The Japanese American Association of New York, also known as "JAA" has celebrated our "100 Years of Community Service" in 2007-2008.
"While the beneficiaries of our services have changed over the years, our services have also evolved to meet those needs. Throughout, we remain true to our original mission to serve the Japanese American and Japanese Community."
Coming up JAA activities! Please join us!
JAA's moves to New Home
Our new office and community center opened on Monday, October 6, 2014!
Address: 49 West 45th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10036
(bet: 5th Ave. & 6th Ave.) Book Off is on the ground floor and JACK’s is next door.
Telephone numbers and internet address remain the same.
We look forward to everyone's support as we fundraise to make it possible to continue to serve the Japanese and Japanese American community of New York.
While several weeks have passed since the tragic earthquake and tsunami hit Northeastern Japan, aftershocks and nuclear fallout from the Fukushima power plant continue to exert emotional and physical strain on the victims, rescue workers and nation as a whole. Their need for financial support during this rehabilitation and rebuilding process is as urgent as ever.
- Make a Check Donation: Payable to Japanese American Association of New York, Inc. (Mail to: Japanese American Association of New York, 49 West 45th Street, 11th Floor New York, NY 10036)
- Call/email for more information: 212-840-6942 or email@example.com
JAPAN Disaster Relief Fund
JAA donated $50,000 to The Tono Magokoro Net, which is a Tono City disaster relief volunteer network established by mainly Tono citizens in an effort to support the Iwate Prefecture Seaboard disaster area (Otsuchi, Kamaishi, Ofunato and Rikuzen Takata) hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Also JAA donated $5,000 to NECT and $4,000 to the Japanese Children Society (New York Ikuei Gakunen) to create cultural exchange programs for Japanese students in Tohoku.
Bobby Valentine with Young Baseball Players visited Tohoku, JAPAN.
From August 1st to 10th , JAA in partnership with the Kizuna Foundation, sponsored 14 young baseball players on a goodwill trip to the Tohoku region of Japan. Bobby Valentine, former MLB player and manager, as well as manager of the Japan Series Champions Chiba Lotte Marines in 2005, traveled with the team to Ofunato, a small town in Iwate Prefecture. There, along with his staff and parent volunteers, he conducted a baseball clinic and tournaments. Bobby noted that the mission of the visit is to let those in Tohoku who suffered as a result of the triple disaster of March 11, 2011 know that they are not forgotten. The visit culminated on August 9 at Kobo Stadium, home of the Rakuten Eagles, where the players met the Eagles players and coaches and toured the stadium. Mr. Masa Tanaka, Deputy President of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Delta Air Lines representatives and Mr. Gary Moriwaki, JAA Honorary President were in attendance.
Mr. Moriwaki said "In 1934, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other future Hall of Famers made a goodwill trip to Japan and actually played in Sendai. Now, 80 years later, we continue in the same tradition-baseball is what connects us across generations and national borders." The program has received the very generous support of Delta Air Lines, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the Rakuten Eagles, MLB, the Greenwich Village Little League, Lexco Wealth Management, and Mr. Kazuyuki Tokiwa.
Update from Earthquake and Tsunami Ravaged Areas in Japan
by Eiich Kuwana
My travels recently took me to Fukushima where I spent time with two non-profit organizations (NPOs); CWS Japan and Shalom, supported by the Japanese American Association of NY (JAA), with the generosity of the JAA members and supporters. Both organizations carved out time to explain the current situation facing residents; in particular, children in Fukushima. The children are considered to be at higher risk to radiation damage than adults. We visited a day-care center for children aged six months to kindergarten, only 40 miles away from Fukushima nuclear plants. (the classroom in the photo depicts two and three year olds). Shalom's office monitors the area to record radioactive "hot" spots.
In the day-care center yard, there is the satellite looking machine which shows "0.136" (0.136 micro Sieverts of radiation per hour). In Japan, a reading of less than 0.230 qualifies as being "acceptable", assuming that the "average" person spends only 8 hours a day outside.
Moreover, "hot spots" exist in many pockets within Fukushima. We found numerous areas that registered greater than 0.650 micro Sieverts, which is substantially higher than the acceptable limit of 0.230. A distressing aspect of these readings is the fact that there is a kindergarten and a road used for those local children to commute to their schools along the path.
What cannot be disputed is that living with such concerns on a daily basis affects the mental state of the inhabitants of the area. Therefore, we applaud and support the efforts of Shalom, which has, as one of its core missions, to bring children away for weekends at a time from radiation affected areas to cleaner regions of Japan so that these children can play outdoors without fear of being exposed to radiation. The photo of children wading in a local brook is unimaginable in Fukushima, and this was made possible due to Shalom sponsoring a trip for these children to a different prefecture (state) in Japan. Even just for a weekend, kids need to be kids.
Your generous donations have made it possible for Fukushima children to enjoy moments of peace and relaxation, and JAA and I thank you for your continued support.
Three Years After
On February 22, 2014, along with Satoshi Kitahama of the Kizuna Foundation, I made a trip to visit several towns in Iwate prefecture. Over the past three years we have worked very closely with the Foundation on several projects in and around the town of Ofunato, which suffered greatly during the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Being a community based organization, JAA sought to find local partners with whom it could establish a long lasting and productive partnership. With the guidance of Kitahama san, we were able to help local fishermen and fishing cooperatives get back on their feet. The photos you see here show how JAA's funding helped the cooperative raise the pier, which had sunk by one meter after the earthquake. Now it has been restored to its original height, and you can see that the fishing boats are back and that there is renewed activity in the port. The other photos show what a beautiful region it is; forest covered mountains coming down to the blue ocean, with its abundant life that sustains local businesses. We are honored to have been a part of this project, which is one of the bright spots in the Tohoku region.
