Archive for April, 2011

>Hope International Development Agency – Oshima Island


This is an excerpt from a field report gathered by Hope International Development Agency Japan’s (HOPE-JP) volunteers working on Oshima Island in Miyagi Prefecture.  It illustrates how important it is for an organization to continually gather reliable intelligence on the situation in the areas within which they operate.  In the short term, this means meeting basic needs, but we can start to make predictions on the long term rebuilding needs of the communities as well by listening carefully to the local people’s concerns, fears, and first hand observations.
Field report from the 27th of April 2011
Ranta, HOPE-JP volunteer, walked around Oshima talking with local people about their situation and what they might need. An old woman working in a small food shop said that products are beginning to be distributed and she is now able to sell and buy food once again; there is still no beef, pork or chicken available but fish sausages are available, as well as sake and beer. She has heard that supermarkets in Kesennuma will reopen soon and she is hoping to return to near normal eating habits.
An old fisherman reported that after a bit tsunami during the Meiji period which claimed 6 family members his family moved to a higher area of the island and thankfully his home and his family were spared any damage during this tsunami. The island is hoping to produce konbu or wakame (types of seaweed) this year but that squid and octopus fishing will take over five years to return to normalcy. Many fishermen are planning to leave the island to find work in other areas.  The beach and port have sunk by 70 centimeters.

Some of these bits of information raise concerns for the long term recovery of Oshima Island, the local economy is based largely on fishing and tourism, and both of these have been very much affected by the events there.  Hope Japan, and many other organizations, are working with the local people to find solutions to these and many other problems facing the people of Oshima Island. 

>Looking for Home Communications Managers for children’s homes

>Are you a warm-hearted, motivated and organised individual looking for a way to support your community during this difficult time? Can you guarantee that you will be in Japan for at least one more year?

Smile Kids Japan
has partnered with Living Dreams to form Smiles and Dreams: Tohoku Kids’ Project. The intention is to build and continue strong relationships with the 18 childrens’ homes in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, in order to set up regular fun and interactive volunteer visits for the children at these homes. Although the Tohoku Kids’ Project focuses on these 18 childrens’ homes, our ultimate goal is to have regular visits set up in all orphanages across Japan within the next 3 years. For this, we need you.

Smile Kids Japan and Living Dreams are looking for Home Communications Managers (HCMs). HCM responsibilities will include:

  • Fostering personal relationships with staff members at a children’s home to establish and maintain regular, long-term visits as frequently as possible, but at least every 3 months.
  • Conducting needs assessments of the home and acting as a liaison between that home and members of the Tohoku Kids’ Project
  • Helping distribute items that are donated to children’s homes
  • Attending events organised by the Tohoku Kids’ Project that take place at the home as often as possible

Our goal is to have two HCMs for each home in an effort to make the workload easier for our HCMs. One HCM will require good Japanese, but both coordinators do not have to speak fluently.

As an HCM you do not have to worry about working alone. Members of the Smile Kids Japan team are always available to take questions and give advice and will also connect the HCM community across the country to offer further support and ideas. Any questions or problems that you encounter can be directed to Smile Kids Japan immediately.

If you are interested in becoming a Home Communications Manager, please download and complete the form below. Please return the form to

Children’s Home Communications Manager (HCM) Application – Word Document (798KB)

>Volunteering in Iwate Prefecture

>Most of the VCs in Iwate are accepting local volunteers only and ask that out-of-town and out-of-prefecture volunteers do not come to Iwate.

>Fukushima VC info

>Soma VC in accepts out-of-prefecture volunteers only on Saturdays and holidays. They especially need people with nursing and caregiving qualifications. Activities include sorting aid materials, cooking, caring for the sick and elderly, cleaning up houses, childcare at the evacuation center, and providing companionship for the elderly. During Golden Week, they anticipate that volunteers many not be able to do the type of volunteer work they want to do.

Minami Soma VC
cannot accommodate additional volunteers at this time.

>Volunteering During Golden Week – Miyagi Prefecture

>Volunteer Centers in Miyagi are bracing themselves for the Golden Week Rush. There is a great deal of concern that the numbers of volunteers will overwhelm the VCs in terms of parking, availability of jobs, etc. If you are thinking about volunteering during Golden Week, if there is any possibility of delaying your activities until after the rush dies down, please consider doing so.
Tohoku will need many volunteers over the upcoming months, and your efforts will be most effective if you schedule them according to the VCs’ needs.

