Civil Society

March 8, 2018


Giving Tohoku Children Opportunities to Enjoy the Sea

Keywords: Disaster Reconstruction 

Copyright 2018 Satoumi Farm All Rights Reserved.

Tohoku Fukko Nikki (Tohoku Reconstruction Diary) is a weekly feature in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper with stories about reconstruction efforts in communities devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that stuck Japan in March 2011. The articles are written by the JKSK Yui-Yui Project, an initiative to support survivors of the 2011 disaster. Here is an article by Hiromi Asanuma from the July 11, 2017 issue of the paper, the efforts to bring smiles to children affected by the earthquake.

The predecessor of "Satoumi Farm" in Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture was a volunteer group started in Kawasaki after the 2011 disaster. As I wanted to take part in activities that were more deeply rooted in the devastated areas, we registered the organization as a general incorporated association in 2012. While working as a nursery teacher in Kawasaki on weekdays, as executive secretary of the organization I have been commuting to Minami-Sanriku every three months for the past five years to participate in volunteer activities.

Around one year after the earthquake, when I was helping local fishermen and children's events on weekends, I noticed trucks going back and forth carrying rubble, but children were nowhere to be seen. I wondered where the children played every day. When I asked a local, the reply was, "They are either playing in temporary parking lots or travelling 40 minutes to nearby towns so they can play safely." I saw the harsh reality of the town being far from creating an environment where children can lead a pleasant life.

As we carried out activities hoping that "bringing smiles to the children will help bring smiles to the adults as well," we received many donations from individuals and companies and created a park in 2013. We later opened a tourist-oriented sheep farm. We fed the sheep seaweed scraps and started studying how to market a mutton brand. We are also developing wool products and aiming to create a space where families can spend a relaxing day together at the farm.

One of our ongoing activities these past five years is providing kayaking lessons. We started our lessons in September 2012 as a way for children who had frightening experiences with the tsunami to recall happier memories of playing in the sea. Some parents were in tears, saying that "It was the first time my child swam in the sea since the earthquake," and "I never expected to see my child smile so much when playing in the sea."

Hiromi Asanuma
Secretary General
Satoumi Farm