Golden Week Volunteering

Many of you, though unable to attend the last volunteer events, have shown
an interest in helping out over Golden Week.  We thank you for your patience and
have thus put together a list of relief efforts we are participating in, and
also how you can particularly GET INVOLVED!

*Volunteer Miyako*

If you take the time to read Owen’s report you can see how much of a success the
trip to Miyako was. In as much of a success that it was, there is still
clearly so much that needs to be done! Over Golden week (and with little to
do due to lack of internet) Owen has kindly offered his time to go and stay
in Miyako from April 30th – May 06th* (best part of Golden week), If you
would like to get stuck in the mud and lend a hand, for the whole week, or
just a day or two, all you gotta do is let us know. We can arrange
accommodation, the insurance and give you a list of items you will need.

As of 1pm on Wednesday, April 27th, volunteers are required
on May 1st and May 2nd for sure! The April 30th, May 3rd and 4th are maybes, though I’m confident that if we are down there they will put us to work.

So, please let us know by April 28th if you are
interested and what days you are available, to give us adequate time to
make arrangements. We realize and apologize that it’s short notice for you.

Mark and Owen


*Volunteer Kesennuma – The Fruit Tree Project*

Hey everyone, the donations have been rolling in everyday from all parts of
the world.  As of right now, we have about 500,000yen! which will DEFINITELY
buy lots of fruit for those folks!

– As for volunteering here is what we have so far.  The fruit deliveries
will not take all day, so we have been looking into volunteer opportunities
through the Kesennuma VC (volunteer center).  Many of these opportunities
are on a first come first serve basis, so if you are there early you will
most likely get put to work (usually some sort of manual labor)

– Also, we have gotten the OK from the shelter to do some activities with
the kiddos down there!  He suggests if we have an idea, to tell him in
advance and he can spread the word around the shelter to spark interest!

If any of these opportunities interests you, please contact me and we can
get the ball rolling!  This Golden Week is a great opportunity to get out
and make a difference!  MADlove, and let’s keep the momentum going!

Paul Yoo and Minami Ishikawa


the BIG CLEAN – Miyako Volunteer Report, April 24

GROUP SHOT! - photo courtesy of Mide Burns

It all started out last Saturday evening in Shizukuishi (just outside Morioka), Iwate, when 12 eager volunteers turned up at Minshuku Nakagawa to rest up for the night. We enjoyed the legendary dinner and small amount of doburoku. Bright Dark and early the next morning we all arose at 5am for breakfast before headed to Morioka to meet the rest of our volunteer group who had departed much earlier, coming directly to Morioka on Sunday morning.

Our group of 21 was both international and interprefectural. We had Canadians, Americans, Irish, English, Filipinos, South Africans, and Japanese and although the volunteers came mainly from Akita we had a very enthusiastic individual come from Tsuruoka, Yamagata and two more come from Tokyo!! Taihen otsukaresama deshita!!

We joined up with Yuicco in Morioka, and after checking in we received our insurance cards (good for 1 full year!!), as well as name tags, maps of the local area and general information. And at 7:30 we departed Morioka and headed east for about 2 hours before arriving in Miyako.

On entering the town things appeared to be pretty normal, but as we approached the coastline the damage quickly became apparent. At first it was easy to notice the remains of the mud that had been cleaned from the streets. Then building which had the ground floor destroyed, but were now boarded up. Next we passed boats lying on the side of streets, and then completely destroyed buildings! Many buildings were spray painted with dates and Japanese writing, presumably indicating that they had been searched for bodies.

We continued to our meeting point near Miyako-shi Shimin Bunka Kaikan (宮古市市民文化会館) where we met some local people who were there to coordinate the volunteers. The first group to depart consisted of 4 Akita volunteers, 6 Morioka volunteers and some local residents and departed to a Temple called Kabusan Kousanji (神峯山 江山寺). The rest of the people went to a nearby park.