Here is a general updates on the status of the four VCs in Miyagi that have been accepting volunteers from outside of the prefecture:

Ishinomaki VC
is asking that volunteers coming during Golden Week register in advance.

Watari VC will not accept new volunteers from outside of the prefecture as of 5/1.

Iwanuma VC plans to continue accepting volunteers from outside of the prefecture, but there is great concern about the availability of jobs. The number of volunteers yesterday already climbed from 180 to 280. In the past, volunteers have been turned away at this VC or asked to wait when there has not been enough work to go around. There is also concern about the availability of parking and camping space.

Kessennuma VC
asks that larger groups register in advance and asks volunteers to bring extra gasoline in case local supplies are overwhelmed by the rush.

>Comprehensive List of Volunteer Opportunities


* Posted in FVJ by Professor David H. Slater
Below is a list of volunteer opportunities, compiled from your suggestions and my Jochi students’ fast net-work. (Thanks to both groups!)

No information on radiation or economics or donation–just volunteering. We hope it is useful to some.

Also, here are some advice from organizers:

Our first step in relief is still to give money; contribute to local organizations; or even to organize food and supply drives yourself where you are. Much of the work esp. up north is still being done by professionals. Let’s support them.

But many people want to donate time and energy, esp. up north. That is great, too. But if you go, do NOT go on your own. It might be dangerous, but mostly it probably is a poor use of your time and energy. Go through an organization or group already set up. MOST ACCEPT VOLUNTEERS AS THEY NEED THEM, NOT ALL THE TIME. So, don’t just show up; contact them first.

We have tried to find places that foreigners would be able to volunteer at, but of course these are organized to solicit and support Japanese volunteers first. (If you have no Japanese language ability, go with someone else who does; otherwise you will be draining off resources that could be spent other places.)

Remember, there are all sorts of work that needs to be done for all ages and levels of physical strength. But this work is not easy, whether you are cleaning out homes, moving
drift wood, bathing elderly people or cooking 2 meals a day for 500 people. If you are not healthy yourself, get full information on the sort of work expected.

If you go, please keep these in mind:

1. Dress appropriately for the cold.
2. Wear work clothes, including boots and gloves, etc.
3. You should have proper identification and insurance–some places will not accept you unless you do.
4. No picture-taking (no “disaster tourism;” what a term!)
5. For day-work, you are usually expected to supply your own food and water, and toilet paper, etc
6. Be ready to work hard, at least for a while; but be ready to stand around waiting, also. That is part of the deal.
7. Go with others….

It was suggested that you in groups—either groups of friends or better, with some school or work group. This work is stressful and rather shocking esp. if you head up north, and support for the supporters is useful.

Also, it is more likely that people will continue to volunteer again if there is some institutional link, eg., “Smash Tennis Club Relief to Miyagi” or “Hedge Fund Directors’ Collection Agency,” etc. that could organize things where you are and repeat trips to other sites.

Disclaimer: some links might be down or a bit different. And while all of these groups have some at least one recommendation, of course, we cannot guarantee all of the organizations here are working smoothly by the time you read this. Check it out yourself.

Good luck,



Some Volunteer Opportunities for Tohoku

This is a clearly incomplete list of volunteer sites, as of April 4, 2011.

Please send updates to

Contents: 1. First stops, 2, General info, 3. Foreign groups, 4. Faith-based groups, 5. Other NPO, 6. Facebook groups, 7. Aggregator sites, 8. Social welfare offices, 9. List of city offices.

(Language of the site noted.)


Good sites that give you guidelines how, and how not, to volunteer.

Please read these first; English and Japanese

Foreign Volunteer Japan
Put up by Sarajean Rossitto, who is all over the NPO scene in Japan!

Similar instructions in Japanese for Tohoku

Disaster Japan: a useful clearing-house of information, including on volunteering

Also has a Facebook group of the same name.

“Japan Guide Consortium Volunteer Interpreters- Earthquake Relief.” Particularly for those with Japanese and English ability


These three are established organizations in Japan set up for foreign volunteers, little or no Japanese is necessary. (For the vast majority of sites listed here, even if part of the homepage is in English, it would be desirable and maybe necessary for you to speak some Japanese.)

