March 6, 2012

After a cold and unusually snowy January, the wakame seaweed harvesting season has finally started in the town of Minamisanriku. This area is known for its high quality wakame. In particular, in a fishery community called Utatsu, most residents have been involved in wakame-related work of some kind, such as in cultivation, harvesting, and processing. The wakame processing work has long been a family business and one in which most households owned their own processing equipment. However, the tsunami devastated the area and most people lost their houses as well as the wakame processing equipment.

With help from donors around the world, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) continues to support programs to help fishing communities stand on their own feet again. “I lost my family members, my home, and office from the tsunami. I stayed home for two months doing nothing. I was depressed and felt very empty. But I realized that only I could make myself stand up and move on with my life and I want to help other women in the area who went through a lot,” said a woman from Utatsu. “I have been doing wakame processing ever since I was married, for over 35 years. I’m looking forward to going back to work soon.” In mid-February, wakame harvesting began again. PWJ has been working closely with Utatsu Fishing Cooperatives to help women in fisheries in particular. The women waited by the port for the wakame to be brought in on the boats so that it could be processed. Once offloaded, they put it into the tanks and processors. Many women from Utatsu joined in the work, including an 88-year old woman who sorted wakame with skilled hands. The wakame processing will continue until mid-May, when the season ends.