Four Years After Devastating Japan Tsunami, Hope is Being Revived

Posted by Jackie on Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reflecting back upon his life in the months following 3/11, Mr. Kato, a business owner in the fishing village of Onagawa, Japan, can sum up his situation in one, all-encompassing word: “hopeless”.

3/11 marks the date – March 11, 2011 – that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, the largest recorded disaster in Japan’s history, struck the country’s coastline, wiping out entire towns, destroying livelihoods, and taking nearly 16,000 lives in its path, including those of Mr. Kato’s beloved wife and child.

Kato also lost his livelihood, a thriving Korean barbeque restaurant in the heart of Onagawa’s commercial district, one of thousands of businesses that suffered the economic impact of what is now considered the costliest disaster in the history of the world. Within a few minutes of the tsunami’s impact, nearly 128,000 buildings collapsed and approximately 748,000 buildings were damaged.

Unable to work, for months, Kato wept over his losses in a state of emotional shock. But with the relentless encouragement of a friend and key partner of The Salvation Army, Mr. Aoyama, Kato eventually found the strength and determination to start a new restaurant at the temporary shopping mall constructed by The Salvation Army.

This shopping center, the first to be constructed in the badly damaged town, was funded by caring, generous donors who gave through The Salvation Army World Service Office. In addition to providing shop owners like Mr. Kato with employment and boosting the local economy, the shopping center has also been a source of community, fellowship and comfort for citizens and survivors.

Mr. Kato’s outlook has since changed stating recently, “This project gives me hope”.

Reviving hope in the hearts of the downtrodden is one of the goals of The Salvation Army, and Mr. Kato’s story is one of many heard from individuals who have been restored and strengthened thanks to supporters of The Salvation Army’s global disaster relief services.

Known in Japan as Kyuu-Sei-Gun (Save-World-Army), The Salvation Army’s unique 120-year history in Japan allows local knowledge and insight. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the local Salvation Army Corps opened their doors to provide food and shelter to survivors while mobile kitchens traveled from shelter to shelter to share hot meals and words of comfort with those who were suffering. The Salvation Army also provided heaters and other essential items to help elderly citizens and families prepare for a harsh winter in their temporary homes.

In addition to the shopping center, The Salvation Army World Service Office supported Onagawa’s local fisherman’s union – the lifeblood of the community – by providing vehicles, equipment and boats to be prepared for the upcoming fishing season, as well as helping local schools and neighborhoods with equipment and supplies to better prepare for future disasters. Similar efforts were established in other hard-hit coastal towns, such as Ofunato and Mininamisanriku.

Four years later, The Salvation Army World Service Office and The Salvation Army in Japan continue to work hand-in-hand with these communities to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, are being cared for during the long and difficult transition from relief to rebuilding lives and restoring communities.

All of this work is made possible by donors and supporters, for whom we give thanks, enabling The Salvation Army to be an ever-present flame of hope and relief during times of disaster and beyond.

For more information on our disaster relief services around the world, or to show your support, visit
This post was contributed by The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO)

Answering Complications with Compassion for Fishermen in Japan

Japan tsunami

Isolation can create unforeseen complications.

In a well-known biblical account, Jesus and his disciples withdrew to an isolated area, but were followed by crowds who sought healing and teaching.  The disciples urged Jesus to send the people away because it was late and there was no food to be found in that remote spot for so many.

But Jesus put the responsibility to address the need for provisions directly upon his disciples, saying, “You give them something to eat.”

The disciples found only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blessed the food, and with this small inventory, fed a multitude of 5,000. The complication was solved by action and Gods’ blessings.

This is something The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), its partners and supporters strive to do daily – to deliver in greatest measure what we can, with what we have, to those in greatest need.

To remove the complications that hinder the rebuilding of hope.
For example, in the isolated Japanese city of Kesennuma, commercial fishing and related industries account for 85 percent of jobs.  In 2011, a tsunami destroyed large sections of the city, including the port, and took a huge toll on the livelihoods – and hope—of local fishermen.  In the widespread destruction in Japan at that time, the small community had a difficult time making its voice, and its needs, heard.

The Salvation Army Japan Territory became the first non-governmental organization to directly assist members of the local fisherman’s union to identify their priorities for recovery.   The prime concerns included planning productive use of the remaining fishing boats and preparing for impending harvests of oysters and wakame, a seaweed that is a Japanese staple and a large source of income to the union.

Supported by the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), The Salvation Army provided ten sets of the diving tools necessary to complete this work to replace the fishermen’s equipment that had been washed away by the storm.

The union also needed a place to process their marine harvest prior to shipping. To this end, The Salvation Army provided temporary tents as operating centers in 15 port locations. These structures are already being used for the processing wakame and other marine products.

In addition, The Salvation Army replaced four 2-ton trucks used to carry the products such as wakame, konbu seaweed, oysters and scallops from the pier to processing stations to market.  The trucks also carry tools and machines to help rebuild and organize fishing nets and farms.

A representative from the Kesennuma Fishermen’s Union summarized the importance of the help they received saying, “We called on The Salvation Army because very few people were able to help us.   The Salvation Army listened to our need for trucks, diving equipment and tents.   We use the equipment donated by The Salvation Army every day to harvest oysters, wakame and other seafood.  The union members are so grateful because it allowed us to go back to work.  Due to the support of The Salvation Army we have now recovered almost ninety-percent of the wakame harvest income we had before the tsunami.”

Japan tsunami

Through this experience, we learned that delivering life-sustaining supplies may be complicated at times.  Delivering the life-sustaining blessings of God’s love and mercy is not.

Posted by Megan on Monday, September 30, 2013 ·