Tokushima and Yamagata Prefecture Red Cross Volunteers brought smiles to quake survivors


Approximately 30 volunteers and staff members of the Japanese Red Cross in Tokushima and Yamagata prefectures joined forces to visit temporary housing in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and help the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake by preparing outdoor meals for two days from 30 June. Preparing the meals using Tokushima and Yamagata ingredients and giving traditional dance displays—in Awa style by the Tokushima volunteers, Hanagasa style by those from Yamagata—brought smiles to the residents’ faces. All were pleased with the thoughtful support saying, “This is the first time we’ve had such an event since we moved in here, so we’re very impressed.”

Smiles and Cheers at Temporary Housing Sites

It was the third time that volunteers from these two prefectures had jointly prepared meals in Miyagi Prefecture, the other occasions having been in Kesennuma and in the town of Onagawa in May and September 2011, respectively. The aims are to bring comfort to all the disaster victims living in temporary housing through meals, to promote good health and interaction as well as to create a sense of community among the residents by performing the famous local Awa and Hanagasa dances with them.

On the first day, the Red Cross team members visited 54 families (a total of 156 people) living in temporary housing in the Kanita and Uchida areas of Ishinomaki. Around 250 portions of Tokushima country dishes were served, including Gyu-don (beef on rice), for which Awa (the old name for Tokushima) beef was used, and Sobakojiru soup (with buckwheat flour noodles). These were followed by Yamagata Prefecture cherries for dessert.

After the meal, team members performed the Awa and Hanagasa dances, wearing yukata (summer kimonos) and amigasa (net-like straw hats). One after another, the residents participated in the glamorous dancing; the site soon took on a summer festival atmosphere and was filled with residents’ smiling faces and the sound of their loud cheers.

Ryo Kimura, who lost his house in the earthquake, said with a smile, “I had some really tasty food for the first time in ages. This may be the first time this year that a meal has been prepared outdoors in this area.” Saeko Miyamoto, who acts as our facilitator when receiving visits by volunteer members, also said with a smile, “We received wonderful presents for the body and soul.”

“We the Victims Also Want To Help.”

On the second day, the Red Cross members visited temporary dwellings on the Ishinomaki bypass. Home to around 230 families or 550 people, the site is about 1km along the national highway that connects Ishinomaki and Onagawa.

That day’s culinary feature was 600 bowls of Imoni, a Yamagata local specialty of stewed taros. The offer of this local dish from a neighboring prefecture, for which taro, shimeji mushrooms and plenty of beef are used, had residents lining up, bowls in hand. Having lived on Izushima, a remote island off Onagawa, but originally from Sakata in Yamagata Prefecture, Yoshiko Tokai gave the meal her seal of approval. ”Of all the soup kitchen meals that have been prepared for us, this is the best!” she said.

“The residents also helped out with preparations and cleaning up this time. We also want to help volunteers in their wide-ranging support activities. True, they make us pretty tired, but I think that it’s good to have the opportunity for some physical exercise,” said vice chairman of the temporary housing residents’ association, Suetaro Katsumata.