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2012 April Tohoku Trip

A veiw from a hotel window in Ofunato, Iwate. 

Temporary shopping site, convenient for consutruction workers and NGO/NPO staff/volunteers, inconvenient for the locals without cars.

Raising ground level to rebuild warehouses for the aquaculture industry. 

At the office of Habitat for Humanity Japan. 

The very first seaweed harvest since last March.

Fishermen heading out to the ocean for the first time in a year. 

Debris can be seen pilled up everywhere in Iwate and Miyagi, due to lack of municipal governments outside Tohoku agreeing to accept and dispose tsunami waste.


A New Purpose in Life

By Atsuko Fish, Co-Founder of JDRFB


Immediate Alarm

I could not believe my eyes when I first saw the damage from the Great Eastern Japanese Disaster. My heart was tearing apart as I watched my beloved home country being devastated by massive waves of water. A few days after the disaster, we announced the creation of the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund Boston (JDFRB) and started raising funds right away. JDRFB was created in March 2011 as a local vehicle for giving aid to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The purpose of JDRFB was to provide financial aid to organizations conducting immediate and intermediate relief efforts on the ground.

From my experience with disaster relief, I knew that time was of the essence and that it was important to secure food, water, shelter, and most importantly doctors and medication. Less than a month after the disaster, we deployed a small group of Japanese doctors who were teaching and practicing in Boston. All the doctors and medical practitioners were eager to assist the people of Tohoku and received emergency disaster training prior to the departure.


Determination to Go Tohoku

Very quickly, I knew I needed to go to Tohoku to see the devastation with my own eyes. The U.S. State Department issued an official statement warning U.S. citizens not to travel to Japan, and my family and friends were concerned as well. Nonetheless, in supporting emergency disaster relief programs, needs assessment is essential. Furthermore, I knew I would be held accountable for putting JDRFB donations to good use. People responded generously, and whether it was the $10 donation from a child’s bake sale or the large corporate gift, every dollar was important to us. The best way to ensure donations went to the right nonprofits was to evaluate need and programs in person.

On April 14, my daughter, who insisted she accompany me, and I finally managed to travel to Tohoku and saw nothing but black sands for miles and miles, with no sign of life. It was apocalyptic. Roads were closed, communications were down, there was no electricity or hot water, emergency shelters were still being setup, and people were still in complete shock.


Resilience of Tohoku People

While being awakened by constant aftershocks, I had a glimpse of how scary and horrifying it may have been for people in Tohoku to experience such a catastrophic disaster. What moved me most in Tohoku, was the resilience and strength of the people. They were calm, never complained, waited patiently for services, thoughtful of one another, and displayed immense gratitude. For me, it was an illustration of great integrity amidst emotionally and physically agonizing circumstances.

I visited an emergency shelter in Sohma, Fukushima and was impressed by how spotless and organized it was even with 700 people living in a condensed space. The people living in the shelter were in need of medical services. Sohma, a city only 20 miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, was the location where the JDRFB funded doctors were stationed. Having doctors at the shelter gave tremendous peace of mind to the people. Internal doctors took care of the elderly and sick many of which had conditions that were exacerbated by the disaster and lack of access to medical care. Psychologists spent their time encouraging people to talk about their experiences to help facilitate healthy processing and coping. Pharmacists provided medication in an efficient and methodical manner. It was reassuring to see that the first JDRFB funded project was working well, and thanks to the high standards of public health, no epidemics broke out.


On the Way to Ofunato

After much waiting and uncertain communications, my daughter and I finally met with two people from All Hands Volunteers, a Boston based nonprofit organization that mobilizes large numbers of volunteers to disaster areas around the world. We traveled from Fukushima to Ofunato, Miyagi. Their car was packed with supplies such as sleeping bags, towels, and food. Roads were cleared and reopened enough for one lane of traffic.

The Japanese defense force, together with the U.S. Military, is credited for the speedy repair of the major highways in Tohoku. It was vital for emergency vehicles to travel with supplies and human resources. After seven hours of traveling, we were finally in Ofunato.