We continue our work in the region. In early August, we will bring a team of young baseball players from the US to play with their counterparts in Tohoku. The team will be led and managed by Bobby Valentine, who has been a tremendous partner of JAA. Our plans again center around Ofunato. Close to 80 players from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are expected to participate. We have connected with local baseball groups, sponsors, and fans. By coincidence, a team from San Diego will also be in Ofunato, and we are coordinating our efforts with them. If you'd like to assist in this project by contributing funds or your time and energy, kindly let us know.
I attended The TOGETHER FOR 3.11, the Third Anniversary Memorial for Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami Victims on March 9, 2014 with Ambassador Sumio Kusaka and Amb. Motoatsu Sakurai, president of Japan Society.
(Reported by Mr. Gary Moriwaki, Honorary President)
Present "Hina no Tsurushikazari" to Sandy Hook Elementary School
(l to r) Dr. Abbey, Dr. Gejda, Dr. Reed, Mr. Aoyagi, Ms. Noda and Mr. Kato
On December 19, Consul Mr. Yoshikatsu Aoyagi, JAA director Mr. Shuji Kato and JAA executive director Mrs. Michiyo Noda visited Newtown Public Schools District office (Sandy Hook Elementary School is one of school of this district) in CT and handed to district officers, Dr. David E. Abbey, Dr. Linda A. Gejda and Dr. John R. Reed "Hina no Tsurushikazari" mobile-like hanging dolls and toys made by the 155 adult students at the Kikkomazagi School (founder Mr. & Mrs. Masatoshi Sasaki) in Miyagi Prefecture.
The district officers gave us a warm welcome and appreciated this surprise gift from Japan.
When victims of the terrible tsunami and earthquake that hit Miyagi Prefecture in 2011 heard of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Dec. 2012, they wanted to send something beautiful to bring smiles to the children and to show their appreciation of USA's support of Tsunami & Earthquake in 2011.
This project was started with an e-mail from Dr. Ayako Ishimaru who donated $30,000.00 to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund Report from President Gary S. Moriwaki
Tadashi Yamamoto, President of Peace Boat, visited JAA at our Board Meeting on October 2, 2013.
Peace Boat is one of the volunteer organizations that JAA has partnered with in the aftermath of the March 11 triple disasters. We first met Yamamoto San (everyone calls him "Jr" since his dad also worked for Peace Boat) in May of 2011 in Ishinomaki. Accompanying me on the trip was fellow board member Riki Ito and member Yoko Makino. At that time the devastation was very much in evidence as it was barely two months after the earthquake and tsunami destroyed a large part of Ishinomaki and caused a tremendous loss of life and property. Jr, his staff and so many volunteers were dedicated to serving hot meals, cleaning debris and giving emotional support to the survivors. They graciously took time to show and explain to us their activities. We were so impressed and so began our collaboration, which continues to this day.
At our board meeting Jr. gave us details on the Ima Koko Project that JAA has agreed to support. Eiichiro Kuwana have personally participated in this endeavor with his sons, HS students Kiyomasa & Hiroyuki. It involves embedding young volunteers with fishermen and seaweed processors to provide human resources that will enable traditional businesses to get back on their feet, generate income for their employees and themselves and thereby help rejuvenate the local economy. Many local people have taken lucrative construction jobs in the area, leading to a shortage of staff available to work with the more traditional businesses. Please see Kiyomasa's report of Ima Koko Project at www.jaany.org
We look forward to reports from Jr. on this and other projects in the future.
Mr. Moriwaki and Mrs. Gail A. Grimmett
The presentation of the donation of $15,000 from Delta Air Lines to JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund was held on Monday, November 11, 2013 at JAA Hall. Mrs. Gail A. Grimmett, Delta's Senior Vice President – New York, and Mr. Gary S. Moriwaki joined this presentation.
Delta's donation will go to support Tohoku to help young people in the radiation-affected Fukushima area, to rebuild devastated fishing ports and to support mental health networking in the area. This $15,000 donation is a continuation of Delta's continuing Japan disaster relief efforts. Previously, Delta donated US$1 million in cash and in-kind support for disaster relief efforts. Additionally, Delta matched 5 million SkyMiles donations from customers to benefit World Vision Japan. Delta's Japan-based employees in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity International organized volunteer events in Tohoku to support rebuilding efforts in the community. Finally, Delta is a proud sponsor of TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership born out of support for Japan's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as entrepreneurship and leadership programs.
Presentation to Mr. Hideki Matsui From JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund
Mr. Matsui with Mr. Ramani, Mr. Kuwana,
Mr. Moriwaki, Mr. Kato & Mr. Takeda
In honor of Hideki Matsui’s retirement from the New York Yankees, the Japanese American Association of New York was pleased to present a check in the amount of $50,000 to CWS/Shalom in his name. Hideki helped JAA select Shalom because Shalom’s mission to help young people in the radiation affected Fukushima area resonated strongly with his own passion to help children. Presentation was held on Monday, September 9, 2013 at JAA Hall.
Shalom provides children in Fukushima with the opportunity to play and study in non-radiation-contaminated areas to reduce their internal accumulation of radiation. Children represent a particularly vulnerable group. Shalom’s programming will enable the children to survive their hardship, share their experiences with others and relieve their stress.
Hideki’s and JAA’s support will allow Shalom to continue its work and at the same time, advocate to the Japanese Government the need for long term government funding. Speaking from CWS’ Asian headquarters, CWS and Shalom want to convey to Hideki how excited the children are to find out that their programs are supported by him.2012 – 2013 JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund Report (hide/show)
Thank you letter from Florence/New York Fukushima Kenjin-kai
Dear Mr.Gary Moriwaki, Dr.Kamal Ramani, Ms.Susan Onuma, Mr.David Hiromura, and Mr.Katsuo Takeda-
Thank you for your recent generous donation of USD 50,000 to NPO Florence that runs two indoor parks in Fukushima prefecture-. I just heard their happy voice from Japan yesterday.