Second Harvest is Japan’s largest foodbank, and they are in full-swing, although now they are stressing donations as the most urgent need. Bilingual

Peace Boat is now coordinating teams of volunteers to travel to Ishinomaki City as soon as possible to assist in rebuilding the lives of those affected, and particularly to prepare hot meals. Bilingual
All Hands is a US-based volunteer non-profit already set up in Ofunato, Iwate: English


Church groups appear to have gotten to the scene very quickly and have organized volunteer groups. Most accept volunteers of all faiths and affiliations.

仙台YMCAボランティア支援センター; 東日本大震災支援のため全国YMCAを通して活動するボランティアのコーディネートを行ないます。

YMCA Volunteer Center in Sendai


Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH) is a network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world, and on Facebook at English

Caritas Japan is a committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan which cooperates with the activities of the worldwide Catholic Church in the field of relief,
welfare and development.

Lutheran Church Charities; English!/FBNERJ?sk=wall&filter=2

宗教者災害救援ネットワーク; Faith-based network for Earthquake Relief in Japan: Japanese
A list of other faith-based groups; not clear how many of them are accepting volunteers: English

Volunteers to bring supplies by motorcycle
全国からバイクボランティアの有志が各被災地入りして、小さな声 を拾い、きちんとした声にして支援体制を再構成したいと考えています.
Homestay for children. Osaka: Japanese; looking for host family for the children made homeless東北地方太平洋沖地震等による被災 児童のホームステイ受入れボランティアの募集
Tokyo Volunteers; looking for interpreter for those who can’t speak Japanese.

日本語がわからなくて困っている外国人を助け るための語学ボランティアを募集しています。

Japan Guide Consortium, looking for interpreters

A group of youth volunteers already up and running, doing good work; English

Earth Day Money: Calling for Host families for Earthquake Evacuees: English

Facebook has been a important source of updated information, but are sometimes hard to find information in their format. Many of the references on this list were culled from different Facebook pages—many thanks to them! Reading them should give you an idea of the range, tenor and needs of different organization as they evolve. The experiences of different volunteers are often shared on these pages.!/home.php?sk=group_178425178871091&ap=1

Tokyo Quake Cleanup, a Facebook group devoted to gathering and circulating information about volunteer work in the Tokyo area.
About the need and opportunities for English translators: English
Japanese FB page for youth volunteers


Set up by OGA International School in Aomori!/FBNERJ?sk=wall&filter=2

宗教者災害救援ネットワーク; Faith-based network for Earthquake Relief in Japan: Japanese



A general site that brings earthquake, relief and volunteer information; Japanese


Useful site of up to date volunteer opportunities

Volunteer Support Project for Earthquake Disaster in Eastern Japan

「東日本大震災 災害ボランティア活動に初めて参加される方へ」基礎事項フォーマットを掲載; Japan Civil Network for Disaster Relief in East Japan: Japanese

日本国際飢餓対策機構(Japan International Food for the Hungry: 略してJIFH)は、非営利の民間国際協力団体(NGO)です。

NHK’s portal; points out the importance of volunteers being insured; in Japanese


This appears to be the biggest single volume of volunteers? Due to the huge destruction, in many cases they were not up early, organized or ready to accept volunteers. They seem to be ready now, although not all are accepting volunteers when this list was compiled. But be sure to call first—do not just show up! All in Japanese unless otherwise noted.

全社協 被災地支援・災害ボランティア情報

National Volunteer Information Network


Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health: Bilingual in parts


Fukushima Disaster Volunteer Center

Their blog:
いわき市災害救援ボランティアセンターでボランティア募集。いわ き市内在住の方、避難所での支援物資の受け入れ作業です

Iwaki City volunteer center: A volunteer helping out the procedures of receiving supplies.
Minami-souma volunteer center
① 引越手伝い - ひまわりデイサービスセンターを避難 所として開設します。その準備のため、引越しの手伝いをお願いします。
<volunteer to help out moving out>
② 在宅者確認手伝い - 鹿島区在住で在宅の高齢者等の 安否確認をしております。地域の民生委員さんとペアで安否確認で訪問していただきます。
<finding alive elderly – working in pair with the area’s welfare commissioner>


Miyagi Disaster Volunteer Center


Miyagi Social Welfare


Sendai Social Welfare Counsel

Hachinohe Social Welfare

Iwate Counsel of Social Welfare

Disaster Volunteer Center Misawa

Disaster Volunteer Center, Aizu-Wakamatsu
Joso City Center disaster
Disaster Volunteer Center, Mito City

