>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] http://www.shakyo.or.jp/%5D 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.


>Volunteering during Golden Week.


* Note, thanks to Japan Volunteers, AJET, Adventures in Gradland, and others for the links, recommendations and information.
Before making the decision to volunteer in Tohoku during Golden Week, please consider the following points:
1) You may be able to help more from home:

You can help out wherever you are now by making material/monetary donations, doing fundraisers, donating blood or hosting displaced people through CouchSurfing.  Going to the Tohoku region isn’t something to do because you want to be a hero or because of peer pressure, it is a very serious decision.
2) Do not go to Tohoku without support:

Going alone without the support of a recognized organization puts you and disaster victims in danger. Especially if you are untrained/unskilled, you can actually make matters worse.
3) Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared:

Foreign Volunteers Japan and the volunteer organizations ask you to seriously consider your physical and mental health. There will be things that you may not expect or want to see.  You will be doing heavy, physical labor after a very long journey by bus and communication in your non-native language in such an environment will put extra stress on you.
4) Make sure that you dress appropriately, and bring proper supplies:

 Dress appropriately for the cold, make sure to include removable layers, warm ones and waterproof one. Wear work clothes, including boots and gloves, etc…

5) Make sure that you can afford to pay your own way:
You will be responsible for your own travel, accommodation, food, water and other basic expenses. Peace Boat recommends bringing at least¥20,000 in cash. You will be responsible for the safekeeping of any valuables you bring. You should have proper identification and insurance–some places will not accept you unless you do.
6) No picture-taking.

“Disaster tourism” is highly frowned upon, and can give your group a bad reputation. Please respect the right not to be photographed of the people you work with, and do not get distracted from your volunteer duties with extraneous items.
7) Be prepared to stay in very modest accommodation:

It is likely that you will be camping near your work sites but accommodation may vary by location.
8) Be sure that you can complete all work duties in addition to volunteering.
While Golden Week may be the only time that you’ll be able to volunteer, please make sure that your volunteer destination is aware and approving of the time frame that you will be able to volunteer. Some positions require a much longer commitment, and others may already have hit their position capacity during Golden Week.  

9) Be Ready for down time
Be ready to work hard, at least for a while;but be ready to stand around waiting, also. That is part of the deal.
10)Be aware of the risks:

Volunteer accepting organizations will do their best to make the each project safe for everyone, but please know that if anything happens, you are responsible for your own well-being. There is a risk of inhaling toxic materials such as asbestos left over from destroyed housing, risk of tetanus from stepping on nails, risk of injury at the work sites, and so forth. Please be aware of the risks, take suitable precautions, and consider applying for insurance before heading out.
Volunteer opportunities during Golden Week;
 *This list is a work in progress, we are still checking into whether particular places are willing to accept out-of-prefecture volunteers.*
(Scroll down for Volunteer information – or for FB Updates:)
 B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075
Contact: arataotake@peaceboat.gr.jp
 Peace Boat needs volunteers both to help with relief efforts in Ishinomaki City and to raise funds and sort donations in Tokyo. They ask volunteers to attend an orientation seminar at 6pm on Wednesday or Saturday first. Please contact Arata Otake at the above email address for more information. Please provide personal details (Full name, Age, Gender, Address, Telephone number, E-mail, Availability, Language ability) and specify whether you are interested in volunteering in Tokyo or Ishinomaki.
Application forms to register for volunteering around Sendai
They have a base in Minami Sanriku and need volunteers.Send them an email at  ogaforaid@gmail.com  or visit them on Facebook.
We are excited to announce that we are ready to accept volunteers on Project Tohoku, Japan! Project Tohoku is All Hands Volunteers’ tsunami response project in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Japan. Initially, we will work for two months on debris removal and home rehabilitation in the Sakari area of Ofunato, so that families can return home. This is dirty and physical work and volunteers may be outside for most of the day. As the needs of the community develop and if we are able to effectively fill gaps and complement the government’s efforts, we may expand into other types of work and longer time frames. We will work six days a week with each Tuesday off.
Though a large percentage of our volunteer force will be Japanese nationals, we have limited space for international volunteers. We do not require that our volunteers speak English (or Japanese), but bilingual English/Japanese speakers will be a critical link between our volunteers and the community. In addition to language skills, we are looking for carpenters and builders. People who know how to gut and re-floor houses will be particularly useful.
As with every All Hands project, we strive to create opportunities for those without specific skills and experience who just want to lend a hand. If this sounds like you, please fill out the Project Tohoku inquiry form. Note that space is limited and we unfortunately will not be able to accommodate everyone who applies.

