Five-Year Update: Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund

JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund raised more than $1.7 million to aid Japanese nonprofit organizations taking part in the immediate relief effort as well as those with a long-term focus on rebuilding communities. It has supported 40 groups that have been doing innovative work in the disaster zone, supporting areas that are overlooked by other organizations, including personnel costs, developing fundraising strategies, and other crucial expenses incurred for day-to-day operations. In this way, the fund helped to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector to contribute to the recovery over the long term.

Long-Term Recovery Grants
The following 13 organizations received multiyear grants for their efforts to promote economic revitalization, rebuild community ties, and support senior citizens.
(NOTE: Dollar amount estimates are based on exchange rates at the time the grant was made.)

@Rias NPO Center (Community Bus Project)
Location: Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,500,000 (approx. $71,000)

Much of the public transportation was destroyed in Kamaishi, Iwate, so a local nonprofit called @Rias NPO Center purchased and has been operating community buses to allow youth to take part in afterschool activities, sports, and educational programs. The buses were also used to assist senior citizens who have no means of transportation. In the first year after the disaster, the buses provided a vital source of transportation in the town.

The project has ended but the center continues to be an information hub, disseminating information on Kamaishi and the region’s recovery. Since May 2013, the center has been organizing a forum on the city’s efforts to rebuild the community, which brings together groups and individuals active in the recovery efforts in the region. It has convened this meeting more than 60 times.

AidTAKATA (Radio FM Rikuzentakata)
Location: Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥6,000,000 (approx. $74,000)

Funding has also supported AidTAKATA’s operation of Radio FM Rikuzentakata, one of the region’s only community radio stations in the disaster zone. The 24-hour radio station produces 14 regular programs (roughly 76 percent of its content) and is designed to engage community members in the reconstruction process. Programs include coverage of local news, an hour for elderly residents to share local myths, and a monthly call-in talk show with the Rikuzentakata mayor.

  • A new program called “Wichie, My Radio!” aired in 2015 with a new host. Wichie is a doctor by training and the radio helped him get him through the grueling years of medical school. Although he is not from the disaster zone, his hope is to use the power of radio to connect with the listeners in Rikuzentakata and help with the recovery.
  • In November, the organization took part in a symposium titled “The Role of Community Radio Programs and their Potential.” The discussion was on the role of FM radio and how it can prevent isolation among the elderly and connect them to their communities.
  • In addition to the radio station, AidTAKATA continues to disseminate information on the region and connect key leaders in Tokyo and Iwate to support the recovery. In December 2015, the organization put together a symposium in Tokyo to strengthen partnerships between non-profit organizations in Iwate Prefecture and businesses in Tokyo. The event also allowed non-profit organizations to talk about their activities and attract investors for their initiatives.


Art Revival Connection TOHOKU (ARCT)
Arts Programs: Senior Citizen and Artists Learning Together
Location: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥2,000,000 (approx. $24,700)
With support from the fund, ARCT has organized art programs and performances at senior citizen facilities in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, a city where 63 percent of the land was inundated by the tsunami. It hoped to help reduce the physical and mental toll of the disaster-affected communities through art. ARCT concluded its activities in April 2013, but re-launched the organization in July 2013 under the acronym ARCT to continue to connect people through art.

In its initial stage, the organization produced a total of four 30–60 minute performances at a senior citizens’ facility, engaging local artists, senior citizens, their families, and facility staff in the production. Each program recorded a total of 30 to 140 participants.

Finishing up a performance at a local senior citizens’ facility

Engaging local senior citizens

Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network (FOAN)
“Rebuilding Fukushima Ties” Recovery Project
Location: Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture
Grant: ¥8,000,000 (approx. $99,000)
The Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network (FOAN) is working with local farmers to rehabilitate the farmland that was contaminated by radiation and is creating a network of support groups to strengthen the local and displaced farming communities. FOAN is also working on distributing accurate information on Fukushima produce to relieve fears of consumers that the region’s produce is still contaminated by radiation after the nuclear disaster.