Fukushima prefecture is my hometown and my families and many friends still live there having many difficult problems resulting from the nuclear accident. The situation has not been greatly improved yet even after more than 2 years have passed. Especially, how to deal with radioactivity in their daily life has been one of the major issues.
JAA's commitment to helping children and their families who have been living under such a tough circumstance is surely appreciated by those who help them, and most importantly, by those who benefit from two indoor parks--- children in Fukushima prefecture.
Thank you again for you and all JAA' members who kindly gave us a chance to introduce NPO Florence. The path we all will be proceeding is a long long way, but I'm sure your generous contribution encourages NPO Florence and the people who work hard to improve the living and playing environment for kids in Fukushima.
We will also keep dedicating ourselves to support the people in Fukushima remotely, here living in New York.
New York Fukushima Kenjin-Kai
Report from Mr. Eiich Kuwana
Report from Mr. Kuwana as 7/13/2013
On Saturday, July 13, 2013, a festive ceremony took place to commemorate the rebuilding of the port in Ryori, a small fishing village on the outskirts of Ofunato, a city of slightly less than 39,00 people, in Iwate Prefecture. Your contribution to the Earthquake and Relief Fund at the Japanese American Association of New York (“JAANY”) was instrumental in securing this victory for the fishermen of Ryori, who witnessed their livelihood disappear within minutes when the tsunami following the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011 absolutely devastated the fishing port. Through the diligent and inspiring work of the local community, however, and with the help of one of our partners on the ground, Satoshi Kitahama and Kizuna Foundation, this project is one of only 2 out of the more than 250 devastated ports that has successfully come back on line. JAANY is most honored and privileged to be associated with this very unique turnaround.
Time has a way of making us forget what is not readily in front of us. Lest we forget, I have attached photographs that provide vivid reminders of the destruction and mayhem brought by the tsunami (please see “Ryori during tsunami” and “Ryori immediately after tsunami” photos). In a span of a couple of hours, the 300 fisherman who use the port facilities and the thousands of residents who rely on this fishing complex for their livelihood, lost their economic engine (please see “Ryori” photo, which was the state of the fishing factory when I visited Ryori in May 2012).
As I wrote in earlier updates, deploying capital in endeavors that can create and sustain employment is critical in generating a self-reliant recovery for all community members, young and old, male and female. While the national government has allocated significant sums of capital for the rebuilding of devastated communities, due to various reasons, very little of that largesse has made it to the coastal towns. Enter Satoshi Kitahama and Kizuna Foundation. Satoshi helped fishermen, with very little knowledge of how to tap into the national government budget, navigate the labyrinth web of national bureaucracy and politics to help secure funding.
Part of their success rested on the fact that there was private capital from the JAANY disaster fund and other private parties that Ryori and Kizuna Foundation were able to point to for credibility purposes; government officials were willing to extend capital to Ryori because they knew that there was a serious, private effort to get the community back on its feet. Moreover, your donation and support of the project lent a sense of priority, something lacking in the area as all initiatives are considered important and, thus, nothing can move forward. In effect, your donation has had a multiplier effect.
Having succeeded in generating enough funding to reconstruct the port, construction began in earnest in February, 2013 (please see the photo “Ryori construction phase”).
All the reconstruction effort culminated in the grand opening ceremony a week ago. “Ryori offering prayer” photo shows Satoshi offering prayers and gratitude to the local Shinto gods, while “Koishihama Traditional Dance Performance” photo depicts the “feeding” of a deity, a most propitious symbol for prosperity and vigor. The dance is over 700 years old and is particular to the Koishihama residents.
The success of this project provides a stunning example of how your generosity has helped propel a devastated community regain its raison d’・tre and given them a bright future. As always, we appreciate and are humbled by your continued support.
Ima Koko Project
My brother (Hiroyuki) and I enrolled in a volunteer program sponsored by Peace Boat, a nonprofit organization committed to aiding the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake of two years ago. The trip lasted four days, from July 15th to the 19th. Although we had not travelled to any of the afflicted areas since the earthquake, we wanted to get a first hand look at the progress being made within these two years. We journeyed to Ishinomaki, Miyagi (one of the countless areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake) via bullet train. Arriving in Yagawa, a town in Ishinomaki, we observed several piles of debris; all debris was allocated in specific areas, and the towns and villages seemed to return to “normal” life (as much as possible, of course).
Mr. Masao Atsumi, the fisherman whom we helped, had his home destroyed by the tsunami; he and his family currently reside in a temporary housing facility. My brother and I stayed in one of those humble facilities with two other volunteers who had been doing this volunteer work for about two weeks. Our room was modest, and we (including the other two volunteers) cooked our lunches and some dinners—it was my first experience at preparing a meal! Throughout our stay, we cooked curry and fried rice, among other delicious (?) foods.
We were graciously treated to a feast by Mr. Atsumi on the day of our arrival consisting of whale bacon, french fries, fried chicken, and other delicacies. The following morning, Mr. Atsumi invited everyone to observe the weekly trolling. However, this required everyone to be on the boat at 4 AM. We accepted his invitation. He added that tomorrow would be an “off day” to allow the other two volunteers to have a break. Both my brother and I were bewildered by this news, because my father had told us before our travels that we may experience a hellish experience. As we later found out, our experience was not tantamount to hell, but rather a pleasant surprise.
On a chilly morning, we witnessed a variety of fish, ranging from flounder to jellyfish, including some rays! A plethora of seagulls flew right above the boat, but none were audacious enough to swoop in and pilfer the fish. As we sailed back to shore, the orange sun peeked out, illuminating the sky in a brilliant red and orange. After taking a relaxing nap and eating a small breakfast, Mr. Atsumi brought us on a boat at 9 AM and gave us some fresh scallops and hoya to eat—right out of the sea! My brother claimed that both items tasted “like the sea” as they had a unique salty taste.