Disaster Volunteer Center Ibaraki

Disaster Volunteer Center Chiba

Disaster Volunteer Center Urayasu

Disaster Volunteer Center, Asahi City

Disaster Volunteer Center Abiko

Kanagawa Volunteer Support Center Citizens

9. List of city groups accepting volunteers (no net access; just telephone numbers)

>Volunteering FAQ from the Iwanuma Volunteer Center Blog


Volunteers wait in line to be matched with jobs at Iwanuma Volunteer Center

Interested in putting together a team to help with clean-up in Tohoku? Many volunteer centers are now accepting volunteers. If you’re considering heading up during Golden Week, please keep in mind that many, many other people have the same intention, and Volunteer Centers in Tohoku are likely to be overwhelmed by the influx. If you can, please postpone your activities to a time when VCs will better be able to accommodate your help. When the time comes, here is some information to get you started.

Many VCs only accept local volunteers, to discourage an influx of volunteers from afar who would tax resources such as food, water, gasoline, etc. However, a few of the hardest-hit municipalities are currently accepting volunteers from throughout Japan. The conditions for volunteering vary from VC to VC. Some require registration in advance, others permit you to just show up that morning (or afternoon) and be matched with a job. Some have areas for volunteers to camp or sleep in vehicles, others request that volunteers find lodging elsewhere.

Before setting out to volunteer, be sure you acquire up-to-date information from the VC where you will be working. Much of the information is only available in Japanese, and for this and other reasons, I highly recommend putting together a team with at least one member who is fluent in Japanese and English. Not only is it important that the VC and local people you are helping are able to communicate their needs to you, volunteers need to be prepared to cope with emergency situations, injuries, etc. Here are some FAQ about volunteering taken from the Iwanuma Volunteer Center blog (scroll down for English.)









A. 現在、長期滞在の方は車中泊やテントを張ってその中で寝泊まりされる方が多いです。車中泊の方は、ボランティアセンターの近くに大きい駐車場がありますの でそこに車を停めていただくようになります。テントの方は、ボランティアセンターの近くの里の杜中央公園に設営場を設けておりますので、そちらにテントを 張っていただくようになります。公園にはトイレもありますので、そちらもご利用いただけます。

A. 今のところ県内・外のボランティアさんを受け入れ続ける予定です。現在も多くのお問合せがあり、多数のボランティアさんがいらっしゃることが予想されま す。受け入れ状況につきましては岩沼市災害ボランティアセンターのホームページにて随時更新していきますので、ご確認ください。

A. お店はほぼ通常営業に戻ってきています。食べ物や飲み物も岩沼市内で調達することは可能です。ガソリンの心配をされる方もいますが、並ばずに買えるぐらい 供給は安定しておりますのでご安心ください。ですが、自己完結がボランティアの基本ですので、できる限りご自身で準備して現地入りしていただけると助かり ます。



A. 岩沼市ボランティアセンターでは現在泥かきボランティアが中心となっています。女性でもたくさんの方が活躍していますので、是非ご協力ください。理容、 マッサージのボランティアの問い合わせが多いのですが、理容の方は現在間に合っております。ありがとうございます。マッサージ・理容のボランティアを希望 される方は避難所に直接問い合わせください。

(English version)
Iwanuma Volunteer Center Q&A

We are grateful for the assistance of volunteers from throughout the country. Here are responses to some frequently asked questions. If you have additional inquiries, we ask that you contact us [in Japanese] between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm.

Q) What are conditions currently like at the Volunteer Center?
A) In order to respond to the high demand for volunteer aid as quickly as possible volunteer activities are currently divided into two sessions (two hours each) in the morning and afternoon. Please bring your own lunch. It is fine if you can only participate in the morning or afternoon session. Please understand that due to the large numbers of volunteers offering their help, there are times when we cannot accommodate everyone in the morning volunteer session. If this happens, we will arrange for you to be first in line to be matched for volunteer work during the afternoon session.

