The story of Hisanohama is long. And, comparatively, this posting will be very short.
The town is 32 km from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant that you’ve heard about in the news following the Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Before that, this quiet fishing town was inhabited by about 5,600 people. The major industry was fishing and they were known for having fossils of the elasmosaurus (Sea Rex) and ammonite fossils. There exists, still, a little museum with models of the dinosaurs and a small ferris wheel.
After the tsunami, there are maybe about 3,000 people left in the town. Some survived but no longer have the ability to make a living here, so they didn’t come back to the town. 60 people were known to have died with 5 people still missing.
The fishermen still want to fish, but think that no one will buy what they catch.
Last year, a few volunteers; a Shinto priest and some college student volunteers, a journalist and some townspeople raised $90,000 in donations to put on a fireworks festival to honor and remember those who were lost and missing. This year, 2012, they would like to hold the festival again. Depression has set in and the festival would help people look forward with renewed strength.
With so much more work to do to rebuild lives, homes and work, they have Japanese cultural inhibitions and pride which held them in good stead during the disaster, making it difficult for them to reach out now for additional help.
One of the volunteers last year is currently an International Student in Global Studies at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA, USA. Taku Namikawa, in true Japanese form, asked to attend a JBA board meeting in order to seek both permission to speak to people in Japantown but also for support of the organization. The Board agreed to help, without reservation, providing suggestions for a project timeline, space at the Farmers Market, and anything else that we can think to do.
The Japantown Business Association, a non-profit 501c organization, in one of the last remaining Japantowns in the USA is trying to help Namikawa-san (SJSU student who spent a few months as one of the volunteers in Hisanohama in 2011) raise $5,000 to help with the festival this year. That is the reason for this blog. We’d like to keep you in touch with the real people in this small town and future news and efforts! Hisanohama is officially part of Iwaki City, which serves as a ‘county-like’ structure in California terminology. Hisanohama’s office name is Iwaki Hisanohama.
Stay with us to see how we’re doing in raising money for the 2012 August Iwaki Hisanohama Fireworks Festival!
Here is a link to what the Sea Rex center looks like pre-tsunami: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ichico/875736617/in/set-72157600965486939/
Their official NPO website: kitaiwaki.jp