April 20, 2011

The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan is taking part in a project to “bring the hot baths to the earthquake-stricken region.” Having seen the images of the stressful conditions at the evacuation centers, an employee at Ascendia, a Tokyo-based IT firm, had the idea of bringing the hot baths to them. Through the cooperation of various companies, organizations, and individuals, the project was able to secure a tanker truck, a driver, and water from a hot spring, which was delivered to four evacuation centers in Matsushima (Miyagi Prefecture). The water was used to fill a pool at a nearby kindergarten, baths at a community center, and so on. They next headed to five locations in the towns of Higashi Matsushima and Ishinomaki, where each day 500–600 people were able to enjoy the baths. Many of these people noted that this was only the second time they had been able to take a bath since the earthquake struck over a month ago, so the project was greatly appreciated. It will continue through early May.

In response to a request from the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA), clothing companies in Okayama (a town in southwest Japan that is known as the center of Japan’s sewing industry) donated more than 3,000 school uniforms for students in the area

In Japan, the new school year usually begins at the beginning of April. In the affected region, schools are gradually reopening, but they face many challenges. Some schools have been destroyed, so classes have to be held elsewhere. More than 180 schools are still serving as evacuation centers. Many students do not have lost their uniforms, books, backpacks, and school supplies. And for those in hard-hit areas, returning to school is a reminder of how many friends and teachers were lost in the disaster. The Japan Times ran a particularly touching story on April 18 about the Okawa Elementary School where 74 out of 108 students were lost in the tsunami, as well as all but one teacher. There are clearly many needs, including assistance in rebuilding schools; donations of clothing, backpacks, and school supplies; and psycho-social care to help the children cope with the emotional strain of the disaster.