SakuraNet—Pilot Project of Rural Senior Center
Location: Miyako, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥4,350,000 (approx. US$54,000)

JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund is providing a grant to SakuraNet, a Japanese NPO, to rebuild and operate a senior daycare center, which will double as a community center, in an isolated area outside of Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. This grant, which is part of the fund’s focus on long-term recovery and particularly on supporting senior citizens—a large and vulnerable portion of those impacted by the 3/11 disaster—was made possible by MetLife Foundation and other donors to the JCIE fund.

SakuraNet first became engaged in reconstruction efforts following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. Since that time, it has been carrying out projects to promote education for disaster prevention and mitigation and to build a welfare community that is more resilient against disaster. After the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, SakuraNet became involved in numerous projects in and around Iwate Prefecture, assisting the operations of volunteer centers, promoting student volunteer activities, and supporting capacity building for local NPOs in Iwate.

Omoe is a fishing community located on a beautiful coastal area of a peninsula. Located one hour away from the downtown area of Miyako, this remote hamlet had been struggling with an aging and declining population in recent years. On 3/11, the massive tsunami hit Omoe, with its waves reaching over 130 feet (40m) at the highest point. The community suffered extensive destruction, and many residents now live in temporary housing. Omoe’s daycare center, which also functioned as a community center and was an important facility for seniors as well as for other residents, was completely destroyed by the tsunami. Because the government reconstruction efforts are focusing first on urban areas, however, the reconstruction of the daycare center in this remote community was put off for an indefinite number of years.

As a result, SakuraNet, in cooperation with Miyako Social Welfare Council, began looking for partners in order to reconstruct the Miyako daycare center as entirely private initiative. This led to the launch of the Miyako Daycare Center Project, involving a group of 30 students from the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at Ritsumeikan University, led by Associate Professor Shinsaku Munemoto. Various benefactors donated lumber and building supplies, and the student-professor team volunteered their expertise, time, and labor. With help from a local carpenter, a senior citizen who resides in the temporary housing next door, the construction was completed in winter 2012. The facility will be used over the next several years by the Miyako Social Welfare Council and others to provide services for seniors. It will also be used as a community center for local residents, and it is expected to contribute to the preservation and revitalization of the local community.