That afternoon, the other two volunteers drove us to Onagawa, an adjacent town in Ishinomaki, to learn more about the disaster. Several roadwork areas impeded our trip. Mr. Atsumi later informed us that the roadwork was one year overdue, and they were even reconstructing roads that no one uses. At Onagawa, we witnessed a house laying on its side, washed away tens of feet away from where it was originally located. A small shop displayed pictures taken before and during the earthquake and tsunami. The contrast between past and present was astonishing; a town with an abundance of houses and stores was reduced to rubble. We also learned that the water reached a level of 6.9 meters (about 20 feet) in the area.
The following day was my brother and my first workday. We assisted in the preparation to “raise” the hoya, which required us to stack scallop shells onto a rope. Far from the vigorous and rigorous volunteer our father made it sound, this process was simple yet strenuous. Working hours were from 9AM-12PM, and then again from 1PM-4PM. During the half waypoint of each session, we were given drinks and snacks. To our amazement, Mr. Atsumi’s wife finished one stack far before my brother and I finished one that we worked on together. Although our pace was relatively slow, we hope that we made even the slightest contribution to Mr. Atsumi.
Heavy rain on our second workday allowed us to experience a different type of work: cutting ropes. Several pieces of fat rope were looped from the basketball hoop in the nearby gymnasium. One person held the rope to a specific length while another cut the rope with a device that burned the rope. The two others tied knots on the ends of the string. The sessions were similar to the ones we had the day before; however, we finished our work in about an hour and a half, giving us more downtime. My brother and I felt guilty that we had earned this downtime, because we did not feel that our work would suffice as volunteer work. We nonetheless enjoyed this time.
That evening, we were treated to a barbeque. Mr. Atsumi cooked yakitori on the grill while another fisherman purchased sushi for us. The ravenous siblings devoured their meals. The barbeque seemed like an all you can eat event—food was continuously served!
On the day of our departure, we had a shell session during the morning, packed our belongings, and cleaned the facility. Although my brother and I worked to the best of our abilities, we could not help but feel guilty. Mr. Atumi had given us so much, and our progress was hampered by much down time (including some breaks that exceeded 45 minutes). Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and would like to have this opportunity again!
High School Student in USA
Report from JAA President Mr. Moriwaki
Two Years After
On March 26th I visited Ishinomaki and the surrounding towns with our friends from Peace Boat, with whom we have formed a great partnership.
Traveling along the coast, one is struck by the natural beauty of the mountains, the forests and especially the ocean which, as a bizarre side effect of the tsunami, is amazingly clear. So clear and clean that this years' oyster harvest is expected to be exceptional - they take two years to grow sufficiently.
The main part of "Ishi" (Ishinomaki) is clean and free of debris. The coastal areas however, are unchanged since past visits. Vast areas are debris free but they are actually empty lots, shuttered businesses or are open businesses with few patrons. Very sad. Each time we visit we ask, "are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the area". The NGO folks are indomitable, "it's like flying a kite" they say, "only if you go against the wind will you rise".
On the negative front: increasing depression as residents see little progress; more suicides (anecdotal as there seem to be no official records); delayed infrastructure rebuilding or misdirected/ill conceived reconstruction and "hollowing out." This last issue is a major one. Onogawa, a small municipality that is surrounded by Ishinomaki, had a population of 11,000 on March 10, 2011. One year later it was 7,000 and today it is 5,000. The town's main employer is the now shuttered nuclear power plant. Onogawa will probably never recover. Ishinomaki itself has dwindled from 150,000 to less than 120,000 and is losing 1,000 people per month. Again once the young and vigorous people who have moved away are entrenched in their new lives, Ishinomaki will be hard pressed to attract them back. Further, the construction boom now being experienced in many areas of Tohoku will come to an end - although this is something of a misnomer since a lot of the construction is actually the demolition of existing dangerous structures.
And yet signs of hope. The Manga Museum is open for business. Oyster and nori processing plants have restarted or begun anew. One nori plant we visited owned by a Mr. Abe has gone into a business partnership with a non profit-great nori by the way. Peace Boat, following the example of WWOOF, is embedding 20-25 volunteers a week with oyster farmers and nori farmers to perform tough manual labor. The volunteers are expected to stay in touch with the farmers so that they and their friends may become customers of the farmers. There is use of social media and the Internet as well. An idea still on the drawing boards is to bring loads of volunteers to the mountains adjoining the coast to cut down many of the coniferous cedar trees (sugi) and replace them with leafy trees. In that way, as the new trees shed their leaves in autumn they will carry nutrients from the forest to the ocean, where the oysters feed. The cedar trees would be used for fuel.
So all hope is not lost but most importantly, our joint efforts and constant visits to the region serve to remind the people of Tohoku that they are not forgotten.
Gary S. Moriwaki
Report from Ramona Bajema, Country Representative AmeriCaresOn the very day you sent this essay from the New York Times, I was in Kesennuma watching junior high school soccer teams from Otsuchi, Kesennuma (2), and Rikuzentakata participate in a tournament. (I was there, because the event was part of a psychosocial program that we support with our partner, NICCO. NICCO staff and nurses were serving delicious curry to the players, coaches, and their families made by a local chef. They use these events as a way to monitor participants overall physical and emotional health.)
The players loved it – and it was particularly successful when they mixed up players on the different teams. Shy at first, you soon saw a camaraderie between these boys that was truly heart-warming. All of them come from some of the hardest-hit locations in the disaster.
Sports are so important in a time like this. As this essay you sent reminds us, physical exertion acts as a form of release. Teammates remind each other that each individual is an important part of the team. It also is such a good reminder to know that everyone in these prefectures was affected by the disaster; even though Kitakami wasn’t hit by the tsunami, its residents were “hit” by its effects. I wish I could have many of the people I meet write essays about their experiences!
It was a wonderful autumn day watching these young men play their hearts out…I felt lucky to be there. And even luckier now that I have read this essay!