The Power of Volunteers

In Ofunato, All Hands Volunteers effectively did any necessary work, regardless of how dirty, physically demanding, or time consuming it was. For example, they cleared and cleaned a fish refrigerating facility filled with rotten fish. By showing their commitment through action, All Hands Volunteers gained the trust of the local people. It was heartwarming to see the relationships between the young American volunteers and the local people grow from total strangers with language and cultural barriers to friends. I am confident that these young American people gained a greater sense of humanity and a better understanding of the importance of philanthropy. Someday they will become global leaders. JDRFB and I are proud to have supported All Hands Volunteers.

Their project was a clear success and made an unexpected impact on the young volunteers and the Ofunato community at large.


Moving Experience

Working directly with the people of Tohoku was life changing. With time, people opened up to me and spoke about what it was like to lose everything—their homes, their towns, their livelihoods, and their loved ones. I could not hear their stories without tears, and I had no way to comfort them, except to give them big hugs. It was privileged to get to know the people of Tohoku, and I was honored to be a part of the recovery efforts, especially after being away from Japan for over 30 years. It gave me a new purpose in life and made me feel more connected to my country and its people.

Meeting these young American volunteers was inspiring. As a person with roots in both Japan and the U.S., it was astonishing to see people from two different cultures work together toward the same recovery goal. Their enthusiasm touched everyone and created strong bonds of trust. I admire these American volunteers for their strong belief in making a difference. They took immediate action believing without hesitation that they could make an impact. This positive humanitarian effort inspired me as well as people of Ofunato. It is this spirit that drives the recovery of Tohoku and strengthens our efforts to make sure Tohoku is not forgotten. Lastly, my message to the Japanese people is: let’s keep believing that we can make a difference even in a small way and don’t be afraid to take action.


日本災害復興基金ボストン資金支援レポート (JDRFB Grantmaking Report)

日本災害復興基金ボストン 資金支援レポート




Through an extensive due diligence process, JDRFB has distributed approximately $840,000 of the funds raised to 17 nonprofit and volunteer groups providing direct support to the people and community affected by the disaster in Tohoku. 



ROUND 1 - 2011

For the first round of grants, we distributed approximately $400,000 in June 2011 to nine projects after an extensive review process.



Boston-Japan Medical Relief Initiative (BJMRI): $30,000

ボストン在住の日本人医師十人を 3月中に緊急時支援のため東北に派遣

福島県 - 相馬市 | 宮城県 - 女川市、気仙沼市 | 岩手県 - 陸前高田市、大船渡市

Japanese doctor from Boston ボストン在住の日本人医師が緊急避難所を訪問

Inside of the shelter at Sohma 福島県相馬市、旧相馬女子高校緊急避難

All Hands Volunteers: $50,000 






Volunteer Architects Network (VAN): $50,000



宮城県 - 女川市

Government temporary housing 国が建設した避難所(宮城県女川市)

Ban architect designed temporary housing 坂建築事務所によるコンテナを利用した仮設住宅(宮城県−女川市)

Inside of Ban designed temporary housing 坂建築事務所による仮設住宅内装

Health and Development Service (HANDS): $48,750


岩手県 - 陸前高田市


Oasis for U Refresh Operation - Total Relief (OFURO): $48,000




Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) - Japan: $30,000


福島県 - 相馬市


MIT Japan 3/11 Initiative: $40,000


宮城県 - 南三陸市


Habitat for Humanity Japan: $50,000


岩手県、宮城県 - 大船渡市 


ROUND 2 - 2012

For the second round of grants, we distributed over $400,000 in February 2012 to nine projects after an extensive review process.



