August 17, 2011
On August 3, 2011 the collection of the Kinoya store “Cans of Hope,” a project that many volunteers were continuously involved in for a long time, reached completion.
The Kinoya store has been serving Ishinomaki residents for over 50 years. These cans of food which contained delicious seafood products from the ocean surrounding the Sanriku area (Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures) were each hand-packed and loved by many people.
The Kinoya store is located not far from the Ishinomaki Fish Market in the center of an area where many fish processing factories line the street. On March 11, the entire area was engulfed by the tsunami and the landscape changed completely. This is where the Kinoya canning factory was also located.
Peace Boat began helping with collecting the cans on June 28. Ms Iota Sae has been working as a volunteer since then, also coordinating many volunteers to help collect the cans at the factory 5 days a week. She began the job of collecting the cans by saying, “I’m sure that the people from the Kinoya store would be happy if we cleaned all of this up.”
The job of collecting the cans involved rescuing cans one by one from the sludge in which they were buried. “I was happy each time I found an undamaged can, and I was sad each time I found a can that had been damaged,” says Ms Iota. As she got to know Mr Ito, the factory manager who put all of his effort into finding the cans, Ms Iota came to understand more and more the way he felt. Ms Iota said, “I will keep going until the very last can has been collected,” showing her strong feelings towards collecting the cans. It was because of her motivation that Ms Iota earned the nickname “Can-chan.”
The initial reason for the collection of cans was because of something that happened at one of the evacuation centers immediately following the disaster. Employees of the Kinoya store were staying at an evacuation center, and another person staying there found a can nearby that had been carried there by the tsunami. They asked the Kinoya store employees if they could eat what was in the can and from that day on the cans became a precious source of food for the Kinoya store employees and other people at the evacuation center.
The cans contain 43