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Essay from Riko: the Great East Japan Earthquake

My experience in the Great East Japan Earthquake

I was in the second grade at primary school. It was when I was copying next Monday's timetable and homework from the blackboard to my notebook. The earthquake occurred. The earth started shaking and we all hid under the desks following the teacher's instruction. I felt scared as the shake was long, but my friend was smiling me for some reason while holding the legs of desk.

Then, all students went to the gymnasium. I waited with a pounding heart and my grandfather came to pick me up. Leaving my school bag fallen on the floor in the classroom, I got into the car. The cars are arriving one after another, so it took us a long time to get out of the school parking. When finally we got out, the traffic was also slow, so we went back by another narrow path. A fallen wall blocked the path. My mother drove us to the kindergarten to pick up my brother. I was wondering why we did not go back home directly because I did not know yet that the tsunami would come later. I felt cold at night but it was a beautiful night with more stars than usual. We slept in the car.

We stayed at a shelter and on the fourth day, my father came back and gave us some candy. I found it absolutely delicious. I was glad that my father came back.

After spending several days at the shelter, we moved to my grandfather's house and 10 of us lived together. Having neither water nor no electricity, we received the water from water supply trucks, woke up with the sunrise and went to bed with the sunset. A grandmother, friend of my family living on a hill with the electricity cooked every day for us. Since my brother and I are food-allergenic, she made us what we could eat for all the family. As repeated strong aftershocks continued, we had the radio turned on all the time.

One month later, finally we had the running water and the electricity. We were really happy that we would be able to have a normal life and all the family sang and danced for joy.

The school has started and I received many relief supplies. They were delivered from not only Japan but also abroad. I changed schools. As we borrow a space from a junior high school, there is no playground equipment. We will be the last graduates from this school. It's the oldest primary school in Ishinomaki, but the number of students dropped after the disaster and they decided to merge schools. It was a primary school with a long history where my great grandmother, grandfather and grandmother attended. So, I was sad to hear that it would be closed. Recently, the last sports day took place. I would like to do my best to conclude each of school events successfully as a sixth-grade student as well as one of the last students.
June 2014, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture
Riko Sakai


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Essay from Riko's Mother: the Great East Japan Earthquake

My experience in the Great East Japan Earthquake

When the earthquake struck, I was at work. While the earth kept on shaking, I hoped that this was the Miyagi earthquake. It has been said that that it would occur every about 30 years, so I have seen this coming. Another magnitude five earthquake occurred two days ago. However, I felt that this shake was different from that one. I have always wanted the Miyagi earthquake to be over as early as possible, because we never know when to come and it would come sooner or later.

But something was different. The shaking was long, and the power went out. The traffic lights lost the power, and some cars crashed into others.

Workers at the paper mill and other nearby companies started evacuating, but chatting with one another, they casually walked up the hill. Then, my father said that he would go to pick up my daughter from school. The local radio station announced that Onagawa had been hit by a six-meter-high tsunami.

Passing by people taking refuge, I rushed to my parents' house. My grandparents were tiding up fallen flower pots on the front steps. I told them to escape, but they said with a smile that it would be fine because no tsunami had come here even at the time of the Great Chilean Earthquake. Even so, I led them by the hand. Then, my father and my daughter came back from school. My father told me that he would escape out from home once my brother came back. So, I drove everyone, picked up my mother on the way and headed towards the kindergarten on the mountain top where my son was waiting. He came running and hugged me with tears running down his face. When we were wondering where to drive, a man running up towards us cried "Tsunami is coming". Looking at the sea, it was filled with heavy smoke. I was not sure if it was water mist, fragments of buildings or snow which had been falling for a while. I rushed and drove to a higher place.

I behaved in a positive way so that the children would not feel scared by repeated strong aftershocks. We spent the night in the car. My father and brother joined us. In the middle of the night, we received an evacuation instruction because the primary school at the foot of the mountain was in a fire, and that the fire might spread into the residential area. We had to move the car.

Next morning, finally I could reach my husband by phone. Four days after the earthquake, all the family could gather.

The gymnasium of a high school on the mountain was used as a shelter, and we spent several days there. Since my children have food allergy, they could not eat bananas and pastries supplied during our stay there.  They ate rice crackers that I always have with me and some tofu that a tofu shop probably could not deliver and brought to the shelter. This helped us a lot. Adults brought buckets of water from a swimming pool at the school to flush the toilets.
In April, digging my way through the wreckage, I went to my parents' house. There was a two-meter-high Tsunami water mark at the front door area where my grandparents had been. My workplace, the road to my parents' house and my daughter's school were also flooded by tsunami. Sometimes I wonder what if we had started to evacuate a bit later...

Many volunteers came from all over Japan and cleared the mud and wreckage during Golden Week holidays (end April - early May). They worked hard in the hot weather and in a smelly and dirty environment just for us whom they did not know from Adam. 

It has been decided to build a road which functions as a breakwater. This road embankment will probably cover my parents' house and ours. Today, even 3 years after the disaster, we cannot see how this breakwater project will turn out, which makes us unsettling. 

I always keep some water, food and anti-cold clothing in my car, so we will be able to escape whenever tsunami occurs again. Also, I have picked up a habit of thinking an evacuation route wherever I am. I feel worried whenever the traffic is jammed. When we go to places where we have never been before, the children always ask "Would tsunami come here too?” It is impossible to have them stay alone at home. As most of classmates come to school by car or school bus from temporary housing, it is difficult for them to play with friends after school.

I feel that the children in the disaster areas are accustomed to accept situations which are not supposed to be normal in a “normal life”. Hoping that there will come one day when no one thinks of here as disaster area, we, as adults, should protect our children and build an environment where they can feel safe.

June 2014, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture
Sakai Riko's mother


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The Summer 2014 Participant Receives her Passport!

Riko who is invited by the“Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!” Project and will participate in a two-week summer camp in Arosa, Switzerland, received her first passport yesterday (2016.06.18)!


She is a bit worried that she may get her passport stolen during the trip as she heard bad news from Brazil where the world cup soccer games are held at the moment.  Some Japanese soccer fans got their passports stolen....

During the train ride between the Zurich Airport and the camp site, Arosa, the Project's volunteer staff will be with her, and during the camp, the camp school, Ariana AG, will keep children's passports safe.

Her passport should go back home with her safely.

Her departure is only five weeks away.

We are very excited for us as well as for her and her family.

About the camp which Riko will take part in:
http://www.ariana.ch/en/angebot/index.shtml (the top camp)

Arina AG ( Institut auf dem Rosenberg ) is our main supporter for the 2014 Summer Camp.


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2014 Summer Camp Schedule

The “Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!” Project 
2014 Summer Camp Schedule

The summer camp in 2014 will take place from the end of July and the begging of August. The camp will be held by Ariana.


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Sponsors for the 2014 Summer Camp: The "Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!" Project

The "Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!" Project has received generous support from companies as well as individuals.


Here are the sponsors for the 2014 Summer Camp.

We thank you very much for your support!

 International Boarding School Institut auf dem Rosenberg http://www.instrosenberg.ch/


 Japanese Grocery Shop Uchino http://www.uchino.ch/


Please support the "Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!" Project:
Become a Sponsor (Companies)
How to Donate (Individuals) 



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