NGO JEN calling for volunteers to support them in their soup kitchen.
The details for the soup kitchen volunteer opportunities, and application forms can be found here: 

NGO JEN is calling for volunteers to help them remove mud and sludge from houses.
The details for sludge removal volunteer opportunities can be found here: 

 Japan Guide Consortium – Group mobilizing volunteer interpreters to assist relief efforts.

The Japan Asian Association and Asian Friendship Societyアジア協会アジア友の会
is looking for Osaka-based volunteers to help with material and monetary donations. please get more information from the site: 

CRASH volunteers: prioritizing our resources and volunteers in a database and will contact you when we are prepared to place you.  (For teams overseas, it will likely be at least April before we are ready to receive you.) 

Sendai shopping volunteers: Have a look at the Otodoketai and see what you can do to help elders in the Sendai area! 

 Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) are looking for volunteers who can provide counselling over the phone.

Japan EQ Animal Rescue and Support
Need people in Tokyo that are at bilingual (Japanese/English).  Or at least an English speaker that is good at Japanese, or visaversa. That said, we need other Tokyo based errands:

Rescue Japan is a non-profit relief effort working to collect and donate supplies for those affected by the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake. Lots of opps helping out!

The Japan Emergency Team asking for information from people who want to help.
Please send your information to team@jhelp.com
* Include your contact information, when and how you might be able to help. Please also confirm your level of Japanese language skills.
The Japan Emergency Team,
3-3-7 Kokubun-cho Aoba-ku
Sendai, Miyagi-ken 980-8671
*Telephone connection is not regular at this time.



Japanese government website on volunteering.
For comprehensive listings, please visit the AJET Volunteer/Donation Information  Japan Volunteers, or the Adventures in Gradland pages:

>The Town of Taro

>Written by Rob Keyworth, Foreign Volunteers Japan

Delivering 5 tons of Aid to the Green Pia distribution centre near Taro, Iwate.

Here’s a brief update from the fundraiser to support the town of Taro, and what we’ve been doing since then.

We raised 428,350 yen from the Race Night at Paddy Foley’s – thank you very much for all who attended.

As a result of this we were able to take 3 trucks up to Tohoku.
The initial plan was to leave Saturday morning and return on Sunday but as there was a strong aftershock on Thursday night we delayed until the roads were open and the electricity was back on. We probably could have gone earlier but it was only at 10 am on Saturday morning that we were able to confirm that we were able to get diesel all the way up the Tohoku Expressway and we didn’t want to create an issue up there by getting stranded. This proved to be a wise decision as one of the trucks had a very small gas tank and so the delay was probably the correct call.

We had arranged to collect aid from three different locations – Thomas’ bar in Zushi, Allied Pickford’s offices in Roppongi and Second Harvest in Asakusabashi. On top of that we used some of the money we raised to buy things before we left which included toothbrushes, toys, games, puzzles etc. So all three vans were pretty well stocked when we left Tokyo.

The journey up was pretty uneventful and we got to the hotel in Mizusawa Iwate by about 8 pm. We refueled there and made plans for the next day. Dave’s friend Jonathan had scouted the area and found that there are a couple of areas that still weren’t getting enough supplies so we decided that we should head to the distribution centre for the town of Taro.

Japan 11 111

After checking Google maps we discovered this would be a 3.5 hour drive so we had a few hours sleep and we were back on the road again at 6 am.
The drive to our destination was through some of the most beautiful scenery and a world away from where we were heading to. It’s still the back end of winter up there and the mountains and fields were still covered in deep snow and the rivers were in full flow carrying the melt water out to sea. At another time and place it would have been worth taking photos of the scenery as it was stunning.

As we drove towards the coast the mood changed. We drove through Miyako which had been very badly damaged by the tsunami. There’s a lot of video of Miyako on the internet but it was impressive that despite the devastation there were two gas stations open for business and selling fuel. Even though their buildings, car wash etc had been destroyed they were back in operation.