  • FOAN has been organizing classes to allow Fukushima residents to take part in various aspects of farming and agriculture. The classes also aim to reduce the residents’ fears about radiation contamination and increase transparency about the monitoring process. The most recent class, held in October 2015, focused on growing potatoes. Participants ranged from children to senior citizens and all learned about the value of harvesting and consuming local organic vegetables.
  • FOAN organized a study tour in November, which allowed participants to harvest soybeans, learn from producers, and eat at a local restaurant managed by local farmers. Afterwards, they learned how the city monitors radiation in rice and about the process of threshing rice. The chairman of FOAN, who is also a farmer, hosted the group and shared his story of how his farm has fared since the disaster. The program helps increase awareness about the region’s produce and creates channels for farmers to interact with consumers.
  • As the 5th anniversary of the disaster approaches, FOAN is reassessing its strategic approach to Fukushima’s agricultural recovery and scaling back some of its programs while redoubling its focus on others in order to better support the region’s organic farming sector.
  • As an outcome of the strategic reassessment, the Tokyo-based restaurant called “Fukushima Organ Dou Shimokitazawa,” which helped promote Fukushima produce in Tokyo, will be closing down. While the fear of radiation contamination has been assuaged over the years among Tokyo consumers, 30 percent of the residents in Tokyo are still wary of buying Fukushima produce. Over the past few years, the restaurant helped build connections and transparency between producers and consumers and fought the bias against Fukushima produce. Up until its closing, the restaurant will continue to host weekly events, including cooking classes and talks from farmers who continue their business in areas designated as evacuation areas.
Participants of the study tour made site visits to farms and green houses to learn how the disaster has affected the agricultural industry in Fukushima

“Vegetable class” teaches kids and adults the value of local and organic produce

Fuji Social Welfare Foundation (Kitchen Car Project)
Location: Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,000,000 (approx. $65,000)
The Fuji Social Welfare Foundation operates the “Kitchen Car Project” that provides food trucks to local chefs in Kamaishi who have lost their restaurants. The project helps employ them, providing a path back to restaurant ownership for these chefs and ensuring that there is food readily available near temporary housing settlements and in devastated areas of town. To rent the trucks, chefs are asked to pay a low, subsidized fee of ¥25,000 per month (roughly $250) and 5 percent of their sales, then they keep the remaining proceeds to build up their savings. The project started with 5 food trucks in June 2011, and has since expanded to 12.

  • Kitchen car chefs are expanding their businesses to target consumers in Tokyo. In November, kitchen cars were dispatched to Tokyo to participate in a 3-day food festival to represent the taste of Kamaishi. One of the kitchen car chefs released a new product, “Kama-koro,” which is short for “Kamaishi croquette,” made using local ingredients. More than 1,500 croquettes were sold to Tokyo consumers at the festival.
  • Four kitchen cars are now permitted to operate in Tokyo, which allows them to participate in various food festivals and travel back and forth to promote the food culture of Kamaishi and tourism. The permit is valid through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
  • As chefs are dispatched to participate in nationwide events, they meet and learn from other kitchen car owners. For instance, in one of the festivals in Tokyo showcasing food culture from cities around Japan, the chefs had a chance to meet and learn from a chef from Shimane Prefecture who is engaged in community-building activities for a town of 1,000 people with his kitchen car.
People line up to get a taste of “Kama-Koro” in Tokyo

Kitchen cars at the 3-day food festival in Tokyo promoting the region’s food culture

Kamaishi Platform (Coastal Community Project: Support for Artisanal Oyster Farming)
Location: Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,000,000 (approx. $61,700)
Kamaishi Platform has been working to help revive Kamaishi’s oyster industry, which was devastated by the 40-foot tsunami waves that struck the town. The project seeks to revive and strengthen the fishing community by connecting small artisanal oyster farmers in Kamaishi to Tokyo-based consumers and restaurants. The customers can make contributions of $100 and in return they receive vouchers for annual allocations of oysters, which can be redeemed at supporting restaurants over the coming 10 years.