BEYOND Tomorrow: $50,000

Project Funded: Academy for Global Leadership for Tohoku

Throughout Tohoku



Dialogue in the Dark: $30,000

Project Funded: Dialogue in the Dark for Children in Fukushima

Throughout Fukushima 

震災後、親とコミュニケーションを取ることが難しくなっている子供達が 暗闇を通して心を開き、弊害を取り除いていくセラピー。


Habitat for Humanity Japan: $50,000

Project Funded: Ofunato Housing Rehabilitation Program

Ofunato, Iwate

地方自治体により半壊またはそれ以下の僅かな被害と判断され、助成金が支払われない被災者で, 家は在るが実際に生活するのに大変不便を強いられている人々に対する援助。

岩手県 - 大船渡市、陸前高田市 


Harvard GSD Post-Disaster Ecology Project: $40,000

Project Funded: Post-Disaster Ecology Project

Minamisanriku, Miyagi


宮城県 - 南三陸


IsraAID Kokoro No Care: $48,202

Project Funded: Kokoro-No Care

Watari, Miyagi


宮城県 - 亘理町



Kirarin Kids: $30,000

Project Funded: From Bad Dreams to New Hope

 Rikuzen Takada, Iwate


岩手県 - 陸前高田市


Kizuna Foundation: $100,000

Project Funded #1: Koishihama Port Rehabilitation Project: $50,000

Project Funded #2: Akasaki Day Care Center Project: $50,000

Koishihama, Iwate and Akasaki, Iwate


岩手県 - 小石浜


Madre Bonita: $40,000

Project Funded: Postnatal Healthcare for Mothers in Tohoku


福島県 | 宮城県 | 岩手県 


Peace Winds America: $49,993

Project Funded: Fisheries Recovery Project

Minamisanriku, Miyagi


宮城県 - 南三陸


Our Appreciation and Gratitude

JDRFB would like to express our deepest appreciation of NGOs who continue to support and contribute to the recovery of local communities in Tohoku.  We would also like to thank all of the generous donors throughout New England for their support of the people and community in Tohoku. We are particularly appreciative of the Japanese Association of Greater Boston for their commitment to helping Tohoku and their dedicated fund raising efforts, which resulted in a total gift from JAGB of $177,219.14.


私ども、日本災害復興基金ボストンは、我々の趣旨に賛同し、東北復興のために日々活動されている現地NGO法 人の皆様に心からお礼申し上げます。東北地方において、被災した人々およびコミュニティーを支援するために、ご協力いただいたニューイングランド地域の皆 様の寛大なる寄付に深くお礼を申し上げます。また、ボストン日本人会より受けました多大なる寄付金とその献身的努力に対し、ここに感謝の意を表明させてい だだきます。尚、ボストン日本人会からの寄付金総額は$177,219.14となりました。



ボストン日本人会、2度目の大型寄付を贈呈 - 2012年6月5日

2012年6月5日、ボストン日本人会より 日本災害復興基金ボストン(Japanese Disaster Relief Fund Boston)の東北復興支援活動へ77,219.14ドルにも及ぶ大型の寄付があった事を発表します。 同日、ボストン日本人会役員会長中塚 久生氏自らが会を代表し、基金代表の厚子フィッシュ氏に寄付を贈呈しました。2011年3月の設立当初より、ボストン日本人会は基金の主旨と活動に賛同し、支援を続けてくださいました。震災からわずか2ヶ月後の昨年5月には、100,000ドルを寄付し、今回と合わせると合計寄付額は177,219.14ドルとなります。この場をお借りし、ボストン日本人会、またその会員の皆様からの寛大な支援と寄付へ、心より感謝申し上げます。


Second major gift from JAGB - June 5, 2012

We are pleased to report that the JDRFB received today a very generous donation of $77,219.14 from the Japanese Association of Greater Boston.  Mr. Hisao "Hank" Nakatsuko, President of the JAGB, delivered the donation to JDRFB co-founder Atsuko Fish on behalf of the Association's membership.  The JAGB has been a loyal supporter of the JDRFB and the recovery work in Tohoku since the fund began.  Last May, the JAGB made a contribution of $100,000 to the JDFRB.  Thus, today's gift brings total donations from the Association to $177,219.14 - an incredibly generous and much appreciated contribution to the JDRFB's relief and recovery efforts in Tohoku.


