The end of August tends to carry with it a push for fall and a desire for cooler weather. Although many retail stores try to move the seasons along by changing to autumn decorations in August, the incessant chorus of the cicadas tells a different story.
This summer, thanks to you, the children at Funakoshi Elementary School in Yamada were able to stay cool, playing with their new pool equipment.
After returning home from my vacation, there was a beautiful thank you letter waiting for me from Mr. Sasaki, the principal of Funakoshi Elementary school in Yamada. Thanks to your generous contributions Renew Yamada was able to make another humble donation to the children in Yamada in June. Mr. Sasaki was grateful that they could purchase some much needed pool equipment and stated that it helped the children build up their swimming skills, as well as relieved stress from the long, hot summer.
School is in session most of the summer in Japan with only a very short break. The Funakoshi students were fortunate to have a pool to use and as you can see from the pictures, they certainly look like they are enjoying their new equipment. Mr. Sasaki says that with the tsunami now two years behind them, the children seem somewhat back to normal. He does say however, that continued support for them will be vital.
On my last trip to Yamada I notice not much had changed for the majority of the tsunami victims. Homes and buildings are not allowed to be rebuilt in the areas closest to the shoreline. A little further inland some buildings have been given the ‘go’ sign, but only after building a base of over three meters (sometimes costing more then the house). There are a few people fortunate enough to afford land further inland on higher ground to rebuild a permanent home, but these are the exceptions.
This week I traveled to Kobe for work. Before checking into my hotel I stopped to enjoy the upbeat sound of brass band tunes played by the Kobe police band giving an outdoor concert on a warm Friday evening. My husband often says, heiwa da naa 平和だなあ(signs of peacetime, eh) when he sees joyful, stress-free scenes, like this. This was the same city that experienced a 6.9 (richter scale) Great Hanshin Earthquake back in 1995, killing nearly 6,500 people, injuring over 25,000, leaving 300,000 homeless and damaging 100,000 buildings.You would never know that from the looks of this thriving city today.
Shortly after the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, I attended a brain storming session held at the UN University in Tokyo. At the conference, individuals from NPO’s, academics, government officials and business owners gathered to share ideas on how the re-building in the Tohoku region should be approached. One gentlemen in my group was from Kobe and had witnessed the comeback after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. To my surprise, he told us a story of disappointment. While citizens of Kobe certainly were appreciative of the quick rebound, he felt that too many large corporations got there hands in the pie and completely changed the quaintness of Kobe. Japan is a country full of cities that are proud of their history, ancient buildings, and products that are still made locally by local specialists. He felt somehow that was lost in the re-building of Kobe and did not wish that same thing to happen in Tohoku.
Fortunately, there are few places where this is happening in Tohoku because unfortunately, there is no where near the intensity of building in these scattered coastal communities as was seen in Kobe. Why is the same amount of money and intensity not being infused to the individuals of Tohoku? The answer, of course, is not simple. I wonder if the fact that there is just not the same level of return on investment rebuilding homes for low-income, elderly people in rural areas as there was re-building a metropolis like Kobe. Regardless of the reasons, I hope that the people of Tohoku will one day enjoy listening to outdoor concerts in a stree-free, peaceful atmosphere. 平和だなあ！