  • The oysters were shipped in January to restaurants in Tokyo. This year, in order to develop a local consumer base in Kamaishi, the fishermen have started to sell their oysters at Kamaishi’s city plaza every Saturday until May. Local chefs have also agreed to incorporate the oysters into their dishes to be sold at their restaurants. As a result of effective publicity efforts, people from outside of Kamaishi City have come to purchase the oysters.
  • The oyster farmers have started to focus on expanding their consumer base and increasing demand for the oyster industry. For instance, in October 2015, they traveled to Tokyo to lead an instructional seminar on oyster farming, and in November, they hosted professors from the city on a study trip to their farm. In January of this year, the fishermen spoke at a symposium as panelists to discuss the future of the fishing industry in the region and recently released a YouTube video on how to shuck oysters available with English subtitles.
Participants from and outside of Kamaishi toured the oyster farm and learned how oysters are grown

Oyster farmers partnered with kitchen car chefs in Kamaishi to strengthen their local consumer base

Leading Aging Society Forum (Coordination Platform for Senior Citizens Health and Welfare)
Location: Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,000,000 (approx. $61,700)
Funding has been provided to support the forum’s “Coordination Platform for Senior Citizens Health and Welfare,” an initiative to survey the actual needs of seniors and ensure that none slip through the cracks as different agencies try to respond to their various needs. It has been targeting seniors who remained in their homes rather than moving to temporary housing since this group is at a higher risk of isolation and seclusion.

The information and communications technology that the organization has pioneered to assess the needs of the senior citizens during home visits has been adopted by the Ishinomaki healthcare system. One recent development is that the organization will be working closely with the municipality to support the city’s initiative to provide comprehensive healthcare for all.


Sanaburi Foundation
Location: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥10,000,000 (approx. $125,600)
The Sanaburi Foundation, the Tohoku region’s first community foundation, channels funds from inside and outside the region to community-based projects and, by doing so, strengthens the foundations of Tohoku’s nonprofit sector. This is especially important as funding for nonprofits in Tohoku is drying up as we approach the 5th anniversary of the disaster. The JCIE grant is helping the foundation build up its institutional base, improve communications, and conduct outreach that will help it become more sustainable. As of September 2015, the foundation has channeled almost ¥1.6 billion (approximately $13 million) to 752 projects in the disaster area.

  • Sanaburi Foundation has been focusing on supporting the mental health needs of disaster victims. It launched a new fund to support organizations that are working to strengthen community networks among residents who have been displaced. Fifteen groups will be awarded $1,000. In addition, Sanaburi Foundation selected nine organizations to receive $15,000 each for spearheading initiatives that are supporting the psychological health of residents through art.
  • Sanaburi is helping to mange a four-year project to support community-building projects in Natori City including leadership development, and workshops on prioritizing regional challenges and future planning. The first forum was held in October 2015 for 115 NPO leaders, members of neighborhood associations, and business owners to analyze key lessons learned from the 1995 earthquake disaster in Kobe and to look at case studies from communities in Tohoku implementing effective community rebuilding initiatives. Similar themes will be explored in monthly seminars for community leaders to exchange views and think about ways to work together.
  • In November 2015, Sanaburi organized a symposium in Sendai to highlight Tohoku’s recovery after nearly five years and address the ongoing needs in the region. The discussion also touched upon the importance of partnerships between businesses and local government groups. The symposium was broken up into three sessions. The first session projected the progress of recovery in Tohoku over the next five years based on a survey conducted by NHK and Tohoku University. The second session explored how to incorporate the residents’ voices into policy recommendations. The last session focused on supporting disaster victims and providing comprehensive care. More than 50 people participated from the media, businesses, local government groups, and NPOs. A smaller seminar called “Tohoku Index” was also organized in Tokyo in December to discuss goals for the next five years in the region from the perspective of corporate social responsibility.
  • In December, Sanaburi helped organize a seminar in Sendai to engage residents in national policy discussions. The participants exchanged views with government officials, foundations, corporations, and NPOs on how to utilize funds remaining in inactive savings accounts, which total more than $800 million nationally every year. The seminar helped empower citizens to participate in policy discussions not only at the national level but also the regional level and contribute to the decision-making process for Tohoku’s recovery plans.
  • For Giving December, Sanaburi solicited stories related to the “power of giving” from around the region. Awards were given for best stories on the following themes: “hopes of the donor,” “wishes of the recipient,” and “dreams I would like to realize if I had funding.” To supplement the campaign, the foundation organized a symposium with leaders engaged in community building and philanthropy to talk about the impact of giving. More than 60 people participated in the event and more than 14 groups had booths showcasing their work in the region.
  • As funding from outside of Tohoku decreases, the foundation is focusing on nurturing the culture of philanthropy within Tohoku and assessing ways to engage the region’s people moving forward. As part of this effort, it has renewed its website to strengthen its role as an information clearinghouse and to create a user-friendly site for donors.
Winners of the “Power of Giving” story competition