Tohoku Visit Report April 14-18, 2012

A Report on Third Visit to Tohoku and Second Round Grantees

By Atsuko Toko Fish, JDRFB Co-founder 

Places visited and grantee locations

Overall view of the Tohoku recovery

Temporary housing living condition:

  • People are more settled, slowly beginning to plan their futures

Fishing/Aquaculture industry recovery: 

  • Seaweed (wakame) harvesting
  • Scallops/mussels/oysters bed making


Awarded Grantees: Round 2

Kirarin Kids: $30,000
Project Funded: From Bad Dreams to New Hope

JDRFB supported Kirarin Kids through HANDS in 2011 and is continuing its support of their mission to improve child-rearing environments in Rikuzen Takada City, Iwate, through Sophia University, 上智大学, in 2012.  Kirarin Kids is currently renting a small corner room within a temporary restaurant and is expected to move to a larger location once its construction is completed.


Kizuna Foundation: $100,000
Projects Funded:
Koishihama Port Rehabilitation Project: $50,000
Akasaki Day Care Center Project: $50,000

JDRFB is supporting the restoration of the harbor area of the Koishihama, Iwate, through the Kizuna Foundation. Fishermen are preparing new beds of scallops, mussels, and oysters, all of which take three years to grow. The Akasaki day care center project will rehabilitate an earthquake damaged childcare facility in Akasaki, Iwate. 


Habitat for Humanity Japan: $50,000
Project Funded:Ofunato Housing Rehabilitation Program

The work by Habitat for Humanity Japan assists the most vulnerable families in housing rehabilitation. Participating families, most of whom are the elderly, disabled and sick, and families with young children, are carefully selected through an extensive due diligence process by HFHJ. This project provides assistance with families whose houses are often neglected by the government due to the levels of damage.


Peace Winds America: $49,993
Project Funded: Fisheries Recovery Project

This project aims to revitalize the fishing industry in Minamisanriku, Miyagi, through providing direct support to fishermen and fish farmers.  The project is a collaborative effort among Peace Winds America, Peace Winds Japan, and the Minamisanriku Fishing Cooperatives. Seaweed beds are prepared by fishing equipment funded by JDRFB's grant. 


Harvard University + Open Systems: $40,000
Project Funded: Post-Disaster Ecology Project

This project is initiated and run by a multi-disciplinary group of academics and practitioners committed to the recovery of Tohoku and a collaboration of Harvard University, Open Systems, and the Miyagi University. Based on needs identified through research and consultation with the locals in the communities, the project will propose a set of land use strategies. A town hall meeting took place in Utatsu between the national government's Tohoku Reconstruction Agency and the locals to discuss relocating residential areas to higher grounds. Complicated obstacles still need to be overcome, but progress is already being made. 


IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid): $48,202
Project Funded: Kokoro-No Care

IsraAID will use the funds from JDRFB to establish a new, innovative program, which combines training in post-trauma management with leadership and community building workshops. This project will be offered to to the locals living in temporary housing facilities in Watari, Miyagi. IsraAid provides relief efforts, and identifies and treats the effects of trauma through such methods as music and art therapy.

In Tohoku:  

  • Local community leaders and welfare workers are being trained.
  • Leadership training skills are being taught.
  • Non-verbal therapeutic approach allows people to open up. 


Dialogue in the Dark: $30,000
Project Funded: Dialogue in the Dark for Children in Fukushima

Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) works to address the mental health needs of youth who suffered trauma and loss from the disaster. Some of the most recent DiD's workshops, which achieve demonstrable therapeutic effect through “anonymous” open dialogue sessions, were held on March 2nd to 4th in Koriyama, Fukushima. Complete darkness helps children to open up and say how they truly feel.

Some of the achievements from DiD's workshops are

  • Understanding the importance of trusting and relying on adults. 
  • Expressing worries, anxieties, and concerns about their futures.
  • Understanding “One thing that is the most important for a person.”


Beyond Tomorrow: $50,000
Project Funded: Academy for Global Leadership for Tohoku

BEYOND Tomorrow was established in June 2011 to support the young victims of the earthquake and tsunami who, despite facing great adversity and loss, did not lose hope and continued to embrace a dream to give back to society in the future. The JDRFB will support BEYOND Tomorrow’s program to provide students in Tohoku an opportunity to travel to the United States in the summer 2012 for a 2-week leadership program to broaden their perspectives globally and learn from American leadership models.