Volunteer group gathers kimonos for coming-of-age ceremony in tsunami-hit area

The Mainichi Daily News

December 13, 2011

A Jinrikitai member lays out a kimono to send to the Ogatsu area, in Yokohama's Naka Ward, on Dec. 5. (Mainichi)

A Jinrikitai member lays out a kimono to send to the Ogatsu area, in Yokohama’s Naka Ward, on Dec. 5. (Mainichi)

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi — A volunteer organization in the Tokyo metropolitan area is offering a helping hand to people in a tsunami-hit district here by collecting unused kimonos to lend to women taking part in next month’s coming-of-age ceremony.

The organization, Jinrikitai, will provide the long-sleeved kimonos to women in the Ogatsu district of Ishinomaki. It is also seeking volunteers to help style the hair of ceremony participants, and calling on people to “celebrate the start of the new lives of the people who are coming of age, who will play an important part in restoration.”

According to the Ogatsu general branch of the Ishinomaki Municipal Government, some 80 percent of structures were destroyed when the tsunami hit the town on March 11, and the population, which previously stood at about 4,000, has shrunk to around 1,000.

About 55 people are expected to take part in the coming-of-age ceremony in the Ogatsu district on Jan. 8, including people who moved outside the district after the tsunami. Of these, around 30 are women. However, the devastation wrought by the tsunami halted the business of all kimono fabric stores and kimono rental stores in the district. Responding to the situation, Jinrikitai members joined hands with Ishinomaki’s Ogatsu general branch to provide kimonos enabling ceremony participants to dress up in traditional kimono attire free of charge.

“There might be some people who would refrain from taking part in the ceremony because they don’t have a kimono, so we’re grateful for this,” a local district official in charge of ceremony operations said.

The city is accepting applications from people who have no prospects of acquiring a kimono for the ceremony or getting help to have one fitted.

The ceremony will be held in a prefabricated meeting room next to a home for the elderly that the Ogatsu branch, whose offices were destroyed in the tsunami, is operating. Jinrikitai representative Yoshimi Kaneko, who operates an advertising agency in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, commented, “We want the young people who have a task of restoration ahead of them to take part in the coming-of-age ceremony in their hometown with a sense of hope. We ask for cooperation from people who have long-sleeved kimonos sitting in their closets.”

The volunteer organization also plans to help out coming-of-age participants in neighboring areas if they seek assistance, and is also accepting donations of small items such as hair accessories.

The organization plans to donate the kimonos to local stores after the ceremony, but it is also possible to return them to the owners. Information (in Japanese) is available on the Jinrikitai website at http://jinrikitai.web.fc2.com/ Telephone inquiries (in Japanese) can be made between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on 080-2255-3138.

(Mainichi Japan) December 11, 2011

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