My best to you and to all,
Report from Eiich KuwanaI hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Week.
Mother Nature seems quite angry, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who have suffered enormously from Hurricane Sandy. Sandy reminds us of the destructive powers of nature, and even 20 months after the earthquake and tsunami hit Eastern Japan, lives of many have still yet to return to normal. I spent a recent Saturday in Fukushima City, which is located roughly 60 kilometers (a little less than 40 miles) from the crippled nuclear facility. The prevailing wind on March 15, 2011, when the explosion at Daiichi Nuclear facility took place, carried radioactive particles up towards the city of Fukushima, which has a population of roughly 290,000.
It must certainly be odd to be living in the midst of “radioactivity measuring stations”, one of which is depicted in an attached photograph. Citizens visit these stations to scan their bodies and food for radioactivity. To measure the amount of radiation in one’s body, a person sits for ten to fifteen minutes on what looks like a pretty non-descript chair surrounded by lead-paneled walls (please see attached photo). The chair costs in excess of $75,000, so there are not many of these around, even in Fukushima. Moreover, since most radiation is soaked by a body through intake of radioactive crop, Fukushima residents bring in food grown locally to measure radioactive particles. Apparently, people who measure the highest level of in-body radiation are farmers who unknowingly eat rice and vegetable that are severely contaminated by radiation that fell on their farmland in March, 2011. Workers at these radioactivity measuring stations spend ample time educating people on how to avoid contaminated food.
These privately sponsored measuring stations have become necessary, partly due to Fukushima residents’ mistrust of government officials. This lack of trust manifested itself in a seminar that I attended which dealt with thyroid cancer. The seminar was for local citizens and led by a professor from a local public university (hence, employed by the government). The bottom line of his presentation: even if contracted, thyroid cancer has the highest 5 year survival rate among major cancer diagnosis. During the Q&A session that followed (please see photo above), folks attending the seminar lambasted the poor professor with contradicting facts on thyroid cancer, especially with regard to children.
Caught in between, unfortunately, are children of Fukushima. According to a recent survey of 4 to 5 year olds in the area, the average weight gain for the year ending in June was 1.29 pounds, as opposed to 4.96 pounds during the same period in previous years. The main reason cited for this is due to children not being able to play outdoors from fear of coming into contact with radioactive weeds and ground. As a result, the children lack in physical activity that is critical for growth. We are currently in discussion with a number of non-profit organizations that transport children to radioactive-free areas far removed from Fukushima for a weekend or longer, so that kids can run freely outdoors, unencumbered by fear of radiation. Your continued support will help fund this and other initiatives to help victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
I have created a website that chronicles the trips that I have taken to date to the Tohoku area. Please take a look when you have a moment to spare.
Report from JAA News 9/10/2012
JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund
Report from President Gary S. Moriwaki
On September 16 we spent a day in Miyagi prefecture. We arrived in Sendai early in the morning via the Shinkansen and then traveled by bus one hour east to Ishinomaki. As noted in an earlier report, Sendai is still experiencing an economic boom, with people shopping, restaurants bustling and the population going about its business. However, Ishinomaki and a neighboring town, Onagawa, still appear pretty devastated. While there, we met with representatives of Peace Boat, whom we have supported in the past, and the local staff of Americares, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. On March 10, 2011, Ishinomaki had a population of 150,000. Now there are 120,000 and 1,000 are leaving every month. Onagawa had 12,500 people; now there are less than 7,500 and the main employer, a nuclear power plant, has been shut down since spring 2011. Unless economic revitalization happens quickly, many of these coastal towns will be hollowed out and become ghost towns.
In Tokyo we met with our friends from JEN/Japan Platform and Beyond Tomorrow. While all of the NGO representatives expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress, they remained hopeful for a revitalization of the area. At JAA we continue to work with our partners on the ground and continue to meet with other NGOs who have sustainable programs that can be leveraged and scaled to make the greatest possible impact in Tohoku. To this end, on October 1 under the auspices of Morgan Stanley and MUFG, we held the JAA Inaugural Japan Rising Golf Tournament. The $200,000 that we netted with the help of numerous corporate and individual sponsors will go towards the recovery efforts in Tohoku. Together with our colleagues at the Consul General, Japan Society, JMSA, Americares, the US Japan Council, JA Lions Club, JCCI, Nippon Club, JAJA, JACL, and many other organizations, we want to let our friends and family in Tohoku know that they are not forgotten.
Report from Mr. Yusuke Iwasaki, JAA Vice President
Report from JAA News 7/8/2012
Tohoku students at Dinosaur BBQ
JAA Japanese Disaster Relief FundAs reported earlier, Past President Susan Onuma, Mr. Kuwana and President Gary Moriwaki recently visited Tohoku. While Sendai, the largest city in Miyagi prefecture, is experiencing an economic "bubble," the second largest city, Ishinomaki, looks essentially unchanged since the early days of the disaster. The same can be said of Rikuzentakata and other coastal towns such as Ofunato and Onagawa. In the past JAA has funded organizations such as JOICFP and Peace Boat and we have received periodic reports on their progress. (The reports are available at the JAA office and on line.) These organizations have done a tremendous job in tending to the needs of children, young mothers and the elderly on a day to day basis.
More recently JAA has allocated additional funding for the Kizuna Foundation and is considering proposals from Beyond Tomorrow. We will also coordinate funding to assist with mental health issues in the Tohoku region. Eighteen months after the terrible events of March 11, our focus is on revitalizing the economy and on supporting forward looking organizations that concentrate on education and developing leadership. Through the efforts of Satoshi Kitahama and his colleagues, the Kizuna Foundation is encouraging those involved in the fishing industry to develop new, sustainable ways of fishing that can be scaled to encompass larger groups of fishing associations. Kizuna Foundation is also involved in rebuilding sports fields, including a baseball field in Ofunato where the local team is known as the Red Sox. Our good friend, Bobby Valentine, has been very supportive in this effort. Our aim is to support those who are working hard to reestablish themselves.
