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

Great Cycling Adventure in Tokyo

Jim Takasugi, IdeArbitrage

Tokyo Trip, October, 2011

If you ever wondered what Tokyo would feel like from a cyclist perspective, this is it! – The Tokyo Great Cycling Tour.

The weather was a bit brisk and overcast when we started out from their office in Shinkawa, but the spirits were high and so with great anticipation, the six of us plus our guides, Kosuke-san and Yuki-san, set off for the Great Tokyo Cycling Adventure!

Our bikes were in good condition; the gears and the brakes worked well, and the seat hight set just right and ready to go.  To be honest, it was a bit unnerving to thread through the pedestrian and car traffic through the huge intersections and narrow alleyways, but once we got the hang of it, it seemed quite natural, and I could ease up on my white-knuckles on the handlebars.

A Traditional Japanese Confectionary Store

Our first stop is Nihonbashi, the famous bridge from where the five major roads in Japan start.  Continuing on the traditional part of Tokyo, we arrived at Ningyo-cho and stopped for a quick bite of  ”kuri-manju” at a traditional confectionary shop, “Akebono”.

Headquarters of Pearl Izumi

Along an alleyway, we come across the headquarters of Pearl Izumi.  More than 50 years ago in Tokyo, a father produced Japan’s first bicycle racing apparel for his son, a promising racer. Today, PI is recognized worldwide.  It’s remarkable how small and inconspicuous a place it is.

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One Tokyo Neighborhood Still Oblivious to Radiation Hot Spot

10/16/11

Boys playing baseball adjacent to shrubbery where a high level of radioactive cesium has been detected, Edogawa, Japan, October 15, 2011.
Photo: VOA – S.L. Herman
Boys playing baseball adjacent to shrubbery where a high level of radioactive cesium has been detected, Edogawa, Japan, October 15, 2011.

Residents in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, the world’s most populous with about 33 million people, have taken radiation monitoring into their own hands. They are making some unexpected discoveries following the March tsunami damage to the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

Uninformed parents

Just meters from where a hot spot of radioactive cesium was confirmed days before by a private laboratory, a Little League baseball game was underway Sunday.  

A family strolling past the Edogawa City Baseball Stadium, near where high levels of radiation has been detected this month, Japan, October 15, 2011.
VOA – S.L. Herman

A family strolling past the Edogawa City Baseball Stadium, near where high levels of radiation has been detected this month, Japan, October 15, 2011.

 

The players, their parents and the spectators, mostly neighborhood residents, unaware that some of the dirt here has tested equivalent to four times the minimum level of the contaminated zones from the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine. 

While the news about the Edogawa municipal ballpark complex had been reported overseas, including on the front page of Saturday’s New York Times, it had yet to be mentioned in Japan’s mainstream media. 

Between two of the ball fields, the Odaka family was walking in a small park with their four year-old daughter. 

Odaka (who wanted to be identified only by his family name) says he and his wife had not heard anything about the radiation here, nearly 250 kilometers from the reactors that leaked radiation in the days after a huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast on March 11.

He says he would like to know more about the source of the information relayed to him by VOA News. He says the government should evaluate this information and properly inform the public. 

If the area is radioactive, then the government, he adds, should decontaminate the area.

Concerns

Two mothers watching their elementary school age boys playing in a league baseball game, also expressed surprise when asked by VOA News about the adjacent contaminated soil.  

The women agree that they have heard numerous general reports about radiation since the March disaster, but felt they could not be overly concerned or they would not be able to go on with their daily lives. 

But this is the first time they have heard about a high level of radiation in their own neighborhood. In the nearby city of Yokohama, higher than normal levels of radioactive strontium have been found at three locations.

The suspect materials were analyzed by a private company in Yokohama that charges entities to analyze soil, sediment and food samples for various types of radiation. The Isotope Research Institute is reported to have analyzed thousands of samples sent by citizens, ranging from swimming pool water to breast milk, in the past seven months.

Hot spots

Another hot spot has been uncovered in a children’s theme park in Chiba Prefecture, which is adjacent to Tokyo. The reported level of radiation there is higher than in an evacuated village in Fukushima, 45 kilometers from the crippled plant.

Latest Japanese goverment-released radiation dose map. Hot spots are being found far outside the expected zones of elevated radiation.
VOA – S.L. Herman

Latest Japanese goverment-released radiation dose map. Hot spots are being found far outside the expected zones of elevated radiation.

 

Citizen monitoring last week also detected abnormal levels of airborne radiation on a sidewalk on the path to a primary school in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood (in Setagaya ward).  That case, however, appears not related to the Fukushima nuclear plant. 

Government officials say the radiation source was found under the floor of a nearby house, old bottles containing radium powder. Radium was previously used as a luminous paint to make watch and clock faces glow in the dark. 