Q) Do we need to make arrangements with the Volunteer Center before coming?
A) Individuals do not need to contact us before volunteering. You can report directly to the reception desk and sign in. We ask that groups of 8 people or more contact us in advance to let us know the number of participants coming, their schedule, and the materials they can bring.  Volunteers coming from outside of the city or prefecture are asked to acquire volunteer insurance with natural disaster coverage from their local branch of the Japan National Council of Social Welfare [Shakai Fukushi Kyogikai, [Japanese only] Please bear the cost of the insurance yourself. [One year enrollment costs 490 yen]

Q) What do we need to bring?
A) You will most likely be helping to clear mud out of homes, so please wear comfortable clothing that can get dirty. We highly recommend wearing boots or safety shoes. If you can, please bring dust masks, safety goggles (especially if you wear contact lenses), shovels, etc.

Q) I can only come for one day. Is that okay?
A) Whatever time you are available to help out is fine. There are two reception periods, in the morning beginning at 8:30 am, and again in the afternoon beginning at 12:00 pm, so please come at the time that works best for you.

Q) Will I need to drive to the worksite in my own vehicle?
A) In order to prevent confusion, volunteers who come to the Volunteer Center in their own cars will be asked to park in the large parking area across the road. We will provide transportation to the work areas.

Q) I need somewhere to spend the night. Where should I stay?
A) Currently, many of our long-term volunteers are sleeping in tents or in their vehicles. If you wish to sleep in your vehicle, there is a large parking lot near the volunteer center and you may park there. For those sleeping in tents, you can set up in the Satonomori Chuo Koen Park near the Volunteer Center. There is a restroom in the park you can use.

Q) Will you be accepting volunteers during Golden Week?
A) At this time, we plan to continue to accept volunteers from Miyage Prefecture and beyond. We are currently receiving many inquiries and we expect that many volunteers will come during that period. For updates, please check the Iwanuma Disaster Volunteer Center Homepage.

Q) Can we buy things in Iwanuma?
A) Most of the local shops are up and running. It is possible to purchase food and beverages in Iwanuma City. Some volunteers worry about the availability of gasoline, but our supplies have stabilized to the point where there are no longer lines to fill up. That said, self-sufficiency is the cornerstone of volunteerism, so we appreciate if you can provide for your own needs as much as possible before coming to Iwanuma.

Q) Can I come by car?
A) Yes. Please park in the large parking lot across the street from the Sogo Fukushi Center (i-Plaza), not the one at the center. Due to aftershocks, some roads may be closed, so please check your route before coming. Thank you for your cooperation.

Q) Are there trains from Sendai to Iwanuma?
A) The JR lines are currently functioning, and it takes approximately 25 minutes (320 yen each way) from Sendai to Iwanuma. Trains are running on a limited schedule, so please look into matter on your own.

Q) Do you need volunteers for jobs other than shoveling mud?
A) Right now, shoveling mud is the main job available at the Iwanuma Volunteer Center. Many women are participating, so we urge you to help as well. We receive many inquiries about whether we need barber and massage volunteers, but at the moment we have enough barbers. Thank you for wanting to help. If you want to do barber or massage volunteer work, please contact the evacuation center.


>* Written by Rob Keyworth 


Where to start..? This will hopefully be the last note that I do as I don’t think it will be needed for us to physically go north with aid, but I also think this might be the hardest to write.

The simple facts are these:
Robert Half in Tokyo funded the truck, we picked up some stuff from Scott in Roppongi that had been donated by the TAC and Baxter medical. We collected more donations from Second Harvest and drove North to our base in Mizusawa. We bought a lot of fruit and vegetables in Kitakami and spent Sunday and Monday morning distributing about 3 tons of Aid to those who most need it and arrived back in Tokyo at around 9 pm on Monday night.

But that doesn’t begin to describe the weekend. Dave mentioned that in my previous notes I managed to write a lot but report very little which was something I’d perfected studying Geography at University. So for this one I will try to report in some kind of detail but it won’t begin to cover everything that needs to be said.


On Sunday morning we drove to ‘Super Osen’, a fruit and veg warehouse in Kitakami. It was probably the busiest store that I have seen in Japan. It was absolutely packed as it seems that everyone in the area had descended to do their grocery shopping. After eventually finding somewhere to park the truck Dave spoke to one of the warehouse operators and convinced him that yes, we really did want to spend 100,000 yen on fruit and veg and after that a well oiled machine kicked in to place. We opened the truck doors and were inundated with apples, oranges, onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, daikon etc.
10 minutes later, the truck was full and we’d spent 130,000 yen. I have no idea about exactly how much we bought but we’d bought 200 kg of onions alone. And I’d guess the apples were pretty close to double that.

