May 15, 2012

Springtime in Japan is the time for cherry blossom viewing, and last month the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) helped to ensure that local residents who are living in temporary housing could celebrate the season and enjoy a sense of normalcy by offering a sing-a-long bus tour of some of the best spots in for seeing the beautiful blooms in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. The idea was raised by the head of a temporary housing committee in that city who was hoping to find a way to raise spirits and build a sense of community among the inhabitants. A keyboard was placed on the bus and a pianist led the participants, both young and old, in song. The event was held on two successive weekends.

Another springtime event in Japan is Children’s Day (May 5), and in preparation for that, AAR carried out an event at Yunuki, located in Soma (Fukushima Prefecture). This was part of a larger project AAR has been carrying out in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures to date to engage local residents in efforts to support the physical and mental health of those affected by the disasters. Since last summer, AAR has held various events that offered massage therapy, physical fitness activities, counseling, and other activities to get people engaged and active. This was the first event conducted in Fukushima Prefecture, and it involved having elementary school children and those in facilities for the disabled create the traditional carp-shaped streamers (koinobori) that are flown on Children’s Day. One woman who had brought her grandchild to participate noted that last year there was no place to fly the streamers, so the children were delighted to see the colorful fish flying high once again.