Beyond Tomorrow, which was created in June 2011, aims to support young victims via leadership training and scholarship programs. JAA is working with the US Japan Council to provide funding for scholarships to young people wishing to study abroad, both at the high school and college levels. On August 15, several board members and other community leaders hosted a dinner for 10 students sponsored by Beyond Tomorrow at Dinosaur BBQ. The students were visiting various US cities, including New Orleans, Boston, Washington, D.C. and New York. We were very impressed with the work they are doing with the young students of Tohoku and plan to stay in touch with this organization to better understand their needs and how JAA can help them most effectively.
Going forward, with funding raised by the Inaugural, JAA Japan Rising Golf Tournament underwritten by Morgan Stanley and MUFG, we will keep up our efforts in the months and years to come.
This is website of this golf tournament.
Report of JAA Japan Disaster Relief from JAA News 5/6/2012
JAA will hold its Inaugural JAA Japan Rising Golf Tournament sponsored by the partnership of Morgan Stanley and MUFG(Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) on October 1, 2012 at the Montclair Country Club.
Report with photos from Mr. Eiich Kuwana on May 31, 2012A colleague and I recently spent a day up in the Tohoku region, visiting Rikuzentakada, Ofunato (Koishihama), and Sendai. In contrast to my previous visit to the same area in February, the weather cooperated, and with no snow impeding our vision like the last time, we were able to see more clearly the progress to date and the work that still needs to get done. Here are some observations from the trip:
Photos of "Rubble" and "Cleared but no activity"
Photo of "Fishermen" with Mr. Kuwana at Koishihama.
Due to the good work of the Kizuna Foundation, the local government fast tracked the raising of the pier, which means that the multi-generations of fishermen living there can now rebuild their value-added scallop farming business. The village elders, who are still vibrant fishermen, greeted Satoshi Kitahama, Director of the Kizuna Foundation and me and regaled us with heartwarming stories of how there is optimism now that they are able to be self-sufficient. The fishermen told us that nutrients in the ocean had revitalized, so that scallops were growing much faster now.
Report from Mr. Eiichi Kuwana
In the midst of a rare snowstorm for the eastern Tohoku region on February 26, a group representing the Japanese American Association of New York visited Rikuzentakada and Ofunato, two coastal areas that were hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 of last year. Since nearly a year has passed from the tragic day, our goal was to survey the progress the area has made, especially in the realm of economic recovery. While physical devastation remain abundantly clear (see photo 1 of an abandoned apartment building in the middle of Rikuzentakada; the tsunami came up the fourth floor of the building as evidenced by the balcony panels still in place on the fifth floor but not on the lower floors. Photo 2 depicts an area that was once the center of Rikuzentakada, a city of 25,000 people; the photo shows only debris rubbles and vast empty space), we were encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit of a fishing village working closely with a non-profit organization headed by a former investment banker to rebuild jobs and income.
Even prior to the March disaster, the fishing village, Koishihama, had built a reputation as being innovative, embracing sustainable fishing by cultivating a cutting-edge scallop farm and raising tasty, plump products. As such, they have been able to differentiate and charge higher prices for their product through branding and establishing their own, distinct end-user customers. Moreover, unlike many other fishing villages in the area that have older, challenging demographics, Koishihama has a vibrant group of young fishermen, average age 36, that is working closely with its elders and leading the charge into 21st century fishery (photo 3 shows a picture of us with one of the younger generation leaders wearing a silver colored outfit).
Unfortunately, the earthquake dropped the Koishihama pier by eighty centimeters (roughly 30 inches) so that during high tides, water now runs up the dock (photo 4 is of the wharf), rendering it useless for docking purposes. Moreover, the tsunami wiped out the scallop farm, 90% of the fishing boats, and a processing building on the pier. We are holding conversations with the village and the NPO to seek ways we can assist in rebuilding the infrastructure so that village can start harvesting scallops by the fall of 2012.
Since this entire region was on a secular decline prior to March 11, we believe that new investment should not be geared towards recreating the world as it was on March 10. Rather, we will yield a much better return on investment by focusing attention on business practices led by a younger generation that have a vested interest in ensuring a virile economy in the area over the next several decades. Our hope is that if we can assist in revitalizing Koishihama and its innovative way of sustainable fishing, other villages will derive inspiration and seek to emulate Koishihama. By managing towards such an outcome, our investment will have a multiplier effect on the economy in the region.
As always, we appreciate and are humbled by your continued support.
With gratitude,Eiich KuwanaHelp Save Japan: www.jaany.org
--- One Year after Japan Disaster ---
In response to the disasters in Japan, the Japanese American Association of New York has been facilitating and assisting relief efforts in collaboration with numerous NPOs and other organizations in NYC and the surrounding area. In 2012, one year after the disaster, many events were held in NYC. Honorary President Susan Onuma visited Tohoku as a member of this year's Japanese American Leadership Delegation sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March and stayed on through the one year anniversary event. On March 12 she attended a reception given by Foreign Minister Gemba where she also had a chance to catch up with former Ambassador Nishimiya. While she was disappointed to see that many areas still had much work to be done due to extensive physical damage, she was heartened to learn that many young people were eager to get involved in Japan's recovery effort, as volunteers or young entrepreneurs. The overwhelming support and interest from foreign countries has also sparked a renewed interest among Tohoku students and young professionals to study abroad and/or enter fields where they can help others and also prevent future disasters. She met many such young students at the benefit dinner for the NPO "Beyond Tomorrow".
March 10 - TOGETHER FOR 3.11 First Anniversary Memorial was held with 1100 people attending at Christian Science Church in Manhattan. The memorial started with opening remarks by Ambassador Hiroki followed by message from Tohoku residents, and reports by Dr. Kamal (JAA Director) who went to Japan to help and support medical needs and Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai, President of the Japan Society where a one day open house was held on 3/11 "One Year Later".