The group at the temple was busy replacing fallen grave stones, retrieving buried statues from under the rubble, and clearing all the debris that surrounded the temple. This was all done manually as machines couldn’t possibly clear the debris without causing further damage to the temple itself. All the debris was piled for machines to remove at a later time.

Over at the park the volunteers were busy removing a 2-3cm layer of mud that covered the park. They used shovels and other equipment to scrape and remove the mud. Once the mud was removed calcium was spread on the soil to dissolve the excess salt that was absorbed into the ground from the seawater.

It was interesting to note that at both sites there wasn’t a bad smell. Perhaps it was due to the rain that had fallen the previous day, or how open and vented both areas were. On Sunday the weather in Miyako was AMAZING! It rained all the previous day, and even on the way to Miyako it rained slightly too. But by the time we had arrived the sun was out, and it made for perfect working conditions.

Our Temple group was working clearing debrib with all sorts of broken boards, glass and all sorts of things. There were many nails sticking out of boards and rusty metal was an issue too. But we were delighted to report that there were no notable injuries from any of the volunteers!

While driving back after working at the temple we passed many old people working away on their land. They were struggling with the mud and debris that was left in the wake of the worst disaster to have hit this area. And in the background was the huge 3m high tsunami breaker. The 10m high tsunami that rushed over this wall, like it wasn’t even there, was unimaginable!

Also piled up by the port was a HUGE pile of debris, presumably waiting to be shipped south where it will be burned in incinerators.

All the fellow volunteers and volunteer organizers warmly welcomed the volunteers from Akita. They were very grateful to see such a large number of people volunteer their time to help out.

Also a huge thank you to all the volunteers who participated, you helped make a huge difference in the lives of the people you helped. We all look forward to volunteering with you again in the future if possible. Thanks to Mark for pioneering this idea and making all the arrangements with Yuicco, without you help this event would not have happened.

This is the start of very good things. Let’s try to keep the ball rolling!

Yuicco organize volunteer trips to go down every Sunday from Morioka.

And we are also organizing a group to go there during Golden Week (from April 29th).

If you would like to become involved please feel free to contact us here at volunteerAKITA. We can provide you with all the information needed to participate.









ミナミ (Minami)

The Fruit Tree Project Kesennuma, Miyagi

International (US tax deductible) donations are now being accepted online thanks to Second Harvest Japan!!! Please donate through our Virtual Food Drive today!

April 26, 2011 *UPDATE*

First off, A BIG THANKS to everyone for all the support and well wishes throughout this whole process.  These past few weeks have been a bit crazy, and we can’t thank everyone enough for working to make this project a reality. Right now, we have somewhere between 400,000 – 500,000yen!  Which is amazing!  Donations are still coming in daily, even though we have not reached the original goal of over 1,000,000yen, it is so nice to see donations and support coming from all over the world.

Some quick updates from the shelter.  School has started back up, so people have been moved from the classrooms to the gymnasium.  The shelter has also decreased in size, which is great news because people are settling into more permanent housing.  The 3 shelters combined consist of about 930 people compared to 1,100 people during our first visit.  We are planning to deliver fruit everyday until the money runs out.  After the fruit has been delivered for the day, we are planning on volunteering somewhere in or around Kesennuma.  We have also been given permission to do some fun activities with the kiddos at the shelters, so bring your best game ideas from elementary school!

Though these past weeks have been a bit hectic, volunteerAKITA has been accomplishing so much!  The relief trip this past Sunday to Miyako, Iwate was a huge success, while donations for The Fruit Tree Project continue to grow daily.

THANKS again for all the support and love from all over the world.

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!

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







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








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.  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 we are 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, our goal is to establish the infrastructure it takes to get fresh fruits into the shelters, while also raising awareness of this issue.  Our 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:  We want to take advantage of Golden Week and head down to Kesennuma for 10 days (April 29th – May 8th) making multiple deliveries per day.  Our 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)

The goal 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 online (US tax deductible) thanks to Second Harvest Japan.  Please refer to the website ( under the “Donate” 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!  We 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 we will guarantee that all funds donated to this project will DIRECTLY benefit the people in need.