The initial plan had been to head down to Rikuzentakata and through the Hirota peninsular before ending up somewhere near Okirai. Once we’d seen how much food we could get we then decided that we’d go back the next day and fill up with another similar load and go to the Rikuzentakata main distribution centre on the way home.

We headed off in good spirits with a full truck and a couple of stinking hangovers. I seem to have omitted the fact that we over did our attempts to help the local economy but suffice to say we got our money’s worth and were paying for it the next day.

Two weeks ago I’d never been to Iwate. I now know that it is one of the most beautiful places in Japan. We drove through fields and country villages nestled in the hills and it was absolutely gorgeous.
We then started our descent into Rikuzentakata and the scene changed dramatically.


We were seven kilometers from the ocean when we first reached the area that had been destroyed by the tsunami. As we drove the right side of the road, beyond the train tracks was gone. The left side was still standing. It seems that the slight embankment for the tracks had been enough at this point to prevent the tsunami from crossing the road.
On the left, completely normal. On the right, completely gone.

And this was SEVEN kilometers inland.
As we drove in, the scene just got worse and worse and worse to a point where all you could see in every direction was destruction. There are no houses except for those which are on their roofs or in a location they weren’t built in. Some concrete buildings are still standing. Others have been completely gutted and all that’s left are the iron girders.
Cars, trucks etc have been dumped where the water left them.
On first viewing there was very little in the way of a clean up operation going on. They had cleaned the roads but that seemed to be it. As we drove through the town it became clear that a lot of work had been done. A new road had been put down in places. A temporary bridge had been built to replace the one that had been washed away.

When I first went to Kesennuma I used the word horrific to describe what we saw. If that was horrific then I have no idea how you could describe the scene in Rikuzentakata. I don’t think there is a word in the English language that can completely describe what we saw and what happened there. The roads are open and they are lined with two, three even four metre piles of debris. The supermarket is still standing, but the three floors have been destroyed.
We passed a sign that said ‘Estimated Tsunami Inundation Area End’. It was wrong.


We eked our way along the coast. Along roads that had been partially washed away, past houses that were in the ocean, past the sea wall with massive holes in that you could safely drive a boat through, past so much that was just so very wrong. We drove around the peninsular which was absolutely stunning, and then we’d drive round a corner that was absolute devastation. It’s impossible for me to describe the contrast that we experienced with pretty much every turn. My frown caused a headache.
Dave thought it might be a hangover but it wasn’t. As I write these words now the frown is back as I try to remember what we saw and so is the headache.

We eventually made it to our first stop, the Hirota Elementary School where we were able to deliver about 70% of the fresh produce we had brought as well as some of the other stuff such as nappies, face masks and cling film.
During this Dave bumped into someone he knew from ‘back in the day’ and he was clearly delighted and somewhat emotional that Dave had come back to help.

We then drove to the Okirai and dropped off the rest of the fresh produce. They didn’t need any of the other stuff we had but were still very, very happy for fresh food.

On Monday we returned to the wholesalers and bought another 135,000 yen’s worth of produce and drove back to Rikuzentakata where we delivered everything we had.

In Rikuzentakata they have Koi streamers on display and a temporary onsen. The petrol station is operated by a hand crank and they seem to have fuel. Life is trying to move on.

But the town, which used to house 23,000 people, has gone.


Thanks again to everyone who helped this project and please keep supporting because there is so much that still needs to be done.

>Bikes For Tohoku – Japan Coast to Coast, Nagoya


This article was sourced through Supporting Japan, an umbrella group in Nagoya that encompasses a number of groups working independently, but enjoying the support of the greater community.  This group, Bikes For Tohoku, grew out of a bicycle group that puts on charity rides around Japan.  Sourcing bikes for people in need seemed the logical next step when the need for them became known. 

The article was written jointly by Mark McBennet, and Tony Torres. 