November symposium in Sendai City highlighting the progress of recovery in Tohoku after 5 years

Sankaku Planning Iwate (Delivery Care Project)
Location: Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥8,350,000 (approx. $100,600)
For a small, ¥100 fee, the Sankaku Planning Iwate staff shopped for basic necessities on behalf of senior citizens and other people with limited mobility and delivered the groceries to their homes in the temporary housing settlements. The main aim was not merely to purchase daily necessities for homebound disaster survivors, but rather to engage the large number of senior citizens in the community in conversation to keep track of their physical and mental health. The Sankaku Planning staff made 17,886 visits to the homes of senior citizens since its establishment, operating in five cities and providing services within an area spanning over 120 miles. The delivery service delivered ¥54 million ($440,000) worth of goods purchased from local businesses, which also helped to stimulate the local economy.

Sankaku Planning Iwate’s delivery care service project wound down after four years, coming to an end on March 31, 2015, but it left behind an important legacy. Its business model will continue to be used by one of the staff members who will be launching her own delivery service. Sankaku Planning Iwate will continue to focus on its long-term mission of incorporating gendered perspectives in community development and making sure that people’s opinions are heard regardless of gender during the recovery process.


Shanti Volunteer Association (“Gather ’round, Beach Kids!” Initiative)
Location: Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥4,000,000 (approx. $46,500)
The Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund made a grant of ¥4 million in 2015 to the Shanti Volunteer Association to build up the institutional base of a new nonprofit group, Hamawarasu, which will be spun off to operate the new “Gather ‘Round, Beach Kids!” initiative. The program engages children in various nature-related activities to teach them to respect the sea, not fear it to such a debilitating degree that they refuse to interact with it.

  • From August 2015 to January 2016, twenty-five children helped create a two-story tree house in the shape of a boat. They collected shells and sea glass from near the water to decorate the tree house. The treehouse will be used for group events to bring together the children and their families.
  • In February 2016, the children harvested the kelp that they planted back in November. Children cut and cleaned the kelp with help from the fishermen, and afterwards enjoyed the fresh kelp from the sea with some soy sauce.
  • The program has the added benefit of contributing to community building as many of the activities call for members of the local community, such as fishermen, farmers, and others, to participate as facilitators and teachers. In this way, the program is also a means for multigenerational exchange.
Kids play in the tree house in the shape of a ship decorated with shells collected from the sea

Kids learn how to cut the kelp that they helped grow

SakuraNet (Rural Senior Center Pilot Project)
Location: Miyako, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥4,350,000 (approx. $54,000)
With JCIE NGO Fund support, SakuraNet led a coalition that rebuilt a community center, which primarily serves senior citizens in an isolated area outside of Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. Reconstruction funds for senior centers are typically focused only on city centers, but this provides care closer to the hamlets where many of the region’s seniors live. The construction was carried out by a group of 30 students from the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at Ritsumeikan University, in cooperation with the Miyako City Social Welfare Council. The facility was completed in December 2011 and is now being used by local groups to provide services for seniors and as a community center for local residents.

