher ground immediately. The house we went to stands next to the Temple which is one of the evacuation sites; the tsunami stopped 3 meters from the house..........
15 people are now living together in the house. We off loaded the goods and were invited in for home made "surumei ika", tsukemono; coffee; cookies and more snacks. Japanese in country towns takes on its own lingo and as lingual as Einat is in the language, it was challenging to understand the "obachan". They waved goodbye as William manoeuvered his car down the narrow steep hill and we started on our way to Minami Sanriku.
Very little seems to have changed and this is disappointing. Where is the government? What are they really doing? Where are all the funds that have been raised going? The piles of rubble stand many stories high and while there are groups cleaning and doing heroes work, it raises many issues. These people are heartened by knowing that others care; and are present in their devastated neighbourhoods. They still need us and they need more.
We met Amelia and soldiers and strong men assisted us in offloading the van of its contents.
Our work was done for that moment. Our work is not yet done!
The 9 and a half hour ride home was filled with deep and meaningful conversations; laughter and the unending snacking of chocolate covered almonds, "grandma's cookies", mochi......the snack bag was so full when we left that it returned to Tokyo in the same state. Omiyage filled the spaces of what was eaten.
A mission accomplished.
The second sighting evokes the same.
A deep breath
We will return
We will help
We will do whatever we can