crochet

Day 8: Hidemaruya by airi katsuta

After seeing the beautiful display from the artists from Taiwan, I went to a souvenir store right down the street. It was called Hidemaruya, and they had Ishinomaki t-shirts that they sold for around $20. The shirts said things like "Never give up Ishinomaki" or "Ganbappe, Ishinomaki".  I had seen these shirts last year but didn't have money to spend when I was volunteering, so I was happy to purchase them :)

After looking around the store for a while, the owner asked me where I came from. When I said the United States and that I was here last year volunteering, she was surprised and let me sit down and look at her photo album that contained lots of tsunami related pictures/newspaper clippings. She was hesitant at first but she started sharing her stories with me.

"It was like a dream", she said. "It all happened in an instant...just one moment... like what happened?" On 3-11, she was here at the store, and her house is on the second floor. She felt it shook, and ran out side, but she heard her neighbors shouting that the tsunami was coming. She ran up to her home, and ended up staying up there for 2 days. At night it was cold with snow falling down, only a gas stove to keep her and her husband warm, and only one candle for light. Thankfully, she had a fridge full of food so they didn't starve like many of her neighbors.

"There were many people that I knew that lost their lives looking for their family members. They went out when the tsunami came," she said almost in a whisper. "You have to take care of your own life first. Because what do you have when you lose yourself? Just make a place to meet up when things like this happen."

Unlike all the people that I met, she didn't aestheticize the recovery effort. She wasn't negative about it, but rather realistic. "The recovery/reconstruction isn't in the near future." She said with lines between her eyebrows, "We've become so dependent on other people, especially volunteers. We can't be like this forever." She said she felt like she was going crazy after losing her store. Her store sold yarn and knitting products. "I can't just not do anything. I told myself I must become independent." And that's why she started a whole new venue making souvenir t-shirts. She felt that with volunteers and tourists coming into Ishinomaki, she could let them take a memory of Ishinomaki with them by selling these shirts.

After learning her love for knitting/crocheting, I gave her one of the crochet cats. She loved it! "Thank you so much. I want to start my yarn store again, but it's so hard when there's hardly any customers anymore. I hope Ishinomaki will become a better place than before. I know it's going to take a while, but my wish is that Ishinomaki will be more independent."

Day 8: Taiwan Friends by airi katsuta

As I was riding my bike along the Manga Road, I saw pretty colors peeking from the corner of the street. I stopped to see what was going on, and saw adorable chalk drawings on the pavement. I've never seen chalk drawing so beautiful in my life. Seeing this brought a smile to my face as well as the locals. This brightened up the street!

After staring and lurking and taking a bunch of pictures, these nice people explained to me that they're a group of artists from Taiwan supporting Ishinomaki. Different styles of artists were here and they told me they painted murals on houses and made public art to bring joy into the town.  They also gave me a good luck charm :)

They told me I can contribute to the drawings so I put my drawing skills to the test....

And I drew a cat. But someone said it looks like Pink Panther. I guess they're kinda right lol

My cat looks like it was done by a 4 year old compared to this great looking mountain next to it! Mad props!

Lots of locals told me they are really thankful for the organization from Taiwan. Some elderly people kept their cash at home so they lost most of their savings in the tsunami. The locals said the people from Taiwan handed out money to anyone who got in line. These people were painting a very large mural on the side of the building. They each had their own distinctive style. I didn't stay long enough to see it completed, so I can't wait to go back and check it out :)

 Since they were so nice to me, and anyone who helps Ishinomaki is automatically my friend, I gave them one of the crochet cats! I hope they liked it :)

Its crazy how you meet so many different kinds of people through the same cause. I wish them the best of luck :)

Day 6: Strolling around Kaska, Ishinomaki Pet Center by airi katsuta

Riho went back to Tokyo after giving the knitted clothing to Kasumi-So, so Day 6 begins my lone trip. I've always had my family around me whenever I traveled and depended on them so much, so I was kind of scared. Would I be able to connect with the locals? Would I be able to speak Japanese? Would I get lost? All these questions kept worrying me, but I tried to be brave, and started riding my bicycle to familiar places I visited last year. It was only a 20-30 minute bike ride from the hotel.

