Fuji Social Welfare Foundation

Fuji Social Welfare Foundation—Kitchen Car Project
Location: Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥5,000,000 (approx. US$65,000)

On March 11, 2011, millions of people around the world watched in horror as live video images showed a massive tsunami overtaking the port city of Kamaishi. The scenes were among the most graphic depictions of the tsunami’s devastating force, and of the more than 19,000 people who were dead or missing following the earthquake and tsunami, roughly 1,000 were from this one city alone. The toll on Kamaishi’s buildings and infrastructure was tremendous, and much of the business district was destroyed.

JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund is providing a grant to the Fuji Social Welfare Foundation. This grant was made possible by a contribution from the Japan-America Society of Indiana and other donors to the JCIE fund.

The Fuji Social Welfare Foundation had been promoting the local economy and community-building in Kamaishi since 2009, working for example with the local oyster and salmon industries to help expand their sales in the Tokyo area. In response to the earthquake, the foundation devised an innovative “Kitchen Car Project” that is investing in the establishment of a small fleet of food trucks. These trucks are rented for a low fee to local chefs who have lost their restaurants. The project also offers business assistance, advice on such points as menu development and locations for the trucks to operate, and a site for food preparation.

The trucks operate in different areas around town to provide low-cost, high-quality fare, in the process stimulating other local economic activity by attracting residents to these areas of the city and making the city a more desirable place to live. The daily locations of the trucks are listed on the project website and on Twitter. Because the trucks are mobile, they are also able to serve hot food to victims who are living in temporary housing units, which are often situated far from shopping areas. This helps to improve the quality for those victims as well.

As of March 2012, there were six trucks in operation, offering Japanese and Chinese cuisine as well as café food. This grant was used to procure one new truck for the fleet as well as one additional portable “yatai” (a food stand with seating) that has a canopy and vinyl walls and can be “docked” to the kitchen cars at night, or on rainy or cold days.