Tohoku Youth Ambassador Day 2

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

It was an early start for Day 2. Getting to breakfast at 6.30am, and then moving off on the bus to Rikuzentakata at 7am.

Hotel Breakfast!
It was a 4 hour journey to Rikuzentakata, and we were privy to views of one of the worst hit areas. Rikuzentakata is actually situated right along the coastline, as a result, a lot of the buildings were just steamrolled to nothingness. Interested to note however, was that at one point I noticed that the treeline resulted in a substantial portion of land relatively untouched by the effects of the tsunami. Truly, mankind has nothing to compare with the strength of natures forces. It is also truly a testament to Japanese construction techniques that there were some buildings left standing, the structures still complete, but the insides completely ruined.
 The beginning.
 Coastal area.
 Trees that are dead, lining those that are alive.
 Crumpled truck.
 An example of the many areas in Rikuzentakata that are still undergoing relief work.

The structure of a supermarket (?) still standing.

We were briefed by the staff at the volunteer centre, and we proceeded to our designated area. Where we worked for about 2 hours non-stop. While I have no pictures to show what it was like, I can hardly begin to describe what I felt. Seeing a house in ruins, with belongings strewn all over. If it was a place I returned to gather what was left I would most certainly just feel like a void consumed me. At a loss. I uncovered a box of letters, still in dry and good condition, and was shocked to find something still left untouched by the waters. I wondered if the family would have wanted those back. Clothes, books, everything, regardless of how branded they are, are reduced to nothingness when nature bares her fangs. While I only worked 2 hours, and I was tired, I desired to continue, to do more than just that. However, we were limited by our itinerary, and so we had to leave. 

We returned to the volunteer centre, which by now was bustling with activity. More local groups had turned up to help. We did some washing, and returned the items we loaned for our work. Gargled iodine, and had some refreshment they provided. The staff were kind and thanked us profusely for our help. Instead, I felt that I had more to thank them for, than they had to me. I was allowed privy to an area that many have not seen, nor touched, nor stood upon. I was allowed to get down and dirty to do my part. My wishes were fulfilled today, to actually stand on the ground and do something physical and concrete.

I purchased a number of things to show my support. A couple of stickers and a very unique shirt that I would be proud to wear.
Re-kuzen Takata shirt, 2 stickers, and a volunteer tee. Above right: Mini tanabata gift.

Just before we left, we were presented with a volunteer shirt, with the words "Even in the toughest of times, never forget to smile."

I am truly glad to have been given this chance, to accomplish something that many would have wanted to, but few had the chance. To contribute physically and economically even in the most minute of ways to Tohoku. Just before I end off, I would like to post one last picture. One that truly captured my mind, heart and eyes.
A tree that survived. Amongst the strewn ruins. A sign of hope, providing courage to all.

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Tohoku Youth Ambassador Day 1 (continued)

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

So after our mini tanabata making session, we were whisked 2 roads down to Sendai Kokusai Hotel for an opening ceremony and our dinner.

A couple of speakers made their speeches, starting with Prof. Kawamura from Fukushi University (Who is a Buddhist monk as well), who spoke to us about his experience with previous disasters and how with that experience he managed to do his part for Tohoku, when the massive Tsunami struck. As of 26/7/11, the death toll stood at 15,628 and 4,823 were still missing. He explained how it Japan has recovered astoundingly quickly, with aid from the rest of the world. He thanked us from the bottom of his heart, for volunteering to come down to Tohoku to show the world that it is safe, as well as for all the efforts that many Singaporeans made to raise funds for Japan.

 Lobby of Sendai Kokusai Hotel

 Prof. Kawamura

Mr. Alexis (sp?) his translator. From Russia and Karate expert.