March 11 - Six prefectures in Tohoku held Memorial and Japanese American Lions Club held memorial events.
March 18 - A special fund raising concert "Heart for Japan" was held at JAA Hall. This was organized by 16-year old high school student and pianist, Mr. Ryo Kono, who heard about Tohoku's disaster from his brother who worked in Fukushima. Soprano Sherry Zannoth, Violinist Steven Zynszajn and Pianist Steven Graff joined this concert. The concert was both excellent and uplifting and raised $1,500 for JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund.
One American boy, King High School student CMera made his presentation of Tohoku at his school. It was quite an impressive presentation. Please see it at http://youtu.be/SdpqFtjutbo
March 28 - JAA had a warm welcome reception for ten high school students visiting the New York area from Tohoku Most of the students had lost family members and friends from the 3/11 disaster and made presentations and talked about their experiences. They were invited by the Northeast Council of Teachers of Japan /NECT (president, Mr. Kazuo Tsuda) for exchange program to meet American students and people in the U.S. Those attending the reception were quite moved (and impressed with the studentsN" English speaking ability).
Among some of the 3/11 Anniversary events held:
2011 JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund Report (hide/show)
JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund Report from President Gary S. Moriwaki
On November 28th and 29th we visited Tohoku again. We attended a fundraiser with Bobby Valentine one evening to raise funds for Tohoku area kids to enable them to have a travel abroad respite. The next day we accompanied him to Sendai, where we visited with officials of Tohoku Daigaku Hospital. Two on-the-ground Americares staff joined us, as well as physicians and officials from the hospital. We had an excellent exchange of ideas. During the first week of December, the Kuwanas and I met with Diet members, Peace Boat, ETIC, Henry Takata, Keiko Kiyama of Japanese Emergency NGOs (JEN) and Japan Platform. Of particular concern to many, aside from economic issues, was the mental and physical well being of the displaced elderly, young children and unemployed workers who are suffering from the effects of the triple disaster.
We are now thinking about how to coordinate our efforts to plan symposia, other awareness and fundraising events during and around the first anniversary, March 11th, 2012. Our work goes on. We will have a Committee Meeting of the JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund on Dec. 22nd, 2011.
JAA Japan Disaster Relief
The people of Tohoku are still suffering from the combined tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant disasters. To date, JAA has raised approximately $1 million in donations from individuals and corporations. Especially touching are the donations from school groups, including the Anime Club at Francis Lewis High School, which sold metal buttons that they had created with motifs from their favorite Anime scenes, in order to raise funds for students in the affected region. The group mentioned that they have learned valuable lifetime lessons through their efforts.
The JAA Committee on Japan Disaster Relief Fund held a meeting on August 15 and has decided to fund the following NGOs working in the Tohoku region:
- (1) $125,000.00 -Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP) for women, pregnant women and babies residing in Tohoku region www.joicfp.or.jp
- (2) $125,000.00 -Peace Boat for support and relief of residents of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture.Working with Church World Service, JAA is funding Peace Boat to facilitate relief and rebuilding efforts in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Church World Service will assist in overseeing Peace Boat's tremendous efforts and will provide updates on the progress of this well regarded Japanese NGO. www.peaceboat.org
- (3) $100,000.00 -NPO Jidai no Souzou Kobo for Civilian Relief & Recovery Support Team “Shintakujuku in Tohoku” to fund a series of weekend programs that provides Character and Leadership Education ans aspirational hope for children and their parents in the Tohoku region. www.jidai.or.jp
JAA has previously sent out $265,000 for support of Japan Disaster Relief- Fukushima Rescue Fund $100,000, Miyagiken (NY Miyagikenjinkai), $91,535.90, the Red Cross (NBC Dine Out Japan Relief) $60,000 and Kokkyounaki Ishidan $25,000.
In total, we have sent out $626,535.90 from JAA Japan Disaster Relief Fund.
We continue to perform our due diligence and are investigating NGOs in the Tohoku region that focus on the needs of elderly as well as mental health issues. Several JAA representatives including our president Mr. Gary S. Moriwaki will visit Tohoku in September and will report back to our members.
On July 6th, Dr. Chiyoshi Takano from Koriyama city in Fukushima visited JAA to receive a banner with the message “UNITY & HOPE”, which JAA members inscribed at recent Keirokai. Dr, Takano had worked and volunteered for many critically injured and depressed patients at Izumi Sonritsu Hospital and Kuwano Kyoritu Hospital, both of which sheltered victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami. She emphasized the need for the fund to rebuild damaged hospitals. The Unity & Hope project was made possible by the efforts of Ms. Pamela Sugihara and Ms. Aileen Yamaguchi.
On June 18 on a warm early summer evening, Bobby Valentine, who is a great friend of Japan and JAA, hosted "Stamford on the Sound," a food and wine extravaganza, with all proceeds going to the JAA Japan Disaster Relief fund. During that afternoon, Bobby hosted a softball tournament to raise additional funding. Over 1,100 supporters attended the evening event, including the actor Richard Gere, former Mets and Yankees pitcher David Cone, and Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia. A highly successful silent auction and online auction were also held. Roughly $600,000 was raised. Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul General of Japan in New York addressed the gathering and expressed his gratitude for the generous and heartfelt support of the people of Stamford and the corporate supporters. President Gary S. Moriwaki also gave remarks and spoke about JAA's relief efforts. JAA wishes to extend its gratitude and appreciation for the unbelievable contributions of Mr. Valentine, and to Mr. & Mrs. Eiichiro Kuwana for their tremendous hard work and support.
