Dealing with Disaster: So Much to Do, So Little Time …



Editor’s note: Hiroko Tina Tajima is a university professor in Tokyo and a simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations and the Japanese government. This is part of a series of updates to family and friends about relief efforts she has been organizing to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan. To get involved, contact her at [email protected] (write “Tina Tajima” in the subject line).

April 17, 2011

I’m still trying to find a non-profit organization in the U.S. where I can ask people to send donations and get tax deductions. Classes at my college started last week and I have less time to write updates … sorry.

AND for those of you in Hawaii, sorry that I did NOT mention anything about you folks and I only thanked those in L.A. in the Youtube video. It was for a TV station in L.A., so I specifically extended my appreciation to those in LA. I really do appreciate all of you wherever you are.

Now, here’s another one from the TV company. I helped set up the itinerary for them and Yuta and Mr. Hayakawa in the video are the ones who help us out. Yuta is a 23-year-old guy with lots of energy and connections up north and with his help, I can send stuff to places that only people with a special pass can go to. I’m not in the video this time, but you can see who Yuta is and how many volunteers Yuta and I gathered to help.

I’ll be in L.A. next week and I hope to see many of you on the 1st. There are so many visitors from the U.S., Europe, etc. and for some reason, they all contact me to hook them up with my connections up north. Hence, I couldn’t send out an update until today. My friends were supposed to send me more pictures, but they haven’t come yet, but you can see in the video how we, with Yuta and his buddies, deliver exactly what they need DIRECTLY to people.

If any of you or your friends are planning to send me checks, I’d appreciate it if you could give them to me on the 1st if you’re coming to the gathering or please send me an e-mail directly. I’m finally sending out all the endorsed checks (those I’ve received up ’til now) tomorrow to Wells Fargo.

As I’m writing this, we have an aftershock …  it’s almost 1 a.m. here. It’s scary when it comes in the middle of the night …

April 23, 2011

Above is a beautiful announcement prepared by Joey Slick (DJ name for a Sansei from L.A.). Thanks to all your help, people like Joey contact me and mention what I do on the radio. He’s a well-known radio DJ here in Japan.

Another person that he mentions is Joe Iron, aka Craig Iwamoto, a Yonsei from L.A. Since I’m leaving for L.A. on Tuesday and Craig is leaving for Okinawa around the same time (for work), we’ll meet in person when we get back to Tokyo in the first week of May. Craig has been helping out those that I couldn’t reach …  towns in Fukushima, near the nuclear power plants. An article on him is in the Rafu, too. Brave guy and I was waiting to meet someone like him. I’m planning to meet his parents while I’m in L.A.

I’ve been focusing on Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. They had a big rain a few days ago and since the sewage system is not good/working, they can easily get flooded. Yuta and the guys have been going to places to deliver food, etc. and start cleaning up debris.

Got a call from my friend in Osaka saying that there are a warehouse full of stuff (mainly food) sitting there, nowhere to go. Town, city and prefecture people go by the book and they have no flexibility, so they have been waiting for an OK from … don’t know where. They didn’t even know (I called and finally got hold of one of them).

I’m sending trucks down there to pick the stuff up and take it up north and am trying to come up with the best strategy. Craig told me that he rents a van to go up to Fukushima to help. Maybe we can collaborate our energy and help out even MORE people.

Cars and debris left by the tsunami in Ishinomaki.

Just this morning, I heard on the news that bullet trains (Shinkansen) will go all the way to Sendai on the 25th (next Monday). Hurray! Some parts are recovering fast, but places that we’re helping out do not have gas yet. Some places have no water, electricity OR gas.

Another project my friends and I have just started thinking of is sending social workers.  There are so many people and children who need mental support. I’ll explain that more at the meeting on Sunday. For those of you who cannot make it to the meeting, I’ll write an update after that.

So much to do, so little time … but I’ll continue my work. We cannot depend on our government. They’re TOO busy with local elections all over Japan (“Why now?” I say). They are saying that our prime minister might resign because they (the Democratic Party of Japan) have been losing in local elections and he should take the responsibility.

I personally don’t care… Many of us in Japan do not even remember our prime minister’s name because we don’t get to vote for them and they change too often!



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