We then drove through where Taro used to be. The town of Taro was devastated by tsunami’s in 1933 and 1961 so they built two 10 metre walls which would have protected them against a tsunami wave of 15 metres. Apparently when the alarms went off, the people didn’t react as well as they might have done as they believed that these walls would protect them.
The wave was believed to have been the highest that hit any part of the area with some reports suggesting that it could have been as high as 36 m.

Of the initial population of around 4,000 people there are 800 are now living in shelters.
I don’t know how many of the remainder survived.

The town of Taro has gone.

We delivered about 5 tons of aid to the distribution centre there. This included Food, Water, Hygiene products and things that would keep them entertained.

After a very brief stop there we headed back home.

We were making very good time until the aftershock on Monday afternoon which closed the Tohoku Expressway and added a three hour diversion to two of the trucks and a three hour wait at Hanyu for the third. We eventually made it back to Tokyo after 11 pm. But at least we had homes to go to.

As always there are very many people to thank, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.

In no particular order:

Thanks to Neil for hosting the Race Night
Thanks to all who sponsored the races
Thanks to all who attended
Thanks to everyone else who donated to Dave or Andy
Thanks to Lindsay for sorting the trucks again
Thanks to Thomas and his customers in Zushi for their donations
Thanks to the Tokyo American Club for their donations
Thanks to Scott for pretty much everything
Thanks to those of you who got up early on a Sunday morning just to help load some trucks
Thanks to Second Harvest for allowing us to take some of their stuff

Japan 11 115
Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

Thanks to the amazing Jessielyn Fernando of Mizusawa, Iwate, who put us all up for the night in the Azuma Hotel, fed us, and wouldn’t take any payment.
And thanks to the other six drivers who came on a journey we won’t forget.

A brief report was posted on the Foreign Volunteers Japan website about our trip and someone who was originally from Taro wrote this:

Hey, that is my home town! I don’t know if any of you knew people in Taro and that’s how you chose the evacuation center to deliver the aids, but how nice of you guys to do this! I feel truly so grateful for your actions. There are people who really care about our small town – that’s a wonderful feeling! You made my day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

I thought that you would like to know that your donations have made some kind of difference.
We still have money left and we will be using it to fund more trips until we run out of money or until there’s no longer a need for it.
Thanks again to everyone involved.

Japan 11 113
Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

>Volunteer Opportunities with NGO JEN

>NGO JEN is looking for volunteers for its soup kitchen and sludge removal projects. 

Reposted from NGO JEN blog. Image (C) JEN

JEN is an NGO with a wealth of experience in disaster relief, focused on needs assessment, coordinating with other international organizations, scouting for local manpower and managing support projects to adapting all of these to a variety of situations.  They are currently handling projects in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, Haiti, and now Miyagi. They are a very effective at the work they do. Their well-proven objective is not to execute one-time relief work, but to work through an established process to insure sustainable recovery in each of the areas where they set up operations.

Soup Kitchen Volunteers: 

JEN dispatched its first team to Miyagi prefecture immediately after the earthquake, and conducted damage and needs assessment and assessment of transportation and procurement routes. Along with these assessments, JEN distributed emergency supplies of clothing, hygiene kits and food for soup kitchens. They also provided hot meals for 600 people in evacuation centers with the cooperation of earthquake/tsunami victims. They have decided to organize soup kitchen in Ishinomaki to provide hot meals for those who have difficulties securing food.

Now they are calling for volunteers to support them in their soup kitchen.

The details for the soup kitchen volunteer opportunities, and application forms can be found here: 

Sludge Removal Volunteers!

Sludge, brought by the tsunami, is now emitting disturbing odor around communities. It has been more than three weeks since the incident, and the sludge is drying up and hardening. Gradually this sludge will turn into dust. The dust will be blown up into the air which can have perverse effects to our health.

The tsunami brought heavy mud and sludge inside houses. Tatami mats and furniture have absorbed water (one tatami can weigh up to 100kg), thus women and elderly cannot even clean up their houses. Most of the people staying at their homes live on the second floor because the ground floor is covered with mud and sludge. There are also evacuees who could return home once mud and sludge is cleared.