Mark McBennett
The idea of Bikes For Tohoku, like many ideas these days, grew out of connections made and discussions started in the online world of LinkedIn and Facebook. In one such discussion, the Japan head of major cycling brand responded positively to the idea of donating bikes to people without transport in Tohoku. Japan Coast to Coast is working with them to organize the logistics of getting several hundred new bikes distributed to where they are most needed in the region. Bike companies have a history of giving generously in the aftermath of natural disasters, but their response time can be somewhat delayed by the logistical issues of international shipping and lack of access and information about the worst hit disaster areas. JC2C learned of immediate needs for bikes in evacuation shelters in Tohoku, so it was decided to start addressing this need by putting out a call for Aichi residents to donate their used bikes.
Donors located all across the city and the difficulty for many people of delivering something as bulky as a bicycle meant that the plan had some logistical issues of its own. When the Circles bike shop in downtown Nagoya offered not only temporary storage space but also minor maintenance for donated bikes, things became a little more manageable. And when Mizuno-san, the head of the Shorinji Kempo branch in Higashiura, generously donated 10 new bikes and Iwatsuki-san and his other students organized the collection of over a dozen more, JC2C had its first truckload.
JC2C has always worked closely with Hope International Development Agency, Japan and so it was fitting that synergy between the two made that first shipment work all the more smoothly. HOPE-JP had a new truck they needed delivered to their base in Tohoku, and one of their volunteers joined JC2C’s Tony and myself in collecting the bikes in Higashiura. The nimbleness and strength of Mori-san was a wonder to behold as he squeezed bike after bike into the limited space of a 2-Ton Long truck. The few spaces left between and above the loaded bikes was later filled to the brim with other supplies collected by HOPE-JP before Tony and two volunteers hit the highway and headed north.
Over to Tony…
The drive to the Fukushima storage site was pleasantly uneventful. We encountered little traffic on the Tohoku expressway and suffered no long wait lines at the petro stations up north. The nine-hour drive allowed me, Hope volunteer John Janzen and our long suffering driver Jun, time to contemplate and discuss various philosophical topics. Well, at least it helped make the time pass along faster.
We arrived at the youth hostel where some of our contacts were staying in Fukushima at around 5 A.M.  The bitter cold cut through our skin like a sharp exacto knife and I felt a pang of sympathy for all of the homeless victims currently trying to stay warm in poorly supplied shelters. Shortly after arriving, our driver was asked by the hostel owner to kindly move the truck to make room for another car that needed to leave the parking area. Jun inadvertently drove the back end of the two-ton truck into an adjacent rice field. No damage to the truck or field, but maybe to Jun’s self-esteem.
Later in the morning, a few of the locals came by to offer their help. One even brought a small crane and attempted to lift the back of the truck out of the mud. Fortunately JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) arrived with a tow truck and within minutes we were out of the mud and driving to the Sugo storage facilities with a truckload of donated bicycles. The Sugo site owners (which is actually an auto racing track) supplied us with ample storage space for the bicycles. Before leaving, we inspected each bike to confirm there were no damages in transit. This, our first bike run, helped us understand some of the challenges we will face once we begin trucking larger amounts of bicycles in the future. With proper planning I’m sure we’ll be able to supply the cycling needs of Tohoku tsunami victims in an efficient manner.
In the meantime, the bikes that made that first run were being used within a matter of hours in a couple of locations near Sendai – in Miyatojima, where HOPE-JP has established a base for its relief work; and at an elementary school doubling as a refugee center in Higashi Matsushima, where the call from the folks at International Volunteer Center of Yamagata kick-started this whole initiative.

Around Golden Week, Japan Coast to Coast will be making a trip to Tohoku to assess the current situation and ongoing needs. Based on what we learn on that trip, we may resume asking for bike donations, but it is more likely that we will be focusing our time and energies on helping makers who are looking to donate large shipments of new bikes. We will help them deal with the logistics, which includes assembly and distribution of the bikes to where they are needed.

>Donating to Foreign Volunteers Japan


Hello everyone,

Thank you very much for your interest in Foreign Volunteers Japan and our project to collect food and essential supplies for distributing to the people of Tohoku who have lost their houses, family members, and even some complete villages due to the devastating tsunami which followed the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Sendai earthquake. 

