Dealing with Disaster: Where Is the Red Cross?

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In Ishinomaki, food and toys are delivered to a temple being used as an evacuation center.

by HIROKO TINA TAJIMA

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).

March 31, 2011

Thank you for your continuous support. Attached are more pictures, mainly from Ishinomaki City of Miyagi Prefecture, where the tsunami hit the most.

I don’t know how many of you read the article on social workers at Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital on the Rafu Shimpo website. I sent my comment to Editor Gwen Muranaka, saying that the Japanese Red Cross actually is not doing much. They do send nurses and social workers, but they depend on doctors’ associations in each prefecture or “hub” hospitals to send doctors.

All the money that has been donated to the Red Cross is sitting in their bank account somewhere and I haven’t seen any goods sent from the Red Cross yet.

Thank you for all your donations. I have received so many checks, but haven’t had time to endorse them and send them to Wells Fargo, where I have my account. Therefore, I don’t know exactly how much money we have from the U.S. I get checks from other Asian countries and Europe. With donations we have received domestically, I think we have gotten approximately $28,000 or so. Too bad that yen-dollar exchange rate is really bad right now. I’ll sit down with my assistant and calculate exactly how much money we have now.

Situations haven’t changed much since I wrote my last update. The biggest change probably is the radiation. Vegetables grown in Fukushima, Gunma, Saitama and a part of Chiba are said to be contaminated and we’re importing vegetables from China. Farmers are committing suicide, but it doesn’t hit the news here.

We have water and electricity shortage. Most people up north have water and electricity (limited), but no gas. I’ve been trying my best to get water and food from every possible corner of Japan, but it’s hard.

Brian Kito (of Fugetsudo in Little Tokyo) and I have been trying to figure out if he can send food and clothing from L.A., but clearing customs is a big headache. I called the Department of State and the Prime Minister’s Office and even visited some of the ministers in Tokyo yesterday, but no clear answer comes from anyone. I’m frustrated.

I was introduced to a young man in Natori City, about 20 minutes away from Sendai, who is a car dealer and imports cars from the U.S. He lost most of his cars in the tsunami, but he decided to use his factory and workshop as storage areas for donations and he has gathered volunteers to deliver goods directly to earthquake and tsunami victims. I’m in close contact with him and I send stuff to him and he makes sure that things go to places/people in need.

We’re sending another truck with water, cup noodles/udon, underwear, socks, mochi (even if they do not have gas, they can always boil it) and canned goods along with rice (those packed ones that you throw in the microwave). The truck will pick them up Saturday morning and drive up to Sendai, and this time I asked my friend to send them specifically to Ishinomaki and Kesennuma (both in Miyagi Prefecture).

A producer from UTB (United Television Broadcasting Services) and the president of the Japan-Korea Society in L.A. came in yesterday afternoon. I lent them my cell phones gave them bottled tea upon arrival. They came to my office to interview me and I spoke both in Japanese and English. They are leaving for Sendai on Saturday and leave back for L.A. on Tuesday.

One of the biggest non-profit organizations from Austria contacted me through my friend and they are sending two people on Sunday. first to Tokyo and to Sendai by bus. My friend Yuta will drive them up to Ishinomaki and other areas, so that they can have a better idea of what they can do.

I’m under a lot of stress. I’m trying to get some help, so that I can slow down and get ready to start a new school year (our school year starts in April — in about a week and a half).

This is a short update, but will try to write more later. I’m tired and need to get some sleep.

Again, please feel free to forward this to whomever you think appropriate. Thank you.

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1 Comment

  1. I cant believe my eyes. These poor plpoee have lost so much but i feel like they are being very humble about it as a whole because its part of their culture. I feel that the world should try and do as much as they can for these human beings. A simple act of caring or service would mean the world to them. Sending anything to aid Japan would be phenomenal. Even if we feel like it wont help, we should send it anyways. One mans trash is another mans treasure. Whether its a few blankets or one hundred blankets. Anything will help their sufferings.

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