Last year, this karaoke place was the only bar that was open in this area. It was very old fashioned, 100 yen per song, and it was like being in someone's living room. They didn't think I was Japanese so they told me to sing something, and I sang a Christina Aguilera song... Though I think I'm a diva when I'm singing in my car, no one should be forced to hear me sing. haha. But they were kind and clapped for me. Teehee. It was nice to see them still in business.

Last year, the roads were still rough and covered in dirt, and hardly any stores were open on this street. Now it's all repaired and clean! Clean-ups around areas that are being used were very fast. It's crazy to see the gap between this and homes around the water. But all that matters is that it's being done.

Last year, this area was pretty rough. There were piles of trash being gathered everywhere you looked. Sludge still covered the ground as it gave off a foul smell. The building with the colorful sign was a camera store.

This year this place was all cleaned up. The camera store relocated to another area.

This was my favorite place. It's a greenbelt around the river, and the trees are big enough to make shade in the hot sun. At night time, I remember hearing crickets chirp. This was the place to be to unwind from a long, hardworking day. This man was taking a nap on my favorite bench.

Last year, this buddha lost his arm and it was being held up by ropes. The garden itself was done very beautifully and I'm glad the Buddha was fixed.

 

 

I saw this pet center everyday last year while staying at Kaska. I was curious what the inside looked but it wasn't open when I went. So I decided to pay a visit.

I was greeted by these very energetic geese as I walked up to the store. They wouldn't stop quacking!! I wasn't sure if it was a farm animal store or a pet store. I saw turkeys, chickens, baby chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, cats, and dogs.

I LOVE CATS. These adorable kitties made me miss my own, Whiskers and Bailey. I wanted to play with them more but the chihuahuas behind me wouldn't stop barking so I had to leave the room. Chihuahuas are so loud! They just kept growling at me!

After being in the store for 15 minutes, the owner came out and I got to ask her how its been since 3-11. She said "On 3-11, I didn't think a tsunami was going to come. We live upstairs of the store so me and my family rushed up. Unfortunately we didn't have time to save the animals." Since this area is very close to the coastline, the water level was very high and the animals in their cages drowned. "We had to start all over. It was sad, and I feel very sorry for the animals."

They did all the cleaning by themselves. "I saw the volunteers walking around a lot last year. But we did all the cleaning by ourselves, just me and my father. We had a lot of free time, so it wasn't a problem." There weren't enough volunteers to go around to every place in town.

"We used to have a lot more animals. Parrots, large aquarium fish, different breeds of cats and dogs, ferrets, etc. We had to start from scratch. We used to have lots of customers who owned large aquariums so they came to the store a lot. But now, even if they still have their tanks, they live in temporary homes so they don't have the space. Or they don't want to own any pets because they're scared that the tsunami might come again. They come visit me from time to time. They don't buy anything but they just come to see the animals. If you love animals, you never stop loving them no matter what."

"Having pets is a luxury. It's not a need for survival so we don't have customers anymore. Businesses like insurance, construction, cars, homes, and grocery stores are doing just fine. But stores like us, pet stores or fishing supplies, they're hobbies. So to get by, we started a traveling zoo. A lot of events and schools have us come and bring our animals. They want the children to smile and be happy, and animals have the power to do that."

"I hope things will be back to where it was again, but I know it will take a long time. But I hope people will start having pets again, because I know how much joy they bring to our lives."

I gave her one of the crochet cats and she really liked it. "I have a daughter and she loves stuffed animals. She's going to love this. We'll treasure it."

Day 5: Kasumi-So Senior Home by airi katsuta

We headed to Kasumi-So senior home later that day. We took a train and since we didn't have breakfast or lunch, we ate the Taiyaki that we got earlier.

We arrived to Watanoha Station 10 minutes later. The palm trees reminded me of Arizona. Though Ishinomaki city is the 2nd most populated areas in Miyagi prefecture, the train only comes by every 2 hours. This is unbelievable compared to Tokyo where the train comes every 5 minutes. The train only has 2 cars since the tsunami disaster, but they plan on adding more next year.

We finally arrived to Kasumi-So Senior Home. We brought the handmade knitted scarves and clothing made by the wonderful folks of Japanese American Citizens League. I hope they like it!

