Saturday, March 9, 2013
Signs Of Change Emerging Two Years After Disaster
TOKYO (Nikkei)--Two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated northeastern Japan, efforts to support survivors are at a crossroads, underscoring the ongoing decline in the number of people heading to the region to volunteer, as well as a drop in financial assistance for volunteer groups.
- Fewer people are offering to volunteer in Japan's Tohoku region, but Masako Tanaka has decided to continue to offer assistance in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
Three women plan to start a new volunteer group in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in April. The nonprofit organization they initially worked for has decided to leave the Tohoku region at the end of March.
But Masako Tanaka, who will lead the new group, believes that much work remains to be done.
Meanwhile, the leader of another volunteer group said that a growing number of volunteers are leaving the area due to funding shortages.
The Central Community Chest of Japan accepted roughly 200 million yen in donations for nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups between July and December. That is less than 20% of the 1.05 billion yen that the CCCJ collected over the same period in 2011.
There are fewer volunteers working in areas that were destroyed by the tsunami. According to the Japan National Council of Social Welfare, municipal volunteer centers in the three worst-hit prefectures -- Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima -- accepted roughly 4,900 volunteers in January, about 3% of the peak levels recorded in 2011.
But council official Shinichiro Goto believes that the decline should not be interpreted as a lack of support. "Survivors have started saying that they can't rely on outside support forever," he said. "They're gradually taking charge of rebuilding their lives."
For example, a new natural dye workshop opened last July in a residential part of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. Ten people between the ages of about 40 to 70 have been learning how to dye fabric with pigments drawn from local plants and flowers. All of them are former residents of the town of Tomioka, which is located near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Tomioka was evacuated in the wake of the nuclear accident at the power plant in March 2011.
The members of the workshop are trying to produce fabric that people will actually want to buy. The group sought help from Kyoto-based textile dyeing and weaving specialist Fukumi Shimura, who has been recognized as a living national treasure. The group held its first exhibition in February.
"We have to work and take action on our own," said Sachiko Ishii, a member of the workshop group.
(The Nikkei, March 9 morning edition)