Not since my last entry, since I first came to Tohoku.


Actually, there’s still a few weeks to my “official” first time came to Tohoku date. So why even make this post, when I’ve obviously been so cavalier about not making blog entries (NOT CAVALIER, BUSY!).


Here’s why:



Recognize these ladies? No? Shame on you. Please read this blog post from my first trip volunteering in Miyagi. 


Ever since I came back to Tohoku after my first trip, I had wanted to visit the Sato’s. I passed by their home many times, as the bus which goes to Sendai from Ishinomaki passes it. But I was always on the bus, always on the way to somewhere, and never had time. Which was sad. But I happened to go to Higashi-Matsushima to visit the citizen support center there a few days ago. The meeting there was finished in 30 minutes, and I was there in a car, just a few minutes from their home.


It was lunch time, so I didn’t really want to intrude, but I wanted to say hello, so I asked my friend to park nearby and just give me a few minutes to go and say hello.


As we parked the car, I noticed how nice their garden was looking. The trees we had trimmed in front of their property were still in good condition (and well pruned), the garden and greenhouse was full of color, and the damaged wall had been repaired.


The Sato’s are not a family I know particularly well. Unlike some of the friends I’ve made in Ishinomaki, I just spent two days working with them, and since last May, have had no contact with them. So as I started walking towards their house, I started thinking about what I would say to them. I’d explain that I had met them last year and had helped clean their garden as part of a large group of foreigners, most of which were marines. I thought that if nothing else, they would at least remember the marines. If nothing else, those guys are memorable!



As I was almost at the house, they noticed someone was outside. The family were having lunch, but could see me through the large living room windows. I was clearly not a postman or anything like that, as I was dressed very casually, so Mrs Sato stood up to get a better view.


And then something which, to me, was unbelievable. Mrs Sato tilted her head to the side in a quizzical manner and said (I couldn’t hear, but could clearly see what she was saying) one word.



She hurried out of the living room and opened the front door, with a huge smile on her face. I spoke to her and her mother, and caught up. They were understandably surprised to see me, and couldn’t believe that I had been in Tohoku since last summer. They told me off for not coming sooner, as they had said that I should come and stay over and eat if I was ever in the area again. They said the same thing again, but this time it was more like an order than an invitation.


Today I was talking with Masae, and she said that maybe I should try to do more work “in the field”. Not a literal field (although sometimes it’s a literal field), but stuff outside of the office. It’s very tiring always sitting at a desk. If you think otherwise, I invite you to give it a go. If I had a choice, I would just do fun stuff with power tools and never write another email again!

 But you must be tired, because you are always doing administration stuff, you don’t get to see any people we help.


Which is pretty accurate. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get to really know the person we are helping, but more often than not, I will just meet them briefly once or twice, or sometimes not at all.

But it doesn’t get me down. Maybe I’m just that much of a realist. I know what we do helps people, I don’t need to be the one who personally receives their thanks.


But meeting the Sato’s after such a long time reminded me that I too have made a difference to someone on a personal level.



Even now, a few days after the event, I can’t believe she remembered my name. As a foreigner in Japan, I’m used to non English speakers forgetting my name (it’s hard to remember a name you are unfamiliar with). I’m even more used to it in Tohoku. So the fact that this woman remembered my name after almost a year meant and still means a lot to me.


Maybe this is why I’m still here. Because of people like the Sato’s, Hashimoto’s, Matsumura’s and Ishikawa’s of Tohoku. They make it very easy to stay, and very hard to leave.


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