JEN is now procuring equipment and preparing to receive volunteers while coordinating with other organizations. They are now calling for volunteers to help them remove mud and sludge from houses.

The details for sludge removal volunteer opportunities can be found here: 

Following that, NGO JEN is also collecting donations related directly to their Soup Kitchen and Sludge Cleanup operations. Please follow their main blog for details.

>The Fruit Tree Project


April 13, 2011 *UPDATE*

Hey folks, this is the funds proposal I have been sending out in hopes of receiving funding to get this project rolling. Please take a look and definitely get back to me with your thoughts/opinions. Also feel free to pass it along to anyone who might be interested in supporting this project. 10 days you might ask? Well, plain and simple, it would be very difficult to sustain this project long term, considering how grassroots our efforts are at this moment. BUT, this project will raise awareness of this issue and hopefully set an example and challenge larger organizations and government programs to continue to provide fruits!!! Minami and I were SHOCKED when we found out that there was a wholesale fruit market in Kesennuma with an abundance of fruit, yet people in shelters were not receiving anything! This has to change. Kesennuma isn’t the only town either! Many reports from other shelters and devastation areas are coming back saying the same thing, WE NEED FRUIT! The Fruit Tree Project will be as successful as funds allow! So please spread the word, and let’s start making moves!

Hello, my name is Paul Yoo and I am a current JET in Yurihonjo, Akita. In wake of the recent disaster, we, in Akita, have actively been involved in the relief efforts and are doing our best to contribute in this time of need. Please take a look at this website for more detailed accounts of our activities (volunteerakita.wordpress.com). The Fruit Tree Project spawned from our trip down to Kesennuma last week to drop off supplies. While at the shelter we had the opportunity to talk about what their needs were, and FRESH FRUIT was their unanimous answer. After leaving the shelter we contacted a local store manager who agreed to help us in our efforts, and offered to make orders for us from his wholesale fruit provider (located in Kesennuma!!!). He assured us that all of our orders could be accommodated for as long as we placed them the day before. The details for this plan are SET. The only thing we need now is funding. It is heart-breaking to know that the people aren’t able to get what they need, especially with a source so close to them. We have to change this. Right now, the shelter I am in contact with, accommodates 1100 people and receives prepared meals from the Japanese military. They get a bowl of rice and miso soup. For this first project, my goal is to establish the infrastructure it takes to get fresh fruits into the shelters, while also raising awareness of this issue. My hope is that others, who are looking to make a difference, will continue the Fruit Tree Project in other cities and towns effected by the disaster.
Timeline/Goals: I want to take advantage of Golden Week and head down to Kesennuma for 10 days (April 29th – May 8th) making multiple deliveries per day. My goal for this mission is to first and foremost get fruits into the shelters. Second, is to raise awareness of this issue so others can follow our lead and continue the Fruit Tree Project throughout the devastated areas.

Projected Costs: Please note, although we are getting wholesale prices, the projected costs are based upon averages (fruit prices fluctuate daily)

~70 apples/box = ~4000yen
1,100 people/70 apples = ~16 boxes = 64,000yen (per day)
~60 bananas/box = ~2,500yen
1,100 people/60 bananas = ~18 boxes = 45,000yen (per day)
~5 oranges/pack = 300yen
1,100 people/5 oranges = 220 packs = 66,000yen (per day)
Aim is to supply each person in the shelter with 2 fruits per day for 10 days (ex:) one apple and one banana (for each person) = 109,000yen/day x 10days = 1,090,000yen
What we need: The only thing holding us back right now is funding. The fruit supplier is set, as well as transportation/gasoline/delivery logistics.
How you can donate: People in Japan can donate through bank transfers (furikomi), a bank account has been set up specifically for this initiative. ALL donated funds will go towards purchasing fruit for this project. Those outside of Japan can donate through paypal. Please refer to the website (volunteerakita.wordpress.com) under the “Donations” section for detailed instructions on donating.
Summary: This project is important to me as a JET because THIS is our community! Once we settle into our new jobs and towns here in Japan, we become part of the community, and right now Japan has come together as one community. And this includes us! I realize it will take a significant amount of money to make this project happen, but when you break it down, a 1000 yen donation could provide 1 person with 2 fruits daily, for 10 consecutive days. Every little bit counts, and I will guarantee that all funds donated to this project will DIRECTLY benefit the people in need.