The incidents have prompted Japan’s government to order the science and environment ministries to boost monitoring of radiation levels. 

But local and central government officials say the isolated hot spots outside Fukushima are not a cause for alarm because no one spends such an extended period of time at such spots to absorb doses that would harm their health. 

They also are expressing skepticism about some of the highest reported readings from citizens, saying they could be erroneous as uncalibrated small dosimeters can be very inaccurate.  

Radiation in sea life off the Fukushima coast and its effects on the food chain also remain a concern. Researchers at the Tokyo University of Marine Sciences and Technology say samples of plankton collected in July exhibited high levels of radioactive cesium. Many fish feed on plankton. 

But the scientists say it is too soon to conclude a serious risk to humans. Some species of fish caught off Japan’s Pacific Coast since the reactor meltdowns have also been found to be contaminated and Japanese authorities moved to halt those fish from being sold.

Japan’s women inspire battered nation with World Cup win

By Paula Hancocks, CNN

July 19, 2011

Tokyo (CNN) — It’s not often that it’s acceptable to open a bottle of champagne at 7 o’clock on a Monday morning, but this was one of those occasions.

David had beaten Goliath and the Japanese football fans crammed into a Tokyo bar had screamed themselves hoarse watching their national team play two-time winners the United States in the women’s World Cup final in Germany.

It was a rollercoaster of emotions for 200 fans; twice they thought their team had been beaten as the U.S. took the lead but twice they pulled it back.

Maiden World Cup crown for Japan’s women

The timing could not have been more anti-social as the game kicked off at 3.45a.m. local time. But apart from a few snoozing supporters, potentially due to the free-flowing beer rather than the late hour, the passion stayed alive throughout.

There were plenty of Japanese football shirts on show in the Footnik Bar in central Tokyo but with the men’s players’ names on the back — that could well change now.

“It wasn’t conceivable that Japan would win the World Cup, and it wasn’t even the men who did it but the women,” said Futoshi Arai, a fan from Tokyo.

“I was surprised, their games aren’t even aired on TV and they won the cup, it gave me goose-bumps.”

After the March earthquake, tsunami, nuclear and political crises, this country was overdue some good news.

As the team progressed through the competition against the odds, the nation was inspired by the team and it became about more than just football or a trophy.

“After the disaster, the whole country was in the spirit of trying their best. What we saw was the soul of Japan,” another Fan, Yasushi Tsuha, told CNN.

There were few dry eyes in the sports bar as the victorious Japanese players lifted the World Cup trophy for the first time. Men and women were overcome with emotion and pride in a team that few knew anything about before this competition.

The split between men and women was fairly even. Women who had no interest in football before had suddenly become die-hard followers.

When I see women like me giving so much spirit, it gives me energy to keep going in my daily life,” said Ayako Nishi.

Japan had been the underdog and the sentimental favorite before the match. Now they are the best in the world.

Hello to you from Tokyo. Wish you are doing well.

I arrived Tokyo latest week, and will work from JPN till mid June.
Here in Tokyo, life seems back to normal, no need to worry about water, power- but daily news from the
Northern part of Japan is so disturbing to learn people are still suffering that disaster.
Yesterday, I saw the TV news showing the life of people living in their own house suffering the daily flooding.
Due to the land sinkage, the daily tide from ocean floods in the area where they live. Most of them are forced to live only at their 2nd floor of the home.
Daily local news reports refugees and their supporters events all over Japan.
I hear a lot from people that they are very much appreciating what we are receiving as support from all over the world.
It is not easy to . Thanks for all of your continuous supports and your prayers.
Regards,
Reiko

Achi, lead singer of Soulit from Tokyo

The Band Soulit, came from Tokyo to San Francisco and performed at the Japan Restart concert, benefit fundraiser for the Japan Relief efforts. Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco’s Japantown. Vibrant, raw, unabashed “happy music” the band rocked the house with its infectious dance beats. (check out a past concert http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZcmFAWXO70_)
Achi, the lead singer was kind enough to take a few moments and say a few words in support of her fellow Japanese citizens who were victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

MESSAGE FROM JAPAN

Forwarded.
A friend forwarded this to me and thought you might be interested reading about the people in Japan how they are handling their devastating surroundings with such kindness toward one another…

Japan and its people are amazing and resilient. Following stories are touching and remarkable.

I was just sent a block of Japanese messages submitted by people throughout the country. I needed to share these, as they brought tears to my eyes, so here is my best translation. It is sad to say but you would never see this type of behavior in so much of America these days. I want Americans to see what America could be (and perhaps used to be)! —–

【@smzasm】
暗すぎて今までに見たことないくらい星が綺麗だよ。
仙台のみんな、上を向くん だ。

It’s so dark that I can see stars that I’ve never seen and it’s so beautiful. People of Sendai, look up!

