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.















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