Soka Gakkai President Visits Evacuees in Sendai, Relief Efforts Continue
Efforts by Soka Gakkai to provide emergency relief and encourage those sheltered at Soka Gakkai centers throughout the Tohoku region continue in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunamis that hit the region on March 11.
On March 17, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada and national youth leader Yoshinori Sato visited the Soka Gakkai Tohoku Culture Center in Sendai City which is being used as a regional emergency communications center. They spoke to each person staying there, listening to their needs in order to provide the most appropriate relief and support. Mr. Harada also shared a message from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, in which he praised the spirit of perseverance of the people of Tohoku, and expressed his respect for those exerting themselves to support others through relief efforts and his condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
Mr. Harada then travelled to the Soka Gakkai Wakabayashi Peace Center where he spoke with people seeking shelter there.
On March 16, Soka Gakkai youth volunteers from Hokkaido, Aomori and Akita prefectures reached the Iwate Culture Center. They met with Soka Gakkai Iwate prefectural youth leader Shun'ichi Tomita to organize the delivery of relief supplies throughout the region, based on requests from the affected areas.
On March 15, the first delivery of relief materials reached Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture which had been out of communication since the earthquake. Otsuchi, located on the coast, had been completely isolated due to the earthquake, tsunamis and fires.
The delivery was made possible due to the efforts of one Soka Gakkai member from Otsuchi, Masaki Takagi, whose own home was completely swept away by the tsunami. He was able to contact the Soka Gakkai Iwate Culture Center after driving 80km to Hanamaki City where he finally found a working phone. On contacting the Iwate Culture Center, Mr. Takagi was able to notify them of conditions in Otsuchi, requesting relief supplies be sent, including blankets, food and water. He also clarified that the roads near the wildfire that had broken out in the area were still accessible and that Otsuchi was reachable.
On hearing this, Soka Gakkai Iwate prefectural leader Nintei Kasai immediately headed to Otsuchi with relief materials, arriving on the same day.
Since March 16, the Soka Gakkai Tome Center has been functioning as an emergency support base to assist the coastal communities of Kesennuma City and Minami Sanriku town in Miyagi Prefecture.
After the tsunami hit Kesennuma, fires broke out, blocking many roads and cutting off communication. Akihiko Morishima, regional leader of Soka Gakkai in Miyagi, set off to search for routes to Kesennuma, successfully reaching the house of Hitoshi Kojima, a local leader in the area.
Early in the morning of March 17, Mr. Morishima and Mr. Kojima initiated their own relief efforts, bringing supplies to shelters in Kesennuma despite the heavy snow.
In Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, the Soka Gakkai Shiogama Culture Center is being used as an emergency communications center and has been providing water to elderly people in the eastern part of the city who cannot walk to the place where water is being provided. Noting that it will take more than one month to restore regular supplies, the town council leader of Higashi Shiogama shared his deep appreciation for Soka Gakkai's relief efforts.
[Adapted from an article in the March 18, 2011, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]