Case study: Kotobukiya Sake Shop

Mr and Mrs Sato at the renovated Kotobukiya Sake Shop, Ishinomaki City


Mr & Mrs. Sato own a sake shop in Ishinomaki city about 1 km inland and 1 block away from the Kitakami river. The 3/11 tsunami completely destroyed the lower floor of their shop including all their wares. For a while they evacuated to temporary housing, but felt the need to restart their business.

INJM volunteers assisted with the gutting and clearing of the shop premises. We sent about 8 volunteers for 10 days to tear down the tsunami soaked walls, strip out the insulation, remove the floorboards and the tsunami sludge below.

After the new walls and floors were put up, another NPO working in Ishinomaki helped paint the new premises.

So show their appreciation of the volunteers who helped them restart their business, the Satos wrote INJM a thank you letter. The English translation of the letter is below.

Thank You letter from the Satos

We were deeply moved and very happy that we managed to reopen our shop on 20th December after 9months. We cannot put into words how much the volunteers helped us and how much hope they gave us.

After the disaster on 11th March, we stayed in the evacuee centre for three months and in temporary housing for another three months. Through this depressing experience, we started to strongly feel that we wanted something to live for and would like to live life to the fullest while developing relationships with other people even if it would take many years.  But we, as a couple of 74 and 71 years old weren’t sure what to do. At that time the volunteers warmly extended a helping hand.

While we were working towards a goal together with the young people, we realised that everything was turning in a good direction and our spirits lifted. We laughed a lot every day and the cheerful laughter started to echo throughout the empty town. We laughed a lot, talked a lot and had a lot of fun.

Young people and foreigners gave us warm hugs calling us “father” and “mother” (and “grandpa” and “grandma”). We didn’t have this custom before, but it was very natural.

We almost gave up restarting our liqueur shop which had been open for 85 years, but we managed to revive it thanks to the heartfelt support from the volunteers and we deeply appreciate it.

After we lost everything in the disaster, the young volunteers showed us people’s kindness and the importance of personal relationships. They suggested we put a table and chairs as a tea drinking corner so that volunteers could come and have a rest when they had time or when they were tired and showed us to help and support with other local people.

Thank you so much for your warm support. Thank you for giving an old couple hope. We wish every volunteer a happy and peaceful life from the bottom of our heart.

Please visit the Satos when you are in Ishinomaki and support their business. Tell them how you came to know of them.. they will love to hear from you!

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