Team インド食 Descends Upon Tohoku: Strikes Terror into the Heart of Tsunami Debris
By Zane Kinsey
Published: May 18, 2011
Team インド食: Leftto Right - Tohru Tanoue, Lloyd Abercrombie, Marisa Beltramini, RemyMillot, Yoshitaka Abe, Leo Bromberg, Nicole Gallagher, Mana Ogasawara,Jon Lapinskas, Yukari Fukuda, Jen Miller.  In Repose - Reed KnappeIt has been little more than 2 months since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Tohoku region of Japan, triggering several massively devastating tsunamis, which claimed tens of thousands of lives and destroyed several cities, towns and villages.  Around the world folks have been pulling together and pooling resources to send to Japan, whether it be money, clothes, food or other much needed supplies.  True to form, Kumamoto's JETs have been actively raising funds and gathering supplies through a number of locally organized charity events, and sending them to various NGOs assisting those in need in the hard-hit sections of Tohoku.  
Golden Week was no different as a group of 11 Kumamoto-jin, operating under the name, "Team インド食," spent the first week of May volunteering in the tsunami-stricken town of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture.  They came by plane, train and automobile, assembling in the heart of what once was beautiful downtown Ishinomaki, poised, eyes wild, ready to dole out merciless measures of altruism.
Captained by team leader Tohru Tanoue, the majority of Team インド食 (9 members) drove 22 hours to Ishinomaki from Kumamoto.  When they finally arrived, the scene was truly shocking.   “What struck me first was the smell of fish and of sea as you leave the highway and drive further into the affected region," said Yamato ALT, Remy Millot.  "You start seeing signs of light destruction here and there, and the more you drive towards the sea, the bigger the piles of garbage are and the more apparent the damage is (carsupside down, houses reduced to a mound of wood, we even saw a bus on top of a building).  It’s as if the apocalypse had taken place there.”  Jen Miller, echoing Remy's sentiment, said, "Words cannot describe the degree of devastation. You look around at this vista of broken glass, twisted metal, empty buildings . . . you would be a fool not to believe that the reconstruction effort will take a very long time, and very deep pockets." 
Ishinomaki, JapanThe team gathered together Sunday afternoon at the Senchu University Volunteer Center, which was serving as campgrounds and dispatch for the area volunteers.  Tamana ALT, Jon Lapinskas, and Misato ALT, Jen Miller, who had originally been part of an ALT volunteer team organized by one of Miyagi's Prefectural JET CIRs, joined shortly after.  When local government officials canceled a number of ALT volunteer groups because they feared they would not be able to accommodate the overwhelming influx of volunteers, Jon and Jen were devastated, but they started looking for other avenues to get to Tohoku.  They'd heard about Tohru's group, which had been arranged separately from the ALT volunteer efforts, and decided to see if they could join.  According to Marisa Beltramini of Kumamoto City, Tohru had been undeterred when he heard that the local government in Ishnomaki would be turning volunteers away.  He'd been to Ishinomaki to help out a month earlier and was confident that they'd be able to find volunteer work in town.  Barring that, Marisa said, their plan was to "just drive around until we found work."  Jen Miller said she received a text from Marisa on Sunday, saying that the group arrived in Ishinomaki and it seemed that they would have no trouble helping with the restoration.  "Both Jen and myself were overwhelmed when we heard from Marisa that we could join the team," said Jon Lapinskas.  "I know of several JETs from Kumamoto who didn't end up going because of misinformation.  I think that this is still a big problem i.e. the communication between the [Prefectural Government], volunteers centers, and volunteers themselves.”
The logistical challenges of organizing a volunteer clean up of this magnitude became even more apparent when work began on Monday morning.  Team leader, Tohru, met with the volunteer organizers each night to receive their assignment for the next day.  On Monday, part of the group was assigned to watch over and play with some of the local children at a nearby school, while the others were scheduled to assist with cleaning up a local museum.  Remy Millot recalls a rocky start at the museum.  "[Although] we were ready by 9 we had to wait till 12 to work because the person in charge there wanted to explain the day’s duties to all volunteers at once and we had to wait [for] other groups to come.”  Once work was underway, however, things went smoothly.  One team member, Mana Ogasawara, traveled directly to the shelters, offering massages to the resident evacuees.  The rest of Team インド食 spent the next few days working side-by-side with the owners of 3 private residences, cleaning the remains of their homes.  Everyone's favorite was Fujita-san.  Marisa Beltramini describes him:
His house was in Ishinomaki city, about three km from the water. When the tsunami came, it was 12 meters high and it forced him to climb out of the second storey window and onto his roof. His sister and mother have yet to be found. His house is still standing, but the inside is completely destroyed. We spent two days hauling massive amounts of debris as we worked from one room into the next and Fujita-san was with us the whole time, making jokes and trying to practice English as we threw away his life into a giant garbage pile across the street. He seemed to be a kind of leader to his neighbors, an organizer who was trying to make things happen for his area. People came to him while we were working to ask how they could get volunteers to help them. He was truly an inspiration.
Fujita-san's BeforeFujita-san's DuringFujita-san's After
Despite constant reminders of the tsunami littering the landscape, engulfing their senses, the heart of the Japanese shined through.   Many team members reported being utterly disarmed by the warmth and strength of will displayed by the local residents they worked with, many of whom had lost everything, and who may have still had missing family members and friends.  Nicole Gallagher of Seiseiko SHS reported that residents really seemed to recognize just how much the volunteers are helping and that they "appreciated and valued their presence and support." Almost in defiance of the chaos caused by the disaster, crowds were always polite and orderly.  Jen Miller recalled seeing locals lining up to receive needed supplies from the Japanese Self-Defense Force.  "A line of people, stretched around the block . . . patiently [waiting] to receive their supplies.  From what I could see, most were elderly, though there was a strong concentration of children with parents as well.   It took some time before the troops were ready to start passing supplies out, but when the time came, it was, not surprisingly, a very organized transaction.   It was reassuring to see those residents get the supplies they needed."
For most of us, especially down here in Kyushu, life seems now to be very much business as usual.  With the convenience of distance, both temporal and spatial, it's becoming easier and easier to divert our attentions back to what lays immediately before us.  There is, however, still so much work to be done.  "It took only a day of actually being in Ishinomaki to see that the media reports - that there was fear of volunteers flooding the area and there not be not enough work for us - hadn't been describing the situation accurately and in fact, it seemed that Miyagi needed and will need much more volunteers than currently up there," said Nicole Gallagher.  Lloyd Abercrombie reiterated the need for continued support, while reminding volunteers to remember themselves when they're up there.  "Be conscious of your surroundings . . . remember that what to you may be an interesting looking pile of junk worthy of a picture is someone else's cherished possessions."  If you are interested in volunteering, or helping out in any other way, please do so; assistance is still sorely needed.  Marisa Beltramini says that, "It is still difficult to get good information in English about volunteer centers in the Tohoku region, but that seems to be constantly improving.  If you have the time, by all means go.  It is horrifying and humbling.  However, there are also things you can do from here and we’ll try to keep you updated on ongoing efforts."    

