Saturday, April 30, 2011

see what's happening

 Here's a video with some of my fellow volunteers in the exclusion zone on the last day before it was sealed. If this speaks to you, please repost it and spread the word as much as possible. Animals are dying every day and need to be gotten out of there.

 Animals left alone in the 20 kilometer exclusion zone in Japan need your help now.
We are asking people to send a comment to this government link:
Please remind the government that the pets in the 20 kilometer zone are loved and wanted. They should not stay there to starve, nor should they be removed to go to animal control facilities. Rescue groups are being asked to help rescue pets for guardians that cannot get back to the area to retrieve their pets themselves. Please let animal rescue groups back into the zone now, to be part of the process of getting animals to safety.
You might also write your nearest Japanese embassy with the above request.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One day in Fukushima - by Axel

Here's a great blog post by one of my fellow volunteers, about going into the exclusion zone in Fukushima on the last day before it was sealed. Animals are now trapped inside and people are not being allowed to go in for them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Iwate and tsunami dog Cocoa

Hi friends,

Thursday was a very long day. Late Wednesday night, I received a mission to go up to Iwate prefecture, about an eight hour drive. We were to leave at 7 a.m. After getting the pertinent details and loading supplies, Ginny and I sent off on the long windy drive through snow-capped mountains, to the northern coast of Honshu. The north is not very densely populated, so traffic was minimal and we made good time. We drove past Sendai city and saw little damage, and found our way to the city of Otsuchi-cho, where we were to pick up.

The devastation was sudden and immediate. One moment we were driving through normal looking neighborhoods, the next through mountains of unrecognizable rubble, stretching into the distance. Even a month and a half on, the piles are enormous and look like they did when the tsunami first happened. Japan Self Defense Force members and other uniformed officers crawled over the wreckage like ants, combing through it and making transfers of debris, bits of sand in a gigantic Texas anthill. Perhaps eventually we'll see progress and it will be cleaned up, but for now it seems like they are just shifting dirt from one point to another with no measurable progress.

We wound our way through the town and up a hill, where a few completely intact houses sat looking down over their former neighbors. Here we met our contact, though we couldn't locate her at first because the people milling around the house didn't seem to know her name or the address we were seeking. Finally it turned out that we were indeed at the right place and that Ms. I was inside. She brought out a little dog, her ten year old daughter trailing behind. The dog, a brown mix that betrayed some Pomeranian blood when she began yapping at us, seemed healthy and lively when we met her, her fur a little matted. Her name was Cocoa.

Upon closer inspection, Cocoa showed a raw red egg-sized lesion on her lower belly, between her back legs. Ms. I told us that they were separated during the tsunami, at which time Cocoa was hurt. After it was over, they managed to find each other again. They have been living at the neighbor's house, but have been unable to take Cocoa to a vet as they have no car. They don't know where they'll end up, but have asked us to take care of Cocoa until they can find a place to live. It was an emotional goodbye, with some tears; Cocoa is ten years old and I imagine she's been a part of their family for awhile. She needs medical care though, and at the shelter she'll receive food, warmth, kindness, and medical treatment. I assured Ms. I that Cocoa would be gone just a little while, and as we pulled away, she said "Itterasshai" - "go and come back", or "see you when you get back".

We dropped off some dog food at a house with a hungry-looking dog chained outside on the edge of town, then began the long drive back to Niigata.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

fukushima prefecture and kitties

dear friends,

I'm about to hit the sack for an early day tomorrow. Today, I drove to the town of Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture, where we had gotten a call about some semi-socialized cats that were on their way to animal control. The six kitties were easy to trap, but the adults were more difficult and took a lot of time, tricks, some humane traps, some cardboard, some bribes, and innovation - but luckily no scratches. Ginny and I managed to round up 11 cats in all (out of about 13) and brought them back to the shelter. The staff there is really great, dealing with an enormous intake of animals with grace and cheer. Here's one of the vets working at Animal Friends.

I've met some other really interesting people - Stuart is another vet, visiting from England. Today he's in the exclusion zone picking up animals and doing public feeds for the wandering packs. Sister Michael, a nun, comes from an order that tries to alleviate suffering, and her specialty is animals. She's a pro. Miho, a Kanagawa person, is excellently fluent in Japanese and English and has an acerbic wit to boot. She slept on the floor of our hotel room last night (three of us shared a business hotel room), snuggled up in her tiny backpacking zero-degree sleeping bag that she got for when she was traveling in India. There are tons more great people here.

I have not yet been to the nuclear exclusion zone, and may not go there this week. This is probably the biggest problem area, as I mentioned in my previous email, and the team really wants to get out as many animals as possible, as a lot of them are wasting away, some of them shut in houses with nobody home for weeks or even since the earthquake, and farm animals tethered and penned. The team is armed with a dosimeter, highly protective masks, gloves, and wear long sleeves and scarves to make sure their bodies are fully covered. There are also decontamination centers where you can be scanned when coming out, and everyone is logging their exposure in order to minimize exposure to any one person, and to know when it might be a good time to quit going in.