– Paul and Minami

the BIG CLEAN – Miyako, Iwate

April 19th *UPDATE*

Hello everyone,

I hope this email finds you all well. It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning up
here in Kamikoani, and I know the sakura (cherry blossoms) are anxiously
trying to grace us with their presence… It won’t be long, but I can hardly
wait J

I’m writing to you to inform you of a fantastic ONE-DAY-VOLUNTEERING
OPPORTUNITY in Miyako, Iwate THIS WEEKEND (Sun, April 24th). Some of you may
have heard about this through the new volunteerAKITA website that has been
set up as a means to coordinate our efforts here in Akita as well as giving
instructions on donating.

This particular activity was set up by our good friends Mark Dawson and Joe
(from the Shizukuishi Ski Trip). Unfortunately Mark is unable to attend this
weekend, but together we are going to make it happen. He will be taking care
of the admin side of things, while I will be heading to Iwate with the

*So what’s this all about?*

Well, we as a group are going to join up with a group from Iwate called
YUICCO (ゆいっこ), a well organized group that has a great system set up. It is
organized by prefectural senators. They will organize insurance for us, pick
us up from Morioka, and take us to Miyako where we will work for the day.
Our work will involve cleaning out drains, gutters and gaijin traps. This
work is ESSENTIAL as it allows the backed up water/sludge, which was left
behind from the tsunami, to be drained away. This in turn will prevent
disease spreading, another disaster that nobody needs right now!

*Ok so on to the details…*

We will meet at Shizukuishi on Saturday 23rd April at about 6pm, have dinner
and spend the night at Minshuku Nakagawa. The next morning we will have
breakfast and head to Morioka (about a 1 hour drive) and rendezvous with

Alternatively you can simply meet us at the rendezvous point on Sunday
morning if you don’t want to or can’t make it down on Saturday night. But be
aware that would mean leaving Akita VERY early Sunday morning, and if you
are late the bus will already have left. 😮

*So what do you need?*

Lunch and drinks
Clothes – that you don’t mind getting very dirty, and a spare pair to change
back into
Wellies/gum boots
A shovel! – you will need a metal shovel
Goggles – if you want to keep splashes etc out of your eyes
Gloves – to protect your “teacher” hands from blistering 😉
Garbage bags

*How much does it all cost?*

Accommodation at the Minshuku is 4,000 yen

YUICCO will provide our insurance and the return bus service for free!

So for about 4,000 yen YOU can help make a HUGE difference for the lives of
the people who have had almost everything taken from them.


OK, well I’m delighted that you have read this far. And if you think this is
for you please reply to this email and we can get insurance etc. sorted out.
We can of course organize car pooling over to Shizukuishi too.

I need to hear from you by Thursday (around 5pm) at the latest if you wish
to join this weekend!

*What we need?*

Please provide us with the following information if you wish to volunteer.
We need this information to organize your insurance, which is a requirement
to volunteering.



Phone number:

Date of birth:

Country of origin:

*Word of CAUTION*

Please do remember that the area we will be visiting will have been badly
affected. It’s fantastic if you have decided to volunteer your time and
effort to help out, but NOT if it is at your mental or physical expense.
Please take a moment and make SURE that you are capable of dealing with a
level of destruction that you probably have never experienced before, and
also that you are up for 6 hours of shoveling mud and clearing debris etc.
If in doubt please feel free to contact myself, Mark or Paul.

Ok, again I want to thank you for reading this email and I look forward to
hearing from you. As it stands we have a group of about 6 people, but
hopefully we can build on that. The ALT community has come through for us so
many times recently. It’s really a pleasure being part of such an AMAZING

I look forward to hearing from you.


For your reference VolunteerAKITA (English & Japanese) YUICCO (Japanese only)

Minshuku Nakagawa -岩手県岩手郡雫石町長山篠川原174


Heya chaps!