Thank you for your time,

Paul Yoo and Minami Ishikawa

フルーツツリープロジェクト(The Fruit Tree Project)

発案:ポール ユー
日本語著:石川 南
前回の気仙沼小学校への物資運搬トリップで、その避難所で働いている方にお話を聞く機会がありました。気仙沼小学校はすぐ隣に気仙沼中学校と市民会 館があり、現在すべてが避難所となっています。合わせて約1100人の方が避難しておられます。毎日の食事は自衛隊が炊き出しを行っていますが、食事はほ とんどがごはんとみそ汁のみ。かなり偏った栄養バランスになっています。避難所では調理することが難しく、保存場所もありません。今何が一番欲しいです か?と質問したら、答えは「フルーツ」でした。




りんご1箱(約70個)=約4,000円 合計16箱=64,000円
バナナ1箱(約60本)=約2,500円 合計18箱=45,000円
オレンジ1袋(約5個)=約300円 合計220袋=66,000円

このプロジェクトを実現させるのには莫大な費用がかかる為一見難しそうに見えますが、細かく分けてみてみると1,000円の寄付で一人分(1日フ ルーツ2つ、10日分)を補えることがわかります。少しずつでも多くの方にご協力して頂くことが出来たらこのプロジェクトは必ず成功させることが出来ま す。volunteerAKITAを通して寄付して頂いたお金はすべてこのプロジェクトの為に使われ、必要としている方々のもとへ届きます。

また、このプロジェクトをリードし、成功させることでフルーツツリープロジェクトの輪を広げていきたいと考えています。気仙沼小学校だけではなく、 多数ある他の避難所も同じような状況にあると思われます。一人ですべての避難所をサポートするのは不可能です。私たちに続き多くの人にこのプロジェクトを 実行して頂き、なるべくたくさんの避難所で生活している方々に、少しでも多くのフルーツを届けることが目標です。

【口座名義】石川 南

Thank you for your time,

Paul Yoo and Minami Ishikawa

>25 hours to Kesennuma

>Written by Rob Keyworth, Foreign Volunteers Japan

(* Photos to be added shortly)

Apologies if none of this makes much sense but I’ve not had much sleep

As you probably know, Dave and I went up to Kesennuma yesterday to deliver some supplies to the people who need it. This is a match report of the 25 hours that covered the 1100 km round trip and a bit of background thrown in.

Dave and I decided earlier this week that we would take some stuff to the people who have been most affected by the Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake and decided that Kesennuma would be the best destination.

I’d seen the footage on the Telegraph of the 7 minutes where the tsunami destroyed the town but also I discovered that they had 13,000 people in shelters and there was one main distribution centre. This was key for me because my Japanese is appalling and I thought it was important that we could do some good without creating any issues and if we were driving from shelter to shelter with only one Japanese speaker it could create issues. And it was also not fair on Dave to have to deal with that side of things completely on his own so we decided we’d do a big drop to one area and they would then be able to allocate the resources that we were able to deliver.

I got in touch with Damian and he put me in touch with Lindsay who was volunteering to help people in anyway she could. She was able to speak to Sato-san at the distribution centre and he informed her that their most pressing need was food. Canned food was okay but they would prefer fresh.

I got in touch with a reputable charity and spoke to them three times. I told them I needed food and they said they could provide some but wouldn’t be able to provide a full amount (2 ton truck’s worth). Scott McCaskie posted on the Foreign Volunteers Japan website that he had about a 2 ton truck’s worth of supplies – tooth brushes, baby and adult diapers, baby food etc and most importantly food. He kindly offered us some of the stuff he’d collected and so we arranged with the charity to collect food from them on Saturday before filling the rest of the truck with Scott’s stuff.

In the meantime Dave spent ages trying to get a truck and thanks to one of his friends he was able to book a 2ton truck so we were all set for a Saturday departure. Andy volunteered to come with us but when we went to pick up the truck it was only in the 2 big lads size so Andy unfortunately had to miss out.