By Aurora Tsai
Posted May 27, 2011
Kumamoto (熊本) translates roughly to, "Origin of the Bears," so when I learned I would be going to “Kuma gun” when I first received my placement 2 years ago, which I imagined meant “The Bear District,” I was naturally excited.  There are no bears here, I disappointedly found out after I arrived.
However, I do encounter plenty of “Kuma-ben,” the name of the Japanese dialect spoken here.  It’s similar to Kumamoto-ben, but has many differences, mainly in the different words they use for things.  I stumbled through my conversations, trying to understand Kuma-ben when I first got here, but over the years I’ve learned quite a lot and use it all the time with my students.  Below, I’ve compiled a list of word/grammar explanations.
Dictionary of Kuma-ben Terms
This is a short list of words used in Kuma-ben.   I also have a longer list of Kuma-ben terms compiled by my friend, who is a local here in Kumagun.
Kuma ben
Standard Dialect
Yah, that’s right
I don’t understand at all
ひやか (older people use)
Thank you
Humid and hot
Cute, pretty
Drunk person
Party after an event
Thick (liquid), dark
To sweep (with broom)
To clean up, put away

The Grammar of Kuma-ben
1.) Plain-negative conjugations; changing ~ない to ~ん
  • わからない—>わからん
  • 知らない—>知らん
  • おぼえていない—>おぼえっとらん (see grammar below)
2.) changing i-adjectives to “ka” endings.
  • oishii becomes oishika!
  • kawaii becomes kawaika!
3.) the “hows”
  • どんな(に), どうやって—> どうぎゃん
  • こんな(に), こうやって—>こぎゃん
  • そんな(に)、そうやって—>そぎゃん
  • あんな(に)、あいうふうに—>あぎゃん
4.) Progressive verbs; changing ~ている to ~ておる
  • 知っている—>知っとおる
  • 持っている—>持っとおる
  • 取っている—>取っておる
5.) Plain-form questions; changing の to と
  • 出かけるの?—>出かけると?
6.) Asking questions with progressive verbs; ~ているの? to ~とっと?
  • 何をしているの?–>なんばをしとっと?
  • このいすを取っている?—>このいすをとっとっと?
  • マスクを持っている—>マスクをもっとっと?
7.) Exclamatory particles; changing よ、わ、ね to ばい、たい
  • “Bai” is a stronger version of “tai,” so I hear “tai” more often and even in more formal conversations.
  • あのね—>あのたい
8.) “Because”; changing から、ので to けん
  • どこか行くと?
  • うん。夜にお客さんが来るけん、買い物すっとたい。
9.) “But”; changing が to ばってん
  • わかったけど、むずかしいのよ–>わかったばってん、むずかしかっとたい
10.) “I have to ~”; changing ~いかないといけない to ~いかんばん

kenshuu ga aru ken, kumamoto shi ni ikanban.

“I have a training session, so I have to go to Kumamoto City.”
These are just a few words and grammar points I have come across quite often during my stay in Asagiri Town, Kuma-gun.  I would be interested to hear any other Kuma-ben terms people have come across.  I’d also like to hear if you notice any differences between Kuma-ben and Kumamoto-ben since my trips to Kumamoto City are なかなかなか!  (標準語:なかなかない)

・If you have been to a good English-speaking doctor, please email the PAs about it.

・Good luck with the new semester of classes! 

Important upcoming dates:

・Starting in October - New ES/JHS ALT School Visits  
Upcoming Events:

・September 5 - Taco Night, 7PM at Tortacos, Kumamoto City
・September 26 & 27 - Ashikita Beach Party, Otachimisaki Park, Ashikita, check-in starts at 4PM
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