“Be One Tohoku”

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Two very special women visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum (PTM) in 2012 and had a most productive meeting with Barbara Muffler, Curator/Archivist. Images, stories, and illustrations pertaining to the Japan event were added to the Museum archive thanks to this input.

Yukie Ohashi and Kayo Ugajin are part of a group organized as “Be One Tohoku”. In the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami, the group gave assistance to residents of Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi Prefecture in the tsunami-ravaged Tohoku region of Japan. The city of Ishinomaki, just 80 miles west of the epicenter, sustained heavy damage and loss of life. Of the total estimated death toll of 20,000 in Japan, approximately 6,000 people (about 30%) died in Ishinomaki.

The “Be One Tohoku” group trucked tons of food, blankets, clothing, and other necessities from Osaka, driving many hours multiple times each week to bring life-saving resources and supplies. They distributed bedding to temporary shelter residents, cleaned homes and businesses, hauled tons of debris, shared meals, prepared Christmas gift bags for elderly care home residents, and made Easter goodies for children. They listened to horrific stories of escape and cried with people as they talked about family members swept away on that day. They gave encouragement to many with hugs and and understanding. They heard the stories of many who had lost everything, including loved ones.

One neighborhood had a goal to re-build its park. Volunteers cleaned the park area of mountains of debris. Plans were prepared based on the neighborhood’s vision. Volunteer teams from Hawai’i, U.S. Army personnel from Camp Zama in Tokyo, and local carpenters and gardeners constructed three pavilions, installed landscaping and new playground equipment, and celebrated a renewed life at a summer festival. The volunteers played with the children and encouraged their parents, listened to the elderly, and extended love and friendship from one Pacific island to another, both having endured tsunamis. 

The park project is a symbol of hope and a new beginning in rebuilding lives. The people of Ishinomaki desire a safe place, a healing place, with lots of greenery. This park has brought residents of all ages together in a place filled with flowers reflecting the seasons, a beautiful area to enjoy and share the sense of community.

PTM was honored that these two women came and shared their story of help and hope. It is truly an inspiration.