An outside view of the nearly completed center

Ritsumeikan University students help construct the new facility

Takagi Fund for Citizen Science (Providing Training and Encouraging Collaboration among Grassroots Groups Monitoring Radiation to Promote Healthy Communities)
Location: Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere
Grant: ¥9,600,000 (approx. $113,000)
The Takagi Fund received a grant to educate and promote collaboration among mothers’ groups, neighborhood associations, and other grassroots organizations that are dealing with radioactive contamination following the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Its goal is to help communities make informed decisions that will help them lead healthy and secure lives.

  • Twice a year, the organization puts together a “research exchange “ forum in Fukushima and Tokyo to present the results of its survey that measures radiation levels in produce and soil from Fukushima’s affected communities. One outcome of the forums was the launching of the online database called the “Minna no Data Site” (Data Site for Everyone), which tracks radiation levels of food in Fukushima. The website is also available in English. Research from over 30 independent radiation measurement labs, which amounts to over 11,000 produce samples, is available on the site. Given the fact that some of the radiation monitoring centers are shutting down due to a lack of funding and decreasing demand from citizens to measure radiation levels in produce, the data site project helps ensure that data collected from these centers are compiled and utilized even after the centers wind down their activities.
  • As part of the data site project, the organization launched an initiative to collect data on soil contamination in the East Japan region. It will measure soil from 17 prefectures (about 17,000 locations) and make the results available on the site.
  • More than 100 independent radiation monitoring centers run by citizens around the country were founded after the Fukushima nuclear accident. The expertise gained by these centers now parallels academic and policy institutes. The Takagi Fund for Citizen Science has become an information hub for these centers and has helped coordinate their activities through the data site project. Besides the data site project, the organization has put together 23 events including study trips and meetings since the disaster to empower communities with accurate knowledge on radiation levels in Fukushima.
  • On March 6, 2016, the Takagi Fund will host a public forum in Tokyo to allow researchers and groups to present their research on radiation in Fukushima. Residents are encouraged to attend the forum and ask questions. Those with the strongest presentation and research focus will be awarded a grant from the fund.

World in Tohoku (Building a Platform for Social Entrepreneurship to Promote Recovery)
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Grant: ¥6,000,000 (approx. $76,850)
WiT provides coaching and training programs for 11 social entrepreneurs in Tohoku on ways to strengthen the institutional capacity of their organizations and serve their constituents more effectively. The organization was originally named World in Asia, but it has been split into two separate organizations to streamline their focus areas, and the group managing the disaster-related work has been renamed World in Tohoku (WiT). As of 2015, WiT has helped nonprofit organizations and social businesses provide social services to nearly 21,000 people, including senior citizens, unemployed women, people with disabilities, and children living in poverty in the disaster zone.

  • WiT is now supporting Replus, an organization managing a preventative senior care program in Miyagi Prefecture to help the organization evaluate its impact and better engage stakeholders in its initiatives. Replus’ focus on prevention allows the elderly to address their physical problems at an earlier stage and improve their quality of life. In one case, Replus helped an elderly woman get back on her feet after her doctor told her that she would be wheel-chair bound. She joined the Replus program with the goal of at least managing to walk to the bathroom herself. The program significantly improved her condition, allowing her to take up gardening again.
  • WiT is organizing its fourth cross-cultural learning program called “Cross Border Learning Journey” in July 2016, which will brings together 5 social entrepreneurs working in Tohoku and 20 social entrepreneurs from elsewhere in the United States and Japan for a 6-day event in Tohoku. The program’s aim is to provide a forum for participants to exchange expertise and continue to collaborate across sectors and borders.


Emergency Relief
In the initial three months following the disaster, a total of $304,000 was distributed through the Center for Public Resource Development’s Give One Initiative to six organizations so they could provide emergency supplies, medical care, counseling, and other crucial assistance.


MetLife Alico Employees’ Children Support Program
With donations from MetLife Alico Japan employees, a special one-year program was launched to help children and their families cope with the recovery process. This supported 21 organizations from April 2012 to March 2013.