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)


3 Comments on “the BIG CLEAN – Miyako Volunteer Report, April 24”

  1. Melissa says:

    Thank you to everyone – the organizers, the volunteers, and especially the community for allowing us to help clean their town. They put a lot of trust in us to be there and take care of things that are important to them. It was personally relieving to see many children playing around the park, laughing and smiling with their families. I am grateful to have met so many generous people and hope to see them, as well as many new faces, again soon!

  2. […] 寄付 From the Front Lines: Miyako Volunteer Report, April 24 […]

  3. […] Volunteer Akita for more information about volunteering […]

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