Manjome-San is the head manager of this senior home. When asked about what happened on 3-11 she said, "Right after the earthquake, one of the seniors said the tsunami will follow soon. So all of us evacuated to the mountains before the tsunami warning even went off. So thankful for the wise knowledge of the elderly, they were all safe."

"After we evacuated, I realized I forgot to grab the medicine for my patients. We were in such a rush, I knew I shouldn't go back but I went anyways. When I was driving back, I saw a little girl crying on the side of the street. I picked her up and while I was driving, the tsunami came. I didn't know what was happening, but thankfully someone reached a hand from the 2nd floor of a building and saved us." Though she was talking very calmly, what was coming out of her mouth was unimaginably horrifying.

"There were many people at the temple. Since the damage of this area was unbelievable, the bridge was gone so the military couldn't even come to this side of the town for 2 days. I was very worried. Some elderly people didn't have their medicine so they were turning blue, or going crazy."

"People started to find out that I work at the senior home. They thought we would have medicine to share, but we didn't have any either. It pained me to turn them away."

With tears forming in her eyes, she spoke softly, "We went down the mountain when the water level decreased... And I stepped into hell."

"The people who evacuated to the mountains didn't directly see the tsunami, so it was shocking to see the aftermath. There were dead bodies everywhere, a lot of them in their cars. It felt like a war zone. I was actually seeing hell."

"We had our one year anniversary of this institution the day after the tsunami. We were saying how it's been a year and then it happened." The seniors were transferred to a hospital out of prefecture, so they were safe and taken care of. They were more worried about us (the caretakers) if we had enough food."

After a year and a half, she said there are times where she feels depressed. "Year and a half flew by so fast. The reconstruction takes a long time, I know that. I get depressed quite often, and put a stop to myself. Most of us suppressed our emotions. My tears dried up after a while, I was tired of crying. Thankfully, all of my family members survived, but many of the workers' didn't. My daughter's friend's body was found 3 months later. And all that was said was "They found another one." It was hard to feel anymore. It was all too much."

We gave them the letter, pictures, and the handmade items from Japanese American Citizens League. They were very ecstatic to receive them since they lost most of their winter clothes in the tsunami. "Thank you so much. The winters are so cold here! It gets cold by September. Now to think of it, it was snowing the day after the tsunami. "

Everyone's faces were covered in smiles. We dispersed the clothing to everyone and they loved it. This lady wore hers already even though it was hot!

We also gave them the crochet animals too. They were saying how cute it was. She was a funny one, "I'm a kangaroo."

She's 95 years old and loved the shawl. "Give them a peace sign", the manager said.

We woke him up from his nap, but this 99 year old man picked the white vest. He can't hear very much so they had to shout in his left ear. When they told him that we brought them clothes, he smiled and said "Thank you."

She liked this blue shawl very much. "I like it, it's fancy!" Such complicated and beautiful design, all handmade by JACL.

"Blue is a man's color." "Looking good!" the women shouted. He blushed a little bit as I took his picture.

Everyone got several items to keep. Rather than taking it to a large senior home and not have enough, we picked the one with 6 people. They shared their stories with us and welcome us into their home. Thank you to Kasumi-So senior home and JACL for providing the clothing!

Day 2: part 3. by airi katsuta

Nakazato-san:

This is also a house that Ted and Peaceboat helped clean.

This is Nakazato-san. He's a really petite grandpa with a heavy Tohoku accent so it was really hard to understand him at times, but he was very kind and repeated it for me many times.

He pointed and said, "The water came from over there, and all of a sudden it was everywhere "

He warned his neighbors that the tsunami was coming, but by the time he tried to escape it, he was already in the water. Since the water level was around 6 to 7 feet, he got on the roof of the house next door. And then jumped on a car which floated by his storage(the one with the brown roof and blue covers), and then jumped to his house (the one next to the pink house, being repaired). His story was famous when I was volunteering, and I couldn't believe that a little 80 year old man jumped roof to roof.

He was my height, so around 5 feet. He was really nice and showed us his garden with cucumbers, chives, pumpkins, and tomatoes. People around here seem to grow their own vegetables. He got a little camera shy but he agreed to take a picture with us.