Even before we left the truck rental place one of Dave’s friends had dropped some stuff off so we were well on the way. The first stop was the charity place and as this was a truck there was no navigation system. Not to worry as Dave had programmed his iphone with directions and we should be there in about 20 minutes. About 40 minutes later Dave realized my sense of direction, even when following a moving map left a lot to be desired and he was going to be in for an even longer night than he expected.

So anyway, we arrived at the charity and to cut a long story short, they allowed us to take some boxes.  Of the 9 or 10 volunteers who were at the charity ONE of them volunteered to help us so we took about ¼ of a trucks worth of stuff that mostly wasn’t food. But as Dave said, these people do a lot of good work all of the time and not just when something big has happened. So they do deserve credit for their work. But I was a little bit frustrated that we didn’t get more food.

Then we went to the combini to get essential supplies for the trip. Sweets, snickers, water, snickers, sports drinks, snickers and as we were paying I noticed they were selling cans of tuna. So we got three because we’d promised the people of Kesennuma that we’d take food and the very least we’d have some. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

Our next stop was Scott’s in Roppongi. Scott works for Allied Pickfords and he and his company had collected a lot of supplies. Scott was also helping to supply a second FVJ truck and after a quick call he agreed to let us have all of the food as well as whatever other stuff the other group couldn’t take. We made our way over to Roppongi to fill the rest of the truck but Dave had sensibly asked for a number of volunteers to help so by the time we got there, there were about 7 or 8 people who helped fill the truck in record time. So we were set with a mountain of rice, tuna, canned food, toilet rolls, tissues, underwear etc etc etc. And a couple of bags of fresh salad. So all in all we were delighted with the products that we would be able to take with us and were sure that they would be very well received when we got there.

Dave drove the first leg and we stopped off at Hanyu (a favourite stopping point of the cricket team when we play at Sano). At this point Dave mentioned that one of his friends, Chizu, had provided us with a load of homemade sandwiches – top effort Chizu! So it was homemade sarnies, coffee at Starbucks and we charged our iphones there.

I drove the next leg and things were going smoothly until an orange warning light started flashing on the dashboard. We pulled over, pressed a couple of buttons and it seemed to be okay. Continued on again and we had the same problem. Dave managed to decipher the manual and we discovered we had to pull over and let the engine clean itself for 15 minutes so that’s pretty much what we did until the engine cleaned itself.

The road on this stretch of the route was pretty impressive. There had clearly been massive damage caused by the earthquake on March 11th and we drove over countless areas where repair work had been done. On the return journey on Sunday we discovered that the white line on the edge of the road was no longer joined and in some places the road had shifted up to 30 cm.

I think it’s absolutely remarkable that the engineers were able to repair so much serious damage and have both lanes open of both the North and South bound carriageways within 2 weeks of the disaster.
We stopped off at the next place for more sandwiches, more charging of the iPhone and it was this point I discovered we’d picked the service station closest to Fukushima Dai Ichi. So Dave went outside to counter the radiation threat with a cigarette and off we went to our final stop of the night where we planned to have a few hours sleep before going on in the morning.

The outside temperature was supposed to be -1 so we wrapped up in jumpers, coats and sleeping bags. Dave had the genius idea of turning the engine on for 10 minutes to warm the cab and he was soon snoring away. I have never been the best of sleepers and with that going off as well as the surprisingly bright break lights of people going through the services I was never going to get to sleep. So instead of trying to get comfortable which would have been impossible I decided the smart thing to do was to go to the snack area in the services and stay warm.

I tried to leave the cab without disturbing Dave but managed to catch my sleeping bag in the door. Twice. Which apparently led to all of the really nice warm air leaving the cab and being replaced by something a whole lot colder. But I only have someone else’s opinion on that and you should never trust a mackem.

The only place that I could find to charge my phone was in the men’s toilets so I’d go in there and charge it every now and again. I can’t believe that I’ve just admitted to spending my Saturday night hanging around men’s toilet’s but that seems to be what I did.

At 5 am Dave woke up (was woken) we had a breakfast of champions – Sandwich and cup a soup and we were soon on the way to Kesennuma. I think you’ve all seen the devastating Tsunami that hit Kesennuma and if you don’t then Google it, there’s plenty of video footage.

