West Tokyo Union Church supports the following outreach programs and organizations:
- Sanyukai ( a medical clinic for the homeless)
- Kibou no le (House of Hope) a hospice for the homeless
- HELP (Housing in Emergency of Love & Peace) Asian Women’s Shelter
- Nozomi no le (House of Hope)
- Choyou Gakuen
- Fuchu Prison Ministry
- Nankiren (Christian Coalition for Refugees and Foreign Migrant Workers)
- Lyra Precaria
- JOEE – Joyful Opportunity English Education (serving orphanages in Japan)
- NCCJ National Christian Council in Japan, Christian Education Center
- Asian Rural Institute (ARI)
- Tokyo English Life Line (TELL)
- Second Harvest Japan
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ARI: Earthquake â€“ reflection after one year
by Steven Cutting
Last year about half of the coastal town of Ishinomaki was taken by the sea, together with over 3,000 of its residents. This week the Ishinomaki High School baseball team, most of whom lost family members in the tsunami, is practicing to participate in a spring invitational high school baseball tournament in Osaka.
Further south sits the pretty little town of Namie; quiet, pristine. But you wonâ€™t find a single soul there. Since it rests just inside the 20 km (12 mile) exclusion zone of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant all residents have heeded the order to evacuate. Its town hall operates in makeshift offices in nearby Nihonmatsu, where its officials continue to issue birth certificates and keep track of its 21,000 inhabitants who now live scattered across 44 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. They are all wondering when or if they can go back home.
These two cities starkly represent a vast difference in the nature of the disasters that struck Northeastern Japan just over a year ago. While the earthquake and tsunami were devastating, they are over; and communities have spent the last year pulling together to clean up and rebuild their towns and their lives. In the case of the nuclear disaster, however, in many ways it is still unfolding â€“ not in the sense that radiation is still leaking out of the power plant (we have been told it is not) but in the sense that it is still keeping people divided. As long as this is the case, recovery and healing cannot begin.
In ARI this past Sunday we organized a small service during which we shared our memories of the events that took place a year ago. As I listened to peopleâ€™s various accounts I was surprised at how vividly my own memories came back. And when I started telling my story I was taken off guard by the return of the tense feeling I had experienced in the weeks after the quake.
We were all camped out in the seminar house, the only building immediately usable. We taped up the windows and carefully listened to news and weather reports. Outside exposure was minimized and we wore rain coats whenever we had to go out. We started feeding our animals only once a day and each person kept a bag packed, ready to evacuate at a momentâ€™s notice. All of this, of course, was due to the fear of radiation; fear which came from not knowing â€“ not understanding. What are the dangers at the nuclear power plant? Is radiation coming in our direction? If so, how much? Are we breathing it now? Eating it now? Are we going to get cancer? What about our children?!! Radiation is invisible, odorless, and tasteless; so your imagination fills in the gaps, and we all know how imaginations can be wildly efficient at creating worst case scenarios and then making them even worse.
The only way to counter fear is to get information, to learn, to try to understand what has happened, how it affects us, and what we can do. Information followed by action alleviates anxiety. In the beginning we were starving for information about the radiation threat and essentially we have spent the whole of this year obtaining this information. It is deeply complicated, with comparatively little research available. (Most if it comes from Chernobyl). I call it Nuclear Physics 101 â€“ crash course. It seems this is now a required topic for any aspiring organic farmer in Northern Japan.
It didnâ€™t start out this way though. I mean we didnâ€™t have this fear immediately after the earthquake. In fact, like in Ishinomaki, we came together. The first night, in the absence of water and electricity we had a big community supper cooked on a campfire. There was plenty of hot food for everyone. We held each other and told our â€œwhere were you when it hitâ€ stories. The next day we went to work cleaning up â€“ broken bottles of carrot juice, tumbled rice containers, the chaos of the library. The magnitude of the damage and mess was pretty overwhelming, but we were all in good spirits. Everyone was safe. There was not even one injury. And in a way it felt good to throw out all the clutter