Tomorrow, I'm heading out with Ginny again, this time to Iwate prefecture, to answer a call about someone who's evacuating to a shelter and can't take their pet. It's a long drive - maybe eight or nine hours - and we'll probably be sleeping in the car on the way back. Road trip? No hotels operating up there, or not many, and no money anyway. Wish us luck!

Love to you all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

animals, my friends

Hey there - I've started volunteering with JEARS up in Tohoku, helping to rescue animals in this area. I wrote this update to send to a few friends and thought I'd post it here too.

Hey everyone -
I thought I'd dash off a quick email tonight. I arrived in Niigata today (upper West Coast of Japan, across from Fukushima). Niigata is where one of the shelters of JEARS is based, Animal Friends. I connected with the group in the city and took a group out to the shelter to tour it and meet some of the rescued animals, and also to drop off a cat that had been picked up in the exclusion zone of Fukushima the day before.

There are more than 200 animals being held in the shelter; they say there are 10,000 animals wandering Fukushima alone, including dogs, cats, other pets, and livestock that have been abandoned. It's a momentous task and not one this group can do alone.

Tomorrow we head to the tsunami zone and to the Fukushima area. I'm driving a group and doing some translation. Everyone I've met so far is really great and they had a bunch of vegetarian curry pouches donated by an Indian food company, so I'm even fed! Excellent.

I'll update more when I can - early start tomorrow and looks like a full day. Love you all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

more destinations for your cranes!

The paper cranes for Japan project, donating $2 for each crane received up to 100,000, is over... but I just saw an update that they received 500,000 cranes!! So they've decided to double their initial gift (going to Architecture for Humanity) of $200,000 to $400,000. Wow! Good job everyone.
The crane folding fun doesn't stop. My mom told me about this initiative by the kids clothing company Osh Kosh B'Gosh, to donate an item of clothing for each crane folded to tsunami kids, up to 50,000. That's a lot of overalls! I wore Osh Kosh overalls as a kid, did you? I remember their stuff being sturdy and good for play clothes.

You can send in your cranes or upload pictures of them until April 25th. More good stuff with just a flick of the origami...

Friday, April 15, 2011


There are a wealth of old bento boxes in my house. Not just plastic containers, but retro aluminum ones with slide-on chopsticks holder, an oval one with a painting of flowers, a lacquer one in a square shape with a handle that a friend called "samurai's bento".

All this stuff, I want to get some USE out of it! I picked up this beautiful book called 菜菜ランチ, a vegan Japanese lunch cookbook that features so many beautiful bento and home lunch ideas.

I made the carrot dry curry, one of the first recipes in the book, and it was so quick, healthy, and delicious that I posted about it over at Green Zebras. Yay vegan Japanese cooking!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

kids and pink clouds

Well, the earthquakes have picked up again in the last few days. We've had quite a few strong shakers, waking me up at night and prompting me to turn on the news. Yesterday's 7.1 killed four more people. It feels like the gods are picking off people a few more at a time.

And today, the nuclear accident was raised to a level 7, the same as Chernobyl, and the highest level on the scale. It doesn't look like the radiation output is nearly as bad as Chernobyl at this time, but it's worrying that it's now on the same level as the disaster that left, according to a Belorussian acquaintance, 30% of Belarus uninhabitable.

Also, Governor Ishihara was reelected and wants to shut down pachinko parlors to save energy.

Yet we keep plodding along. We have to work and live and there is so much still to do. The cherry blossoms are just rounding the corner past full bloom. Last Saturday at Yoyogi, we folded some cranes for the Architecture for Humanity donation. They've reached their goal of 100,000 cranes for a $200,000 donation, but will still accept cranes postmarked by Apr. 15 for a massive art project they're making with the birds.

Last week I dropped off some "comfort backpacks for kids" that the Girl and Boy Scouts were collecting, filled with school supplies and snacks and flashlights and other kid-friendly things. I really wanted to give to their effort since I was a Girl Scout for so many years and it gave me so much. I didn't share the effort, though, since the project just had a local drop location and no address. But now Jen B has shown me a similar project, putting together boxes for kids in Ishinomaki. It's a great project - check it out! Contact Nicole for the address or ask me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

where we're at

not the supermarket - Akihabara station last week
Today at my supermarket, the escalator was working - it wasn't on yesterday. But they were out of water. Things are slowly but surely grinding along, but everything's still just a bit off kilter.

This week I've been putting together packages for Rescue Japan (rice and blankets), Socks for Japan, and Paper Cranes for Japan, which is based in Seattle and is giving $2 for each crane received, up to 100,000, for a total of $200,000. As of yesterday, the number was still only around 12,000, so you still have time to get yours in.

And finally, I volunteered at Second Harvest last week with my mom and wrote an article about what they're doing at CNNGo.