Nanakita-san:

We arrived at another house the Peaceboat volunteers cleaned, but the house was still in its reconstructive stage and no one lived there. And then this man came up to us asking what we were doing. His name is Nanakita-san, and he is the head of the community council in this area. The previous owner decided to move, so Nanakita-san decided to buy it from them.

His house is only 4 houses away, but due to the Article 39 and 84 of the Building Standard Law, it prohibits housing and reconstruction in certain areas that dealt with great damage. Nanakita-san's house was completely flooded, large tree logs from the nearby factory tore his house, and even a car was smashed in it. Though his house was unrepairable, since he wanted to stay in this area, he decided to buy this house.

Though we came looking for another person, Nanakita-san welcomed us to his community and informed us on what the reconstruction laws were. He was very nice. When I asked to take a picture with him, he said "Ummm. Let's do a thumbs up!"

Shokodo:

This was a publishing company's warehouse that took 30 peace boat volunteers to clean. It took about 2 days to clean, but still had more work left to do. It was raining that day, and usually volunteers aren't allowed to work in conditions like this due to accident prevention but we decided to do it anyways because we didn't want to spend the whole day not doing anything. The outside of this building looks fairly fine, but the inside was a disaster. Since this warehouse contained mainly paper, it was everywhere mixed with sludge. All their materials were damaged so for them it was heartbreaking to throw away so many books, pamphlets, magazines, and posters. There was a van flipped on the side inside as well. But since we got most of it out, we were satisfied.

When our work day was done, the owner said he couldn't believe that people had so much strength and power to do all this work. He was feeling hopeless but seeing all this happen in 2 days made him believe that anything is possible. It gave him the hope that he can rebuild this business again. So when I came back this year, I was expecting to see them continuing their business. But when we got there, there was no sign of the building. They had torn it down, and we still don't know if they ever started business again or shut it down.

Last year, this area was completely wiped out. The ground was covered in sludge and trash, houses destroyed. As you can see in the picture, the ocean is right there so this area was hit horribly. The grave site was on slope, so it wasn't affected that bad compared to the rest.

Last year, this area was completely wiped out. The ground was covered in sludge and trash, houses destroyed. As you can see in the picture, the ocean is right there so this area was hit horribly. The grave site was on slope, so it wasn't affected that bad compared to the rest.

Day 2: Abe-san and his family. by airi katsuta

This is Abe residence. There are lots of families with the last name “Abe” in this area. Ted and Peaceboat volunteers cleaned their house.

They showed us lots of pictures from 3-11. Even though we showed up to their house all of a sudden, they kindly greeted us in and gave us lots of refreshments.

Abe-san lives with his wife and daughter, his parents, and his aunt, total of 6 people. On 3-11, he came home from work after giving rides to 3 of his coworkers, his parents were just about to leave in their car with their neighbors before the tsunami came. When his father realized the water was getting close, he made everyone get out the car and rushed them to the 2nd floor of his house. Abe-san’s mother took shelter in their 2 story storage. While helping others, the water washed Abe-san’s father away.

Abe-san was still in the car when the tsunami reached his house. He thought he would be okay if he stayed in the car but when the water reached the windshield, he broke the side window and got on the top of the car. The water level was already around 6 feet, so he climbed to his neighbor's roof. He saw his mother in the 2nd floor of the storage so he jumped on that roof. While he was trying to get in to the storage, his mother saw his feet dangling by the window so she grabbed his legs and pulled him in. This whole thing happened in 50 minutes after the fist earthquake.

When he stood on the roof, he took a picture with his phone. "Even in a panic state like this, it was interesting how the first thing I did was to take a picture. Human beings are strange. I'm a smoker. And when I was getting out the car, I was rushing to escape since the car was starting to sink, but I remembered to grab my cigarettes and lighter. Why cigarettes in a life/death situation? I don't know. But this saved me and my mother's life. Since it was freezing and I was soaking wet, we decided to burn anything we can find in the storage. If we didn't have that lighter, I don't know what would've happened.We were very lucky."

And then he spoke reservedly "But to say that lucky… that would be impolite to those who lost their lives from the tsunami. But like the lighter, as a coincidence we had food and water in the storage. My mother likes to pick apples and she stored lots of apples to make jam later on. All the stuff that was prepared for disaster was still in the car that already sank. So we were blessed to have food, water, and fire."