Next Mr. Abe from Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organisation spoke to us about the developments of the Tohoku region, and how relief efforts have been so far. Some important information:

1) Almost ALL modes of transport in Tohoku are fully functional. The Tohoku Expressway, the Shinkansen tracks, and various airports as well are running well. With Sendai Airport running charter flighteds from 25 July, and ALL domestic airports fully open and in operation.
2) Many of the tourist attractions are safe to travel and did not suffer significant damage from the earthquake. With the exception of coastal areas, all are safe for travel.
3) In hot spring areas, all ryokans are open for business.
4) This summer, many of the traditional festivals will be held as per normal.

We then proceeded to our dinner location. Where we, well, had dinner!
 Waiting for dinner.
 A selection of alcoholic (not) drinks.
 Our dinner spread.

The local specialities.

 Sea urchin from Iwate, and grilled scallop from Aomori.
 Inaniwa Udon from Akita
 Hittumi (left) and Zunda (right) Mochi from Miyagi.
 Moni from Yamagata, its a pork + konnyaku in broth dish
 Grilled sea urchin from Fukushima. The only dish I failed to taste :(
 Scallop on the grill.
 The queue of food.
 From nearest: Salmon, octopus, pork, chicken, pasta, edamame.
Nearing the end of our dinner, we had a couple more stage activities. First of which was the self introduction by some of the University students from Sendai.

And then it was a renactment of Sendai's history, by a group of pretty talented guys, roleplaying as Date Masamune and his entourage.
 The awesome gang.

Group photo!

With that, we ended our nights activities and retired to our hotel. 2 night stay at ANA Holiday Inn Sendai.

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Tohoku Youth Ambassador Day 1

Posted By: Creator of Zsup

Allow me to start the post with the highlight of the 8 hour flight via ANA direct from SGP to NRT. That's right, in any flight, the highlight HAS to be the in-flight meals! So anyways, I always got my meal first, as I had a special arrangement for my meals (bane and boon as you will see later).

 No proawn as you can see. Danbo Approves.

 Some amazing spring water from Toyama!

 This is what normal people got.

 Lays and water. Well the bags a plus, but "No proawn" scores 1 against "normal.

 Breakfast! What I woke up to, after a 2 hour nap.
 Zzzzz. Could it get any blander?!

 Boiled potatoes, boiled friend omelette, boiled mushrooms, boiled tomato. Danbo does not make a cameo.

 This is what normal people got. :O

Finally after touchdown at Narita Airport, I proceeded to immigration. No pictures though, I remember what happened the last time I took one. Below are some pictures of the situation in NRT AP though.

 No unnecessary lights.
 Travellators are off, because people actually don't need much effort to walk horizontally.

After clearing the customs, it was off to another long journey! A 5 hour drive to Sendai (turned out to be 6 due to road works). We made a couple stops along the way, at Expressway Service Areas (Kinda like Hokkaido's Road Stations or Malaysia's Rest Stops.) And at the first of these stops we got our lunch!

 Rendezvous with the ekiben van.

 The Ekiben.

 Unboxing the ekiben.

 Looks good. Really good. Trust me, looks better than it tastes lol.

But just so everyone knows, I did eat the lot, rice and meat, so I'd like to make a point that as much as radiation is a worry to people, it does not affect ALL food items. The Japanese government is already doing as much as they can to intercept and prevent the spread of irradiated food so KUDOS TO THEM.

 Next rest stop. Chop point 2.

 So awesome. Even got dog run.

We finally reached our destination. Fujisaki Departmental Store, where on the 4th floor, we had our lesson at making the mini tanabata decorations. 

 Parts required to make the kimono. 6 parts in all.


 Better view. Front.

 Back view. I screwed up the obi. T.T
 Group photo. Or rather table photo! Our sensei is the lady in the middle. And second from the right is Aki Meguro, our friendly translator from Tohoku Womens University (?).
 Well, I'm stopping here for the night, as it's gonna be an early day tomorrow. Volunteer work at Rikuzentakata. Will post more about the nights events! So please stay tuned and do comment, I appreciated them lots!

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