Soka Gakkai Continues Relief Efforts in Tohoku and Shin'etsu Regions
The Soka Gakkai central emergency communications center at the Tokyo Headquarters, together with Soka Gakkai community centers serving as emergency centers throughout the affected Tohoku region, continue to provide relief to those affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The organization is also providing emergency assistance to those affected by a further strong earthquake which hit the Shin'etsu region of central Japan on March 12.
In addition to the provision of shelter, food and other basic necessities, in an effort to provide moral support to those who have been displaced and are now staying at Soka Gakkai centers, Soka Gakkai leaders from the affected areas are visiting the centers to offer individual encouragement to the victims. Representative Soka Gakkai youth members have also been dispatched to the affected areas to offer assistance.
On March 14, Mr. Kazuo Nirasawa, the regional leader of Soka Gakkai in Tohoku, expressed his heartfelt thanks to all those supporting relief activities in the region. He stated, "Some 3,500 people are being sheltered at 21 Soka Gakkai centers throughout Tohoku. We are doing our utmost best to provide a support system for these people." Mr. Nirasawa expressed his regret at how difficult it still is to reach people in tsunami-stricken areas.
At the Soka Gakkai Wakabayashi Peace Center in Miyagi Prefecture, Soka Gakkai women members acting as volunteers to provide relief at the center, including some who have lost their own homes, created large badges inscribed with the Japanese phrase "gambaro!" meaning "Let's do our best" or "Let's hang in there."
On March 13, Soka Gakkai members gathered at the Soka Gakkai Iwate Culture Center to discuss how to find people still missing in seaside communities hit by the tsunami and how best to provide support to people in the area. Soka Gakkai leaders and youth formed teams and set off to the cities of Kamaishi, Ofunato, Miyako and Rikuzentakata to aid in rescue efforts.
Mr. Nintei Kasai, the prefectural leader of Soka Gakkai in Iwate, together with youth leader Mr. Tetsuo Nagai, went to the particularly badly hit seaside community of Kamaishi to deliver food, water and relief supplies. Along the way, they stopped at the city of Tono to pick up blankets donated by Soka Gakkai members there.
The Soka Gakkai Kamaishi Culture Center, which is also being used as an emergency communications center, is being run by local youth members. Mr. Kasai reported hearing stories of great courage and fortitude from those rescued, many of whom immediately joined relief efforts following their own rescue. One local member whose home was just beyond the reach of the tsunami had opened his home to help assess relief needs of local residents.
At 3:59 am on Saturday March 12, another massive earthquake hit the Shin'etsu area of central Japan. In Sakae-mura, Nagano Prefecture, the earthquake measured an upper 6. Roads and railroads were blocked, and houses damaged. In Tokamachi city and Tsunanmachi, Niigata Prefecture, the earthquake also caused serious damage.
Soka Gakkai in Nagano and Niigata set up emergency communication centers and began relief efforts in response. In close coordination with the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Tokyo, these centers are gathering accurate information and reaching out to communicate with and encourage those affected.
[Adapted from an article in the March 15, 2011, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]