For those of us who remember the Shizukuishi ski trips, there’s a rather pleasant fellow who organises this all for us, simply named Joe. Long story short, he is also organising relief efforts throught Iwate and has come to me requesting if we can donate goods and funds. Specifically, his focus is on mothers and children. I quote “At the coast people need various things, at various times. For the now, it is not so much clothes, but washing/drying machines. But, refugees staying in the hotels in this area need things like socks, underwear, et al. One of the problems not being recognised are the mothers and children who left the area at first and have not been tracked. They typically have  lost their spouse, lost their home, lost their job, so we are trying to create a safety network for them”.

Obviously with the amount of devastation, it is hard to help everyone at the same time. As a community we have done a tremendous job with the two trips so far to kesenuma and the orphanage in Sendai. But I’d like us next to try and raise goods as well for these people in need in Iwate.

Secondly, volunteer work. Every sunday, a volunteer team goes to Miyako, Iwate to do clean-up work. I know that some of us are just itching to help out, so if you are interested to get involved with this, please e-mail myself or Paul and we will put you on the list of volunteers:
I’ll try and arrange a time in a few weeks for us all to go down. (Even if there is only four of us, every little we help has a big impact on the lifes and communities trying to get their lives back to “normal”). Chatting about this with Joe, he suggested this “My recommendation, come over to shizukuishi saturday night, stay at a pension here in shizukuishi (I will try to get discount, and get an explanation on events), then rise early in the morning, meet the team in Morioka City, caravan out to the coast, return in the evening…. ”

We don’t necessarily have to go by that route. So first let’s do this. Get a group together of volunteers, and then we can get ttogether and talk about how and when we want to operate.

Love to hear from you Akita!




– Minami

Smiles & Dreams: Tohoku Kids Project, Sendai Orphanage

A small army of bikes getting ready for a trip to the orphanage!

First off, none of this would have been possible without the help from two amazing organizations working tirelessly in Japan right now.  SmileKidsJapan and LivingDreams are doing BIG things for the orphans effected by the recent disaster, and I just want to express how grateful I am to be working a long side of them, and making things happen.  Please check them out at and Yesterday (Saturday) Mark Dawson and myself headed to an orphanage located outside of Sendai to drop off some items they requested.  We spent the whole night Friday scrambling to get everything set for the trip, and we managed to make it all happen (BIG UPS to Mark!).  The trip itself was pretty easy going despite some set backs on the expressway, but in the end the delivery was a success and that’s what matters the most.  The drop off itself was quick/easy, and before we knew it we were back on the expressway heading back to Akita!  The folks at the orphanage were very kind and grateful that we made it, and the orphanage itself looked pretty sweet!  It was located in a very nice neighborhood and the building itself looked very clean and modern!  There are currently 80 kids staying at the facility, Minami and I have been named official contact people for the orphanage in case they need anything else down the road.  I wish them the best, and I look forward to hanging out with the kiddos sometime soon!


現在、孤児院の支援活動をしているSmile Kids JapanとLiving Dreams の方々と一緒に活動させて頂いているのですが、今回ポールと私が仙台のとある孤児院の連絡担当をさせて頂くことになりました。第一回目の活動として、リクエストのあった自転車5台と電子レンジ2台、ブランケット5枚を届けにポールと友人のマークが二人で仙台へ行ってきました。(私は残念ながら仕事で行くことができませんでした。)



Heading to Kesennuma, Miyagi

Pit stop in Yokote, Akita! Car full of supplies!