The Second Annual Japanese Heritage Night at Citifield, home of the New York Mets, was held June 21 to benefit Japan Relief Efforts. During the pre game ceremonies, Soh Daiko and Momo Suzukiﾕs dance troupe performed on the field, The Mets presented their Spirit Award to the people of the disaster stricken area. This was accepted by Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki and representatives of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. A special video tribute to Wally Yonamine, who passed away recently, was screened during the game. Wally was the first Japanese American to play in the Japanese professional baseball leagues and is the only Japanese American to be enshrined in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Wally was also the first JA to play professional football in the US, having been with the San Francisco 49ers. Ryan Yamamoto, Wallyﾕs grandson, acknowledged the tribute on behalf of the Yonamine family.
Report from President Gary S. Moriwaki:
On September 30, 2011, just about six months after the earthquake and tsunami disasters affected the Tohoku region of Japan, we had the opportunity to again visit Ishinomaki, accompanied by volunteers from Peace Boat and Church World Services. After presenting a ceremonial check for $125,000, we were able to visit a couple of the town's business districts, the Peace Boat center of operations, and the still devastated areas along the coast. The business districts were much improved since our last visit at the end of May. The streets were clean, free of sludge and debris, and newly repaved. Many stores had new signage and were open for business. However, many businesses were still boarded up, and even the ones that were open did not have many customers, other than the volunteers who worked in the area. The situation along the coast is still pretty bad. There were huge mountains of debris, some more than 100 feet high. One of those mountains had four levels, each level with its own bulldozer. Factories and homes were in disrepair; and many residents are living in temporary shelters. However, there were some signs of hope.
We visited Takahashi Tokuji Shoten, Inc., a fish processing plant founded in 1905. It is a very large plant with five very sophisticated fish processing machines that work at 196 C, using liquid nitrogen. Peace Boat volunteers began cleaning the 20 cm deep layer of sludge in the plant starting March 17, and have just finished cleaning the machinery, which now needs repair (at a cost of $2.5 million). The plant was literally under water, with sea water reaching up to the top of the four story building. The local residents were at first wary and skeptical of the volunteers, but through their hard work and engaging personalities, the volunteers were able to establish a bond of trust and ended up providing psycho social support as well. The volunteers eventually convinced the owner of the plant, Mr. Hideo Takahashi, to rebuild. At first he just wanted to walk away as the devastation was so great. While we were at the factory, we ran into Mr. Takahashi. He said that one machine was ready to go and that on Oct 1 they were having a re-opening ceremony that would put 20 people back to work. There were 75 workers pre 3/11. One of the workers is his second son, who left his job and girlfriend in Tokyo to rejoin his Dad. We watched as Takahashi, in tears, thanked the Peace Boat volunteers. So this story has it all: devastation and rebuilding, recognition and respect for local customs and concerns, revitalization on and hope, cooperation between private and civil sectors, financing and job creation.
In Tokyo, the situation seems pretty normal. Escalators are running, the streets and stores are fully lighted, and it is pretty much business as usual. While in Tokyo, we visited with a number of NGOs and NPOs. At JOICFP (Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning), we had a ceremonial presenting of a check for $125,000. The major concerns of JOICFP as expressed by the managing director, Sumie Ishii, were: (1) JOICFP was having difficulty tracking down and reaching out to the population of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth who became dispersed since 3/11, (2) mental health issues,(3) radiation concerns and (4) upgrading their website.
At JSK (Jidaino Souzou Koubo), we met with Akizawasan, the founder, who received our ceremonial check. A new initiative was described, which is to send 50-100 kids from Tohoku to the USA for respite.
At ETIC (Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities, www.etic.com), we had interesting discussions with their young leaders. They want to send interns and fellows to the Tohoku region for the purpose of incubating new businesses and to encourage young people to either return to Tohoku or to set up shop there.
Along these lines, we also had the occasion to meet with Henry Takata, who is on the Asian Board of All Hands, a US NPO based in Massachusetts with volunteers working on the ground in Tohoku. Going forward, their focus is also economic revitalization. Proposed projects include rebuilding a fishing port in Ofunato, financing fishing boats, and repairing fish processing plants.
Report from Mr. Eiichi Kuwana on 9/12/2011:
This past weekend not only marked the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks but also the six month period after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I revisited the same locales that I went to in May to see first-hand what progress had been made over the past four months. At least on the surface, some progress is evident, with debris having been taken away to central locations in and around the devastated towns and cities. The Japanese news-paper Nikkei, reports however, that only a little more than 50% of the total debris has been removed, and the pace of the removal will slow down as available land to store and process the debris becomes more scarce in Japan.
To make this more clear, I have attached "before and after" photos of the same areas.
See website of Peace Boat below,
The now famous emergency headquarters of Minami- Sanriku is a shrine for the scores of municipal workers who were convening a meeting to deal with the earth- quake damage and were subsequently swept away to their death. The tented area for volunteer organized food offerings in May is now clear of most debris. However, the progress in the area is only skin deep.
I spent some time with elderly fishermen and their families in the Minami Sanriku area. When asked about their most urgent need, all of them were unanimous - jobs. Creating employment in this region is the only long-term viable solution to attain self-sustaining economic growth. This need is gender and age blind; it is a common thread for all who live in the area, many of whom are elderly, as in the attached photos, and have the energy and desire to remain productive members of society.
We will do our best in supporting NPO and NGO organizations that foster entrepreneurship and creation of jobs with the funds that many of you have generously donated.
Thank you for JAA's continued support and interest in helping the victims in Japan.
We are providing information on a new project called Genki Notes. This joint project organized by the U.S.-Japan Council, Emerson College and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership aims to bring a moment of happiness to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We are asking schools across America to write "Genki Notes," which are fun, colorful and creative letters to Japan. We would greatly appreciate it if you could pass along this opportunity to the educators in your network. Help bring Genki Notes into an elementary, middle or high school near you by downloading the informational flyer and step-by-step instructions. Please visit www.USJapanCouncil.org.