"The next day, My father paddled his way back floating on a log, like a surfer. It was great to have him back. But I still wasn't able to reach my wife, daughter, or aunt for 5 days."

'There was no reception so I couldn't call. I knew that worrying about won't take me anywhere so I tried not to think about it. But those 5 days… it was the hardest 5 days of my life." I could see tears coming out of his eyes as he was sharing his story and I tried really hard to hold back my own tears.

Th next day, Abe-san went looking for his wife and daughter. The water level was still high, and it was very cold outside. He was trying to stay dry but once he was wet, it didn't really matter. "When I returned back, I was so cold, so I just wrapped my body with anything I could find, even plastic bags."

 

5 days after the tsunami, he thought "If they're alive, they'd be by the bank by the river near by." So he walked around the bank back and forth all day. Then he finally got to reunite with his wife and daughter. His aunt was in the care of the care center for the seniors on the day of the earthquake, and the center was not affected by the tsunami. "To know that all of my family is still alive was just a blessing."

After reuniting with his family, they all stayed at the emergency evacuation area for 5 days. Since people were starting to get sick, they decided they couldn't stay there anymore. His sister's workplace said they had an open apartment so they stayed there for a while. "We were lucky once again, because though our 3 cars were washed away in the tsunami, we still had one more car that my daughter took to her work. If we didn't have that car, we wouldn't have had any way to get to that apartment"

A slight mark of the water line still exist on the window glass by the front door. "We decided to keep this here, so we won't forget." He said he's very thankful for the volunteers. "After the tsunami, my workplace decided to start up again and thankfully I was able to go back to work. But I watched the volunteers everyday, knowing that they're not getting paid to do all this work. If I go to work, I'll get paid. I felt guilty going to work but my family needs money. I felt veryguilty. My job didn't pay me for the first 2 months but after that, thankfully I was able to get paid.

Abe-san says "Since the house was damaged so much, I was planning on relocating to an apartment on another part of town. So my wife and daughter and I moved to an apartment. But my dad repaired the house." And then he smirks, "This is actually a restricted reconstruction zone. The government doesn't want us to reconstruct the homes because there is a possibility that this could happen again. We have to move eventually but this is a house that my father worked hard for. If he's not causing anyone trouble, I figured he could stay here. We have to think about it later when the time comes, but we'll just live for now. "

;

;

When we asked Abe-san's mother how life has changed after the tsunami, she started to talk very quietly. "Before the tsunami, we all lived together. I've watched my grandmother grow old with me and my husband and kids, so I thought I would be able to do the same, live with my child and his child. That was my dream. After the tsunami, my son, his wife, and my grandchild moved away. It's very lonely compared to when it was a full house. I'm still hoping that some day, we'll be able to be together again."

As we were leaving, Abe-san said "Thank you so much for visiting. Tell everyone in the States that we are grateful of all the support. We will never give up, we will persevere.

Getting Ready for Japan! by airi katsuta

It's been a long time since I uploaded on here, but I'm glad to say that almost everything is good to go for me to go back to Japan. Only 12 more days until I depart for Japan!My WONDERFUL sister, Riho, booked the hotel and the bus in Ishinomaki for a very reasonable price in Ishinomaki. They have internet connection so I will be able to update all of you during my stay there.

I received my film in the mail, which are Kodak Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160 and 400, Fuji Astia 100 and Fuji Pro 160s. I got the Ektar and Fujis in 120, and Portra in 220. There's so many!! And being a photo nerd, I am soooo excited to use it all :)

My mom has been working on these crochet cats for a while now, and I plan to bring them back to Ishinomaki for the kids I meet. They're cute and snuggly. She plans to make more of them and put eyes on it so they're not faceless.

I also received handmade scarves and clothes as a donation from the Japanese American Citizens League. They've been wanting to send them to the Tsunami affected areas but got denied because of shipping. So I volunteered to bring them to Japan and hand it out to senior communities. For the cold winters in Ishinomaki, I think this gift would be perfect.

I'm working on the last bit of the cranes for the $30 and under backers, and then I'm off to Japan! Thanks for your support and your patience. I promise I'll bring back a bunch of pictures! :)