Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster

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28,000 people dead or missing, 150,000 people still living in evacuation shelters

On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan and devastated northeastern region of the country. It is the worst disaster in the recorded history of Japan, causing 13,778 people dead and 14,141 people missing (as of April 17) due to the quake and resultant tsunami, and some 150,000 people are still forced to live in evacuation shelters to this day. It could take 2 years to provide temporary housings to all evacuees, and thus it is urgent that we provide long-term support to them.

RQ Citizens Disaster Relief Network Japan is a volunteer organization of ordinary citizens.

RQ Citizens Disaster Relief Network Japan (RQ-CNJ) is a volunteer organization that was formed immediately after the earthquake by a nation-wide network of nature schools, civil organizations and individuals. We started full-scale relief activities on March 17, 2011, which vary from the collection and provision of relief supplies, provision of temporary evacuation shelters, and cleanup of the disaster area, to everyday physical/emotional support to the affected people.

Many of our volunteers are providing relief in the disaster stricken area, and the members from nature schools are taking the lead, utilizing skills earned through outdoor education and nature recreation activities. Our relief focuses on small-scale shelters that house a few evacuated families where public aid is difficult to acquire. We also provide long-term support outside of the disaster-hit area through our nationwide nature school network and in cooperation with public administrations, by offering temporary accommodations with psychological support to people displaced by the disaster.

We want to see smiles of our children

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The earthquake and tsunami destroyed so many buildings and cut off highways, streets and railways. It caused such devastating damage that even millions of volunteers might not be enough to restore the entire situation.

For one month since the start of our relief effort, we have sent some 200 tons of supplies and 2,000 volunteers in total to the area. But we consider that the real, long-term battle is just about to start now.

First, we must secure buildings for our activity bases. This is very difficult as many of the less damaged buildings are already used as evacuation shelters. We also need a lot of money to build our infrastructure, including lines of communication, trucks and other vehicles, fuel, as well as the ability to conduct relief activities such as cleanup work in the disaster hit area. There is also an urgent need for long-term volunteers with special skills to provide psychological support to many children and elderly people in evacuation shelters.

The more time is needed for restoration, the worse the influence on children’s mental conditions will be. In addition, if everyday living and education conditions in the affected area don’t improve for a long time, there are going to be many children who will be required to leave their hometown with their families.

It is the children who will carry forward the future of the affected area. We think that bringing back smiles to children’s faces will give strength to the adults to strive forward to restoration.

To achieve this, cleanup work in the villages, fields, mountains and seaside is required first and foremost. These areas are currently filled with rubble and garbage from the tsunami. Large pieces can be removed by construction equipment, but human hands are the only way to remove small pieces such as those that are stuck in trees. Imagine the view of a 500km stretch of land, full of rubble and garbage. While playing outside, children cannot avoid seeing the scars of the tsunami, which call up traumatic, dreadful memories. One of our most important missions is to provide direct emotional care to heal the psychological scars of children, but there is no way to do this effectively without removing the visual reminders of what happened in Tohoku.

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Our activity area

Click HERE to view all of our activities/reception sites.

Our main relief activity area covers 120km (75 miles) of the southern Sanriku coastal area, the Pacific Ocean side of Miyagi prefecture. We set up our local headquarters at the former Masubuchi Elementary School in Towa-cho of Tome City in Miyagi Prefecture. We are also going to set up RQ-CNJ volunteer centers at about 5 locations in the coastal area, as satellite relief hubs.

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Of the entire length of some 500km of Sanriku coast, the area north of Rikuzen-Takata City is also covered by some members of RQ-CNJ, dispatching their members from the inland city of Tome, and providing relief there, while keeping in close contact with the team in the south.

We are also providing temporary accommodations throughout Japan to people who have been displaced by the disaster, utilizing our nation-wide network.


Nature schools and RQ-CNJ

Many of the member nature schools of RQ-CNJ have their activity bases in remote villages of agriculture, forestry or fishery industries, and their activities are grounded in the philosophy “to learn from local knowledge in harmony with nature”. By conducting activities to welcome people in local communities as teachers and experience agricultural work or to learn cultural traditions, it revitalizes both the local communities and urban cities.

The initial phase of disaster relief requires people with strong survival skills. While supporting the people affected by the disaster, the volunteers must be highly self-reliant and capable of taking care of themselves in the environment of a disaster-hit area with no basic infrastructure. Those who are active in nature schools or the field of environmental education are likely to satisfy such requirements and thus are able to provide effective relief. As in some other countries, many nature schools in Japan are designated as local community centers in case of disaster, as their staff members are knowledgeable about the local natural environment and have strong survival skills.

The reasons that we are planning to provide mid- to long-term support is because we recognize such functions by nature schools, and also because we want to restore and recover internationally acclaimed beautiful Japanese nature, culture, and natural surroundings, as well as the local people who live in harmony with the nature.

Let’s bring smiles back to the children’s faces now. And we hope that people from around the world will one day be able to come and enjoy our beautiful Japan again.

RQ Citizens Disaster Relief Network Japan (Tokyo Headquarters)

c/o Ecotourism Japan, 5-38-5 Nishi-nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo 116-0013, Japan

Phone: +81-(0)3-5834-7977 (10:00-18:00) FAX: 81-(0)3-5834-7972



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Name: RQ Shimin Saigai Kyuen Center

Address: 5-38-5 Nishi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Postal Code: 116-0013

Telephone: 81-3-5834-7977

Account #: 236-1095327


Mizuho Bank, Dozaka Branch

Address: 7-8, 4-chome, Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Postal Code: 113-0022

Telephone: 81-3-3821-2171

ABA Routing Code: 236


What's New ! : Volunteering Package in Tohoku

If you are looking for the way to assist people in Tohoku disaster area, the following two volunteer tours could be one of your best choice. Check them out!
Four-Day Tour : Volunteering Package in Tohoku (Hotel Stay Plan)
Four-Day Tour : Volunteering Package in Tohoku (Traditional Japanese Inn Stay Plan)