Our mission is to bring as much food and as many supplies as possible to the areas that were severely affected by the Tsunami, but have so far gone neglected by the recovery efforts. Due to the massiveness of the Tsunami’s reach, there are many areas that are facing extreme shortages of daily necessities, this lack of necessary supplies is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Since the FVJ project began soon after the earthquake, our group has managed to send thirty trucks up to deliver food and supplies to the disaster, thanks to the generous support of NGOs such as Second Harvest Japan and the Tokyo IS Support Center for helping fill our trucks with additional supplies and food, private donors for sponsoring the bulk purchase of supplies, to Allied Pickford for providing trucks and drivers, and to IKON Europubs and Bluesilver Events for providing logistics, storage and collection support. The initial donation that got this project started was an 8 ton donation of baked beans. Many of the emergency shelters up North are serving onigiri (rice balls) and miso soup, but refugees are lacking vegetables and other nutrient-rich ingredients that could add sustenance to their meals. Which is why even several tons of beans are likely to make a difference in this afflicted area.  While that was the initial donation, they are now looking for the following: (Updated April 17th, 2011)

if you can, please send donations of: 

Food: bottled water, canned foods – especially canned fish, chopsticks, paper plates, sweet buns, Japanese pickles…
General supplies: spring clothing, writing supplies, stationary, personal letters of support, fuel (kerosene and gasoline), adult socks, adult underwear, denture gel, Dishware that won’t break, cups with handles, spoons, tents…
Clean-up supplies: tarps, shovels, boots, heavy-duty worker’s gloves, general use garbage bags, heavy-duty garbage bags, boots (all sizes 24-28), safety shoes (all sizes 24-28), work goggles, cotton gloves, rubber gloves, sandbags, wheelbarrows…
Hygiene supplies: allergy medicine, cold and flu medicine, hand cream, nail clippers, socks, men’s underwear, cleaning supplies, shampoo, conditioner, diapers, contact lenses (various prescriptions – too complicated to create specified, so various common prescriptions are requested.), Shampoo, Conditioner, toothbrushes, body soap, soap, various daily hygiene items. Q-tips, Medicine (to lower blood pressure), supplements, baby diapers….

However long it takes, this team is dedicated to making sure everything reaches the people in need.

You can contact us at:
or join our group on Facebook for a live discussion: 
Please send or directly drop off donations to any of the following collection centers we work with: 

Second Harvest Japan
Second Harvest Japan Disaster Relief Food Drive
Mizuta bldg 1F Asakusabashi 4-5-1, Taito-ku, Tokyo
東京都台東区浅草橋4-5-1水田ビル1F   セカンドハーベストジャパン事務所   Phone: 03-3838-3827

Tokyo International School
TIS Disaster Relief Supplies 3-4-22 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0073
     Phone: 090 6569-7038

IKON pubs: 
14-5 daikyocho shinjuku 160-0015
Ikon Europubs KK


Peace Boat
Peace Boat Center Tokyo
B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075, Japan
東京都新宿区高田馬場3-13-1-B1   Phone: 03-3362-6307
For financial donations to help the relief efforts for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami by allowing us to purchase supplies in bulk quantities, purchase medicine and items to address specific needs in each community we visit, help cover the rental cost of delivery trucks, assist with fuel costs and highways tolls, you can send money in the following ways: 
Thank you very much for your generous support!

Wire xfer between Postal Accounts:

Account #:  00130-0-678897

Name:  Foreign Volunteers

From other local (japan) banks:

Branch #:  019

Toza-Yokin:  0678897

Name:  Foreign Volunteers

Overseas wire xfer in USD:

Intermediary Bank:  Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas NY


Beneficiary Bank:  Japan Post Bank

Branch:  #019

Beneficiary Bank Address:  3-2, Kasumigaseki 1-Chome,  Chiyoda Ku, Tokyo 100-8789, Japan

Beneficiary Bank SWIFT:  JPPSJPJ1

Beneficiary Bank CHIPS UID:  427593

Payee Account #:  00130-0-678897

Payee Name:  Foreign Volunteer

Payee Address:  15/F Cerulean Tower, 26-1 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8512

Payee Telephone #:  03-5456-5466

Overseas wire xfer in EURO:

Intermediary Bank:  Deutsche Bank Frankfurt


Beneficiary Bank:  Japan Post Bank

Branch:  #019

Beneficiary Bank Address:  3-2, Kasumigaseki 1-Chome,  Chiyoda Ku, Tokyo 100-8789, Japan

Beneficiary Bank SWIFT:  JPPSJPJ1

Payee Account #:  00130-0-678897

Payee Name:  Foreign Volunteer

Payee Address:  15/F Cerulean Tower, 26-1 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8512

Payee Telephone #:  03-5456-5466

Please let us know if you have any questions, or would like any further information about the project.

Thank you for reading this, and sincere thanks for your support.