After visiting the devastated areas of Ishinomaki, we went to meet with Fujita-san, representative head of the Citizens for the Recovery of Ishinomaki, to hand over the raised donation funds. With the kind co-operation of American Express International, some $14,000 Australian dollars translated to over 1.1 million Japanese Yen. Paul Johanessen, film director and producer, had not told Fujita-san of our visit nor of the donation. Cardboard remains taped over windows on the second floor where Fujita-san has managed to live for most of the last year. The ground floor has been recently put together, and we enter a tiny room.
I introduce myself and explain about the donation, taking the notes from several envelopes and placing them on the table. It is freezing cold. Fujita-san takes the money and puzzles over the amount, more than the group has received from the government. He doesn’t seem surprised or happy. It is something of an anti-climax for us. We realize how selfish it is of us to expect more. Fujita-san seems to be in shock and overwhelmed by what is happening. When we meet him the next day, the donation and its possibilities have overtaken the shock, and he is bubbling with energy, anxious to show us evidence of renewal and courage in Ishinomaki.
All over Ishinomaki we are struck by the importance of the volunteers and support from outside of Japan. There are photos of overseas volunteers wherever we go, and we are told how much this support means to the local people, feeling forgotten by their own government. It is the inspiration for their continuing courage and hope for the future.
Fujita-san was a teacher, school and university. Reading about the lack of doctors in Okinawa, he returned to Ishinomaki two years ago to live with his mother to prepare for medical school entrance exams. His family was destroyed by the tsunami. Alone, supported by local volunteers, he is determined to make a difference in the survival of Ishinomaki and its residents. You can follow Fujita-san’s posts on his personal blog here(Japanese only), and the work updates he is undertaking here (Japanese only). Fujita-san also works with ARI (The Association for the Revitalisation of Ishinomaki) who post in English, read here and visit on Facebook here. There is also a Facebook page for Fujita-san here (Japanese only).
The Community Centre.
Wood fire stove for making tea and roasting sweet potato.
The Senbazauru (1000 cranes) folded in Melbourne and carried to Japan hanging in the community centre.
A local park Fujita-san is developing for children.