But as we approached the city I found it exceptionally surreal that life was continuing normally for the vast majority of people in the towns on the way there and even as we entered Kesennuma itself there were no suggestions that there was anything untoward. At one point I even asked Dave if there was more than one Kesennuma’s because there really didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. And then we turned a corner and drove down a road which was coated in sand and dirt and as we drove down this road we were suddenly in a scene from a movie.

We decided the best thing to do would be to go to the depot where we needed to and drop off all of the supplies. After another spell of my infamous map reading skills we made it to the depot at around 7:40 am. There was already a number of Japan Self Defence Troups there as well as a number of drivers from the local Takkyubin (parcel delivery service).

It was immediately obvious that the takkyubin couriers were working with the SDF to deliver all of the aid to the 88 shelters in the city. We went in to the main office and introduced ourselves as members of the FVJ (and the other charity) and the people there were naturally very happy that we had come. But at no point did they seem remotely bothered that we were foreign. They just were very happy that people had brought them aid. We gave our details and waited for us to be called. As we waited we watched in shock and admiration as the SDF emptied the contents of a very large trailer in about 10 minutes. A few snow flurries fell and it was pretty cold (long t-shirt weather) and then it was our turn to unload. We drove to the unloading bay and what happened next was just a blur of professionalism, effectiveness and pure quality. I never thought I would see such an efficient outfit in Japan but they emptied the van with a speed and efficiency that was impressive. A maximum of 8 minutes and we were on our way. And we forgot to give them our cans of tuna.

We stopped back in to the main office to talk to the people in charge and find out what their current need situation was. They didn’t need any more water or balnkets which is good to hear but they still need food – especially fresh food or food for cooking like miso, consommé and stuff to add to rice. Thanks charity.

We said we’d see what we could do and then headed back to the town centre and have a look at the devastation we’d seen on TV. We didn’t feel at all comfortable and drove round a few areas but didn’t stop because it just didn’t feel right. You’ve seen the pictures and there’s not a lot I can add except to say it really is horrific but again the SDF have done a superb job at starting what seems to be an impossible task. Roads are opened, stuff has been tidied up and it is neatly piled.

It’s very easy to look at the wood and not attribute it to a house. Certainly what was piled up by the rivers could easily be confused with pollution/fly tipping in the UK but the rest was, simply impossible to describe. Girders just don’t bend like that. Nor do lampposts and cars don’t belong on houses. For me it is possible to distance yourself from much of the debris. But when you see a shoe on top of the detritus in a shop. Or a child’s toy. It was a bit too much.

At one point I said to Dave that I was concerned that my frown would be permanently etched on my face. It was horrific and we felt uneasy by being there. We didn’t stay long and headed back towards Tokyo.

Shortly afterwards I started to finally nod off. Dave braked hard and immediately apologized for waking me up. Which obviously made me very suspicious.

We took turns driving the rest of the way back and managed to get back just an hour late at 5 pm.
It was a hell of a day and a hell of a journey but completely worthwhile.

A number of people have thanked me for doing this and I think I can speak for Dave in this regard. We were just the face of this small project. There were many, many people involved.
The people who donated the food to that charity as well as to Scott and Andy W for having the inspired idea of raising sponsorship and getting 180,000 yen pledged to the Japan red cross.
Chizu for the sandwiches (they really were that good)

Those who helped load the truck at Scott’s (and Dave D for the chocolate)
The guy at the charity who helped, even those who were not helping must (surely??) have done something useful, Scott for giving so much of the stuff that people in Kesennuma needed
The SDF guys for their help in emptying the truck at the depot
Dave for putting up with me for 23 hours (he had two hours sleep).
Dave’s friend for getting the truck
Lindsay for calling Kesennuma
We were the drivers, the couriers but without everyone else’s contribution we’d have had a very empty truck.

So thank you all and please continue to contribute in any shape, or form that you can.
There are a lot of people who still need help.

