It's almost a month since the earthquake and tsunami hit the northern coast of Japan. If you're anything like me, you'll be wanting to help but not sure how to from here in the UK, or wherever you are...
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll already know that I spent just under 5 years living and teaching in Japan, and that Japan and the people I know and love there are very close to my heart.
I have a friend still living in Japan with her family. They experienced terrifying situations as the 'quake hit Yokohama and Tokyo, the area where they live. And were subsequently caught up in the flooding in Thailand while they were taking some time to regroup for a couple of weeks away from Tokyo and the unknown situation around the Fukushima power plant. Very frightening for all of them. But they are physically safe and are now home in Japan.
This lovely friend of mine is regularly posting links to excellent organisations that are "on the ground" in northern Japan providing relief efforts.
I know that when I see painful events happening far away from me in other parts of the world, I want to help but don't know which organisations are the best to donate to. I'd like to re-post a link that my friend in Japan has posted, to an organisation called Peace Boat, that is directly involved in "on the ground" relief work in northern Japan. The volunteers working for Peace Boat are providing their own tents, transport to the areas that need help, and in many cases, provisions in order to help others, so that all the money donated is going towards providing the people in need with exactly what they need, and isn't being used to provide the volunteers with what the volunteers need, if you know what I mean.
If you can make a donation to this cause your money will be used to provide direct help and support to the people needing it in northern Japan. You can donate via paypal. You can find the paypal link about halfway down the page. You do not need to have a paypal account to donate. Any amount is gratefully received.
You can find Peace Boat at this link:
Another excellent link to learn more about what's happening in northern Japan right now is this:
37 Frames is a photography business based in Tokyo. The two photographers who run the business felt inpired to visit northern Japan as part of Peace Boat's relief effort, to provide help and support to the people who need it, and have documented what they found there through their photography. Very moving and very inspiring.
And a final link to warm your heart. Most of the news coming out of northern Japan is tragic and heart-breaking. Death, loss and confusion. Here is one story that gave me goose bumps. "Ban" the Japanese dog was swept out to sea during the tsunami, surviving by floating on the roof of a house. He was rescued, and has found his owner, who also survived the tsunami!
Over the past month I have heard people pass judgement on Japanese people and their treatment of animals having seen the documentary, "The Cove". Suggesting that the earthquake and tsunami are nature's way of passing judgement on Japanese people, their country's fishing and whaling policies, and their general treatment of animals. I don't agree with Japan's fishing and whaling policies, and I don't agree with this generalised judgement of Japanese people and their attitudes towards animals. I certainly don't subscribe to the view that nature is punishing the Japanese people. For me, nature is doing what nature does. No judgement.
In the same way that not all British people support or are involved in fox hunting, badger-baiting, cock-fighting, or dog-fighting, not all Japanese people support their country's policies on fishing, and whaling.
In my experience Japanese people love animals as much as we do. I have proof. When I was living in Yokohama, there was a man who would walk his hamster on a lead every day in the park near his house. Yes, you read me correctly. His hamster. On a lead. It was a feat of massive courage on the hamster's part, as he was surrounded by enormous feet and hard soled shoes on all sides, but he happily made his way through the crowds of people, who parted before him as soon as they caught sight of him and his little old man owner.
I'll leave you with that lovely picture...