Soka Gakkai Members Plant Seeds of Hope in Earthquake Aftermath
Four months after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, individual Soka Gakkai members continue to make efforts toward recovery in their affected areas, by putting their skills to use and becoming sources of hope for those in the community.
Yasuhiro Izumi and his wife Yuka sought shelter at an elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, for about one month after the earthquake. One day, in a package of relief supplies sent by relatives and friends, they found packets of sunflower seeds along with a message card saying, "It must be a very challenging time for you, but we hope that watching these sunflowers grow this summer will brighten your spirits." Seeing all the destruction and debris in Ishinomaki, Mr. and Mrs. Izumi decided to plant the sunflower seeds throughout the city with the aim of reviving a sense of hope within the community.
On May 3, Mr. and Mrs. Izumi, together with a fellow member from the evacuation center, Kiyotaka Kamiyama, formed a volunteer group called "New Ishinomaki--Ever Victorious Group" and started planting seeds and flowers throughout the city.
News of this movement spread quickly and, as a result, they were able to receive more than 320,000 seeds of 53 different varieties from throughout Japan, as well as from the United States. After receiving permission from the government, the group began weeding and tilling soil in the city and planted seeds, including along major roads and highways within the city and prefecture.
In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, Soka Gakkai member Nobuo Suzuki has been providing free massages to those living in evacuation centers throughout the city.
Mr. Suzuki was working at a prefectural hospital when the March 11 earthquake struck. Due to damage to the hospital, patients had to be evacuated. Mr. Suzuki voluntarily transported patients to nearby hospitals, ensuring that each person had a place to sleep. After receiving official permission from his employers, he began visiting evacuation centers in order to provide free professional massages to evacuees.
Despite having cataracts and other eye problems, Mr. Suzuki gives massages to some 60 people on busy days. He shared his determination to bring hope and comfort to the people in his community.
[Adapted from articles in the June 30 and July 1, issues of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun.]