>Bicycle repair guy: Daiki Mochizuki

>This is an entry by Henry Osborn, on behalf of Bikes for Japan


Daiki Mochizuki (blog: http://ameblo.jp/vfr400r-hrc/) works at bicycle and motorbike repair shop in Omiya. Having originally trained to be a dancer, Daiki discovered bikes when he started cycling as part of rehabilitation, when recovering from a leg injury. He started repairing bikes at the shop – mainly for the police and postal services – three years ago. In his twenties, Daiki has two young kids – a girl called Shino and a boy called Ren. After a week of following the plights of thousands of families following the Tohoku earthquake he decided to drop what he was doing, and drove up to Sendai by himself without any set plans ahead to see what he could do to help people there. He took his tools and as many bicycle parts with him as he could carry, while everyone else was heading the other way. He arrived in Sendai and tracked down a shelter in Tagajo-shi – a big shelter housing around 1,000 people. He set up a site and told people he’d come to fix their bikes. He started repairing the bicycles brought to him for free, returning to Tokyo a few days later. He’s been doing this every week since then. Driving up at midnight, staying for 2 days, fixing as many bikes as he can, then coming back to work at his shop in Omiya.

Daiki now has 4 other colleagues from the repair shop voluntarily working with him. They take it in turns to travel up to Sendai together. They’ve so far worked with 4 shelters. Each time they go to a shelter, if they work around the clock they can fix up about 40 bikes per day. There are always more bikes in need of repair, and never enough time or hands to go around. The bike shops in the areas were all destroyed and have no parts coming in so there are no other on-site support channels available. All the activities they have done so far have been completely self-funded.

What difference can a bicycle make?
In the affected areas up until the tsunami hit people mainly used cars to get around. Unlike in cities or towns, where train stations are close together, in rural areas and along the coasts stations are far apart. You simply can’t get around without a car. Most people’s cars were either swept away or destroyed by the tsunami. Even if people still have their cars they have no gasoline. A lot of roads remain inaccessible by car. So bicycles are really the only way people can travel over anything more than a short distance.

Families need bicycles to go out and get food and supplies, and to carry them back. Many are staying in places several miles away from the closest stores or distribution points. For individuals who are trying to find their family members and friends, a bicycle gives them a way to go out and search for them. For people who have lost their homes and businesses, it gives them a way to travel to and from the site where their buildings used to stand, to begin the clean-up and to gather what is left of their belongings. For those who have become unemployed and who are looking for new jobs, it gives them a way to get out to a job interview further inland where towns are less damaged. For school children, it gives them a way to get to their classes. For young kids who have suffered extreme stress in the aftermath of the disaster, having a bike to ride around and play on gives them something fun to do, something to look forward to in their day. They really need more kid’s bikes as almost all the bicycles around are for adults.

Although some public organizations have already donated bikes, there is still a massive need for bicycles. The Osaka local government made a donation of a few hundred bicycles. Yamaha have given 200. However, these bikes are all distributed under a reservation/time-shared basis at the shelters. There are waiting lists stretching for days, so most people are not able to access them. There are still over 200,000 people living in shelters across Tohoku.

Collecting bicycles for Tohoku
In an effort to do what he can to increase the number of available bikes for people who really need them, Daiki has started trying to collect used bicycles in Tokyo, which he can repair and take with him up to Sendai in his truck. In between fixing bikes and his trips up to Sendai, finding people with bikes to give is time consuming. So far he has managed to get a total of 30 bikes, having spoken to over 100 people. We’ve decided to help him out by reaching out to people we know, asking for bike donations, picking them up around Tokyo, and helping him get them up to Tohoku.

What you can do to help
If you have bikes which you are not using and which you’d like to donate, let us know and we will come to pick them up (either by truck or rider), directly at your address this or the following Sundays running up to Golden Week. Please contact me directly at hosborn@heidrick.com with the following details:

i) Your name, address, and contact details
ii) The number of bikes for donation, the type (mountain, road, shopping bike etc.)
iii) Please specify whether the bikes are for adults or kids
iv) Please state the condition they are in (immediately ride-able upon pick-up, or in need of repair). Daiki is confident he can fix even the most “boro-boro” bikes so please don’t worry too much about their condition!
v) What time it would be possible to pick the bikes up at your address this or the following Sundays (between 9pm to 6pm)

Once we have an idea of how many bikes there are for collecting each Sunday, and the pick-up points around Tokyo, we’ll get back to you individually within the next few days to let you know when we can stop by. If there are many bikes clustered around a small area, we may ask you to kindly bring the bikes to a convenient local collection point. If anyone has any questions please reach out to me any time.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind support.

Henry Osborn / Bikes for Japan