Jul. 12th, 2011


Jul. 12th, 2011 11:39 pm
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This is Fujita-san, one of the local survivors from Ishinomaki, where my volunteer group has been working. He's made a series of videos asking people to come volunteer in his city. The response from the local government has been slow and unsatisfactory, to say the least.

It's all in Japanese, but he's showing his house (seen behind him) which was destroyed in the earthquake, then washed out by the tsunami. He says that he lost both his mother and his aunt in the tsunami.

I met him during my last trip to Ishinomaki. I had been working at a dentist's office all day, with a group of locals and Mizuho, a Japanese girl from Ota (my town.) I'd spent the morning helping clear out debris and mud from a house, then spent the afternoon wiping mud off of a HUGE stack of dental records, so that the dentist could re-open his business the following week. About 15,000 files in all, most with multiple pages. Much harder than it sounds, yo. I think I actually prefer the hard physical labor, ha ha. But I digress...

In the late afternoon, Fujita-san (who helps lead the local volunteer group, and works with groups like ours,) came to pick Mizuho and I up, and return us to our friends. He spent some time talking with the dentist before we left. I made an offhand comment to Mizuho that I was hungry.

"Oh, you're hungry?" Fujita-san asked me. Then he lept into action, offering me a big jelly roll and soda which he'd clearly bought for himself. Then he put some cardboard on the floor for me to sit on, telling me it was a "Japanese sofa," ha ha. Much as I wanted to refuse, you really can't refuse things like that in Japanese culture, and especially from the tsunami victims, who are in a fragile state of mind, to say the least.

I felt horrible eating his food. I mean, the man lost his home and his family; shouldn't I be giving HIM food? The generosity of the people of Ishinomaki is overwhelming. They never fail to offer us food and drinks when we are working there. Some of the homeowners whose houses we've cleaned have made home-cooked lunches for us, even when there are a dozen of us working together. Can you imagine losing everything you own, having no running water or electricity, having had your stove, fridge, etc. totally washed away, and yet still finding a way to feed 12 strangers a hot meal??? The locals we worked with at the dentists office ordered take-out ramen, drinks, and dessert for us, even though we told them we'd already had lunch.

After leaving the dentist's, Fujita-san took us to his neighborhood. He showed us a building across the street from his house, completely washed out, but still standing, which he is now using as the local volunteer center. He showed us his house, and told us a little about what the tsunami was like... how fast the water came in, how high it was, how long it stayed. I can't even begin to imagine the things he didn't tell us... about losing his mother and aunt, about probably watching his neighbors die in front of him...

He was so chipper and upbeat, making jokes and trying to talk with me in English.

I haven't been able to go back since then, as the trips up always seem to fall on the weeks where I don't have full weekends off. But I wanted to share my little story about Fujita-san. I will never forget him giving his food to a random gaijin girl whom he'd never met. I hope I can return soon. There is still sooooo much more to be done, and as he says in the video, what they need most of all is simply manpower.


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