First off a HUGE thanks to Erica and Mike for all their help along the way, and the Akita community who pulled together on such short notice to donate some really useful supplies.  Wednesday we contacted the man in charge of a shelter down in Kesennuma (Oikawa-san).  He told us they would take EVERYTHING we had, so we packed the car up Wednesday night and hit the road at 5a.m. the next day.  One specific request from the shelter was to bring them some bananas!  Fortunately we planned to bring as many fruits down as possible, so we had some money set aside for that.  We contacted a local fruit vendor nearby and they told us to swing by.  I have to say it was the BEST start to this trip.  The old couple who owned the shop were the sweetest people ever, and were totally down for the cause.  Not only did they give us 120 bananas for super cheap, they threw in 2 cases of apples for free!  Then, right as we were pulling out, Oba-chan ran up to the car and gave us 2 packages of strawberries as well! It was amazing, and from that point on, I knew the day would go well.  The drive was quick and easy! We stopped in Yokote to fill up just in case the gas situation was still spotty out east.  After that we hopped on the IC and was heading into central Kesennuma by 9:30a.m.  We were super fortunate on our drive in because there wasn’t much traffic.  Navigating the city was pretty straight forward as well, so we arrived at the shelter around 10:00a.m.  We didn’t know what to expect when we got there so it was a bit nerve-wracking, but as we pulled up it was nice to see how chilled out it was.  People were waiting in line to use make-shift showers, kids were running around playing, and the crew working there was super kind and appreciative of our journey down.  Everyone joined in on unloading the car so we got that done pretty quickly.  After that we got to sit down with Oikawa-san and chat with him about everything going on at the shelter.  He explained to us their daily routines and how the shelter is functioning on a daily basis.

Debris wrapped around a pole

Essentially, there are 3 shelters close in proximity; the elementary school, junior high, and a community center.  All 3 shelters are linked together and all eat at the same location.  Right now, the Japanese military is in charge of their meals.  They receive a bowl of rice and miso soup for their meals, which is why they are requesting fruits and other things like furikake and okazu.  Combined, the 3 shelters are accommodating about 1100 people.  The school gym was being used as a collection center/play area, they even had little internet stations set up, which was pretty neat.  After chatting with Oikawa-san we said our goodbyes and told him we would be back, hopefully with LOTS of FRUIT!  In our chat with him he asked us if we had been down near the coast yet.  We told him no, because Minami and I both had mixed feelings about going down to see the devastation.  But Oikawa-san requested that we go down and see it, so we can tell people what we saw and how we felt, to raise awareness of the massive devastation that took place not only in Kesennuma but all along the east coast of Tohoku.  In honoring his request, we did a quick drive through on our way out.  Words can’t express how intense the devastation was, and it was definitely something we had never experienced before.  Despite the devasttion, there were some really amazing experiences that we came across on this quick little day trip across Japan.  From the sweet Oba-chan we met in the morning to the many people working tirelessly to keep the shelters functioning, it was nice to see how everyone was pulling together to help out in this time of need.  I just hope everyone reading this finds some way to get involved and make a difference.  As we all know, this is going to be a very long process, and I really hope we can continue to come together and fight it until the end.  MUCH LOVE folks.














5toSurvive with Melody!

Hey all!
Thanks for your interest in the 5tosurvive run this Sunday (April,10), 3:00pm.   SORRY! I decided to do this so last minute so  I apologize everything is so rushed!  This Sunday at 3:11 people over Japan and the world will run/jog/walk a 5k in their different towns/cities to honor the victims of the March 11th quake and tsunami and try to raise money before.  Many JETS around the country are participating and AJET is a main sponsor of this event.  My hope is we can get a group together to enjoy some exercise and promote a good cause!  They recommend trying to raise any donations before online as running or even walking with donation buckets will be a challenge and I am still trying to figure out the legal restrictions of it.  It is easy to create a donation page online so that friends, family, other ALTs can support.
All the directions are here at:

which will lead you to:

Here is a link to my page:

However I think small signs or small banners in Japanese saying what we are walking or running for would be tight if we could get them together.  Here is a map route I have worked out: Let me know if you want to change it.  I am open to anything.  It is all through the main part of the city which means very slow and crowded, but would be nice to  let people know why we are running/walking.  I am trying it this afternoon.  It starts at the station and ends at the station.

Maybe afterwards we can do a dinner or picnic or split a chuhai haha!  Just let me know if you are still interested in donating, participating or anything!!!  Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!


Big THANKS to Mel for getting this together! So much FUN!