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Humanitarian Activities

Back to listMar 16, 2011

Contact Reestablished with Soka Gakkai Centers in Coastal Areas; Assistance Provided

Soka Gakkai Ishinomaki Culture Center Relief materials being distributed at the Soka Gakkai Ishinomaki Culture Center (March 15)

In the wake of the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, Mr. Kazuo Nirasawa, the regional leader of Soka Gakkai in Tohoku, and Mr. Akihiko Morishima, Miyagi prefectural leader, met with Miyagi Prefectural Governor Yoshihiro Murai on March 15 to report on the assistance being provided to 3,000 people now seeking refuge at Soka Gakkai centers in Miyagi Prefecture alone. They discussed how to best cooperate in supporting victims of the earthquake.

On the same day, Soka Gakkai representatives held a similar meeting with Mayor Emiko Okuyama of Sendai City at the Sendai City Office.

Meeting Miyagi Prefectural Governor Mr. Morishima (far left) and Mr. Nirasawa (second from left) meet with Miyagi Prefectural Governor Yoshihiro Murai (second from right) at the Miyagi Prefectural Office (March 15)

Since the day of the quake, no news had been received from two Soka Gakkai centers in Ishinomaki, a coastal town near a peninsula in the northeastern part of Miyagi Prefecture. On March 14, a message finally reached the Soka Gakkai Tohoku Culture Center in Sendai City, informing them that many evacuees were being housed at the Ishinomaki Peace Center. On the same day, Soka Gakkai members set off by car to the Ishinomaki Peace Center to deliver relief supplies. After searching for the least damaged roads and with frequent rerouting, they finally arrived at the center that evening.

Ms. Tokue Kumagai, one of evacuees at the center, had taken her two children there immediately after the earthquake. She was then hit by the tsunami while checking on the safety of her elderly neighbors. Fortunately, she was swept to the second floor of a house where she waited in the cold and snow overnight. She was able to reach the center and be reunited with her children the following day.

onagawa A Soka Gakkai member delivering relief goods encourages people at a shelter in Onagawa (March 15)

At around 9pm on Monday March 14, communication was finally reestablished with another center in the same city; the Ishinomaki Culture Center, and it was discovered that the center was intact and providing shelter for those affected in the area. At 6am on March 15th, Soka Gakkai volunteers, led by Tohoku Regional Adviser Mr. Kuniaki Yamada, set off from Sendai City with relief aid for them, including food supplies. The first floor of the Ishinomaki Culture Center, which is situated about one and a half kilometers from the coast, had been completely flooded, and some 130 people were taking shelter on the second floor. Mr. Jiro Shimomura, who was on volunteer duty at the center at the time of the earthquake, had called out to those running down the street to evacuate to the center's upper floor.

map_tohoku_japan Tohoku Map

 

Next Mr. Yamada headed to Onagawa town, on the other side of the peninsula. Onagawa, located in a cove, was severely damaged by the tsunami, which reached about 10 meters in height. There the members delivered relief materials in other places providing shelter such as local nursery schools and civic halls.

At 7:30 pm on March 13, six Soka Gakkai youth members driving two trucks carrying relief supplies from the Soka Gakkai Hokkaido Culture Center in Sapporo city, Hokkaido, departed for the Soka Gakkai Iwate Culture Center. Taking a ferry from Hakodate, after numerous obstacles they finally reached the Iwate Culture Center around 6 pm on March 14.

Hokkaido Youth Soka Gakkai Youth Division members in Hokkaido load relief materials into a truck headed for Iwate Prefecture (March 13)

[Adapted from an article in the March 16, 2011, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]