【@unosuke】
ディズニーランドでは、ショップのお菓子なども配給された。ちょっと派手目な 女子高生たちが必要以上にたくさんもらってて「何だ?」って一瞬思ったけど、 その後その子たちが、避難所の子供たちにお菓子を配っていたところを見て感 動。子供連れは動けない状況だったから、本当にありがたい心配りだった。

At Disneyland, the sweets in the gift shop had just been replenished, when I saw a group of gaudily dressed high school girls start hoarding all the boxes. For a second, I thought, “What’s up with that?” Then I saw the girls go over and make arrangements for all the boxes to be delivered to the children in the evacuation centers. And that moved me. It was a beautiful example of kindness towards others, especially for those with children who literally can go no where.

【@kiritansu】
物が散乱しているスーパーで、落ちているものを律儀に拾い、そして列に黙って 並んでお金を払って買い物をする。運転再開した電車で混んでるのに妊婦に席を 譲るお年寄り。この光景を見て外国人は絶句したようだ。本当だろう、この話。 すごいよ日本。

People are picking up scattered things at stores and putting them back on shelves, then standing in line silently to wait to pay. When the trains started running, despite the crowded conditions, elderly people were giving up their seats to pregnant women. Foreigners seeing this behavior are getting all choked up. It’s all true, all of those stories! Japan truly is an amazing place.

【@akitosk】
国連からのコメント
「日本は今まで世界中に援助をしてきた援助大国だ。今回は国連が全力で日本を 援助する。」

A Message from the United Nations, “Japan has always been there to assist other nations in their time of need. This time, the United Nations will do everything it can to help Japan.”

【@micakom】
一回の青信号で1台しか前に進めないなんてザラだったけど、誰もが譲り合い穏 やかに運転している姿に感動した。複雑な交差点で交通が 5分以上完全にマヒす るシーンもあったけど、10時間の間お礼以外のクラクションの音を耳にしなかっ た。恐怖と同時に心温まる時間で、日本がますます好きになった。

Though it is common to see green traffic lights where only one car could get through, it is heartening to see this warm give-and-take among the drivers. There are scenes in congested intersections where nothing moves for five full minutes, but in ten hours, I never heard any honking and nothing beyond words of appreciation. I am loving Japan more and more as I spend time that is simultaneously frightening yet deeply warming.

【@ayakishimoto】
昨日の夜中、大学から徒歩で帰宅する道すがら、とっくに閉店したパン屋のおば ちゃんが無料でパン配給していた。こんな喧噪のなかでも自分にできることを見 つけて実践している人に感動。心温まった。東京も捨てたもんじゃないな

Last night, as I made my way home from the university on foot, I saw an elderly woman out in front of a closed bread shop, giving away free bread to people. It is moving to see people who have found what little they can do to help in the middle of this clamorous situation. It warms my heart. Tokyo is not lost!

【@copedy】
韓国人の友達からさっききたメール。「世界唯一の核被爆国。大戦にも負けた。 毎年台風がくる。地震だってくる。津波もくる・・・小さい島国だけど、それで も立ち上がってきたのが日本なんじゃないの。頑張れ。超頑張れ。」ちなみに僕 いま泣いている。

This came in from a Korean friend. “The sole victim of the atomic bomb. The loser to the Great War. Typhoons come every year. So do earthquakes. So do tsunami. It’s a small country, but Japan stands tall. Keep going! Please keep going!” For what it’s worth, I’m in tears now….

【@aquarius_rabbit】
ホームで待ちくたびれていたら、ホームレスの人達が寒いから敷けって段ボール をくれた。いつも私達は横目で流してるのに。あたたかいです。

I was worn out, waiting on the platform for the train, when some homeless people came by distributing boxes because it was cold. And this is despite the fact that we always glance at them out of the corner of our eyes. I’m all warm now.

【@dita_69】
サントリーの自販機無料化、softbankWi-Fiスポット解放、色んな人達が全力で 頑張っててそれに海外が感動・協力してる。海外からの援助受け入れに躊躇した り自衛隊派遣を遅らせたりしてた阪神淡路大震災の頃より日本は確実に強い国に なってるんだ。

Suntory made all its vending machines work for free and Softbank unlocked all of its Wi-Fi spots. Lots of people are putting their all into their efforts and the world is moved by those efforts and looking to help as well. Compared to a country that Japan was during the great Hanshin earthquake, which hesitated to accept foreign assistance and was late in dispatching its Self Defense Forces, Japan truly has become a strong nation.

【@tadakatz】
終夜運転のメトロの駅員に、大変ですねって声かけたら、笑顔で、こんな時です から! だって。捨てたもんじゃないね、感動した。

I quipped to the train conductor “Things sure are tough” regarding the decision to run the trains all night. He smiled and said, “The times call for it.” Nothing lost here! How moving is that…

【@rasuku】
都心から4時間かけて歩いて思った。歩道は溢れんばかりの人だったが、皆整然 と黙々と歩いていた。コンビニはじめ各店舗も淡々と仕事していた。ネットのイ ンフラは揺れに耐え抜き、各地では帰宅困難者受け入れ施設が開設され、鉄道 も復 旧して終夜運転するという。凄い国だよ。GDP何位とか関係ない。

I had a four hour walk home from the city today where I lots of time to think. The streets are overflowing with walkers, but everyone is orderly and remains silent during their walk. The convenience stores and various other shops are doing their business without fanfare. The net infrastructure withstood the trembles, various facilities to take in those who cannot return home have opened up in several regions, the trains are back and running, and they say they will be running all night now. This is an incredible country, and it has nothing to do with what rank we are in GDP.

【@hirata_hironobu】
2歳の息子が独りでシューズを履いて外に出ようとしていた。「地震を逮捕しに 行く!」とのこと。小さな体に宿る勇気と正義感に力をもらう。みなさん、気持 ちを強く持って 頑張りましょう。

My two year old son put on his shoes by himself and started to head out the door. “I’m going to go arrest the earthquake!” he told me. Let’s all take strength from the courage and sense of justice coming out of such a small body. Everyone, let’s all pluck up and get through this!

【@fujifumi】
4時間の道のりを歩いて帰るときに、トイレのご利用どうぞ!と書いたスケッチ ブックを持って、自宅のお手洗いを開放していた女性がいた。日本って、やはり 世界一あたたかい 国だよね。あれみた時は感動して泣けてきた。

During my four hour walk home today, I saw a young lady holding a sketch pad with the words “Restroom Available!” scrawled on it; here she was opening the restroom to her own home! Japan truly is the warmest country in the world. I was moved to tears seeing that.

【@yoh22222】
停電すると、それを直す人がいて、断水すると、それを直す人がいて、原発で事 故が起きると、それを直しに行く人がいる。勝手に復旧しているわけじゃない。 俺らが室内でマダカナーとか言ってる間クソ寒い中死ぬ気で頑張ってくれてる人 がいる。

When the power goes out, there is someone to fix that. When the water goes out, there is someone to fix that. And when there is a nuclear accident, there is someone who goes to fix that as well. Things don’t just restore themselves by themselves. When we are sitting in our homes, complaining about when things will be fixed, there are people working as if their lives depended on it in the frigid cold trying to do just that.

【@bitboi】
NHKの男性アナウンサーが被災状況や現況を淡々と読み上げる中、「ストレスで 母乳が出なくなった母親が夜通しスーパーの開店待ちの列に並んでミルクが手に 入った」と紹介後、絶句。沈黙が流れ、放送事故のようになった。すぐに立ち 直ったけ ど泣いている のがわかった。目頭が熱くなった。

One of the male announcers on NHK started to describe the situation with the calamity and how things were going presently, “New mothers who have stopped lactating due to the stress were finally able to get a hold of some milk after lining up all night at a roadside supermarket,” he said. Then silence…. As if there were some technical difficulties. He straightened himself out and continued the broadcast, but it was clear that he had been crying. Tears welled up in my eyes as well.

【@nekoshima83】
千葉の友達から。避難所でおじいさんが「これからどうなるんだろう」と漏らし た時、横に居た高校生ぐらいの男の子が「大丈夫、大人になったら僕らが絶対元 に戻します」って背中さすって 言ってたらしい。大丈夫、未来あるよ

This anecdote comes from a friend in Chiba (outside Tokyo). At one of the evacuation centers, an old man sat crying, “What’s going to happen in the future?” Beside him, a high school boy rubbed the man’s shoulder, saying, “Everything will be fine. After we become adults, we’ll put back everything the way it was.” It looks like the future will be all right.

【@mameo65】
家屋に取り残され、42時間ぶりに救出された高齢の男性の映像。「チリ津波も経 験してきたから、だいじょぶです。また、再建しましょう」と笑顔で答えてい た。私たちが、これから何をするかが 大事。

After 42 hours of being trapped, an elderly man is captured on video. Smiling for the camera, he says, “I experienced the tsunami in Chile as well. Everything’s going to be fine. We’ll just rebuild.” It is really important what we do moving forward.

【@oka_0829】
駅員さんに「昨日一生懸命電車を走らせてくれてありがとう」って言ってる小さ い子達を見た。 駅員さん泣いてた。俺は号泣してた。

I saw some small children speaking to the train conductor. They said, “Thank you for working so hard yesterday to keep the trains running.” The conductor started to cry. I did, too.

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