Niko Niko grappling/volunteer trip to “Kamaishi City” part 1

*imaginary convo*
Parent: So honey, how was your weekend?
Roxy: It was great! Well, I drove all night through Fukushima, went to a disaster area, did manual labor, had Japanese men strip and dance naked in front of me, fought a guy and choked him out with my legs, and slept in my dojo overnight. How was yours?

Hahahahaha Allow me to elaborate! 😀

After work on Friday, I hustled to Shibuya. Bus departure time: 11:30 PM!

I sat next to Brittany. We chatted for a while until it got late and we tried to sleep, but the seats wouldn’t lean back AT ALL. So I couldn’t really sleep because I woke up and my neck was KILLING me.

We stopped 3 times at rest areas because the bus didn’t have a bathroom. We drove north, through Miyagi and Fukushima and into Iwate. We arrived in Kamaishi City, our destination, at 8:00 AM. It’s such a beautiful, mountainous area.

(Click to enlarge all photos from here on)

We went to the Disaster support center and met Jin Hirano, Katsumura-san’s good friend and Graaca MMA dojo owner. We split into two groups: one group went, I don’t know where, and another group went to a field near Hirano-san’s house.

It was weird because I couldn’t always understand what was going on. I’ve never been in this kind of situation before, so naturally, they were using words I’ve never heard before. I learned words “disaster relief,” “disater area,” “temporary housing,” etc.

(Brittany by a destroyed bridge)
So some towns got swept away by the tsunami. Kamaishi was hit very hard, but not completely destroyed, so people still lived there. Barely. On the bus ride, we passed the coast with mountains and mountains of colorful rubble. We passed fields of yellow weeds, and our hosts told us that there used to be houses there. They did clean up to a degree. Downtown, there were crippled houses boarded up with danger tape around them. Brittany and I asked about the red “X’s” on some of the houses, and we were told that when search and rescue broke in to help trapped people, they did that mark to check off the building as having been searched.

Anyway, our big blue bus took team 2 to Hirano-san’s neighborhood and we got out and changed into work clothes. I thought we were going to …I dunno what! Clean up rubble? Shift class out of sand on the beach? That’s what they did last time.

Hirano-san said, “See this big area with dead grass and weeds? We’re going to make a park for kids. So pull it all up!”

Okaaay. So for a few hours, we were all on our hands and knees pulling up dead grass with our bare hands. It really makes you appreciate TOOLS. And MACHINES. And ELECTRICITY. In the States, maybe they’d take some bulldozer and it’d be done. But obviously we wouldn’t be there laboring if they had that capability, would we?

Japanese people consider “parks” to have no grass. They’re just dirt or gravel lots…it’s their style, which I personally don’t go for. I want GRASS to play on as a kid, but they think weeds grow too tall, so it’s easier to just yank it all up. Fine…as long as the kids are happy.

Then we had lunch and sat and tried to think, how can we make a part out of tires, fallen trees, a chainsaw and nails? So they planted a tree, put down a bench (which really hurt our tushies.) Oh well?

There were new neighborhoods of temporary houses, and we went from door to door giving bags of rice, tea and coffee to the people and families living there. 🙂
Following that, checked into our hotel and went to a restaurant….and there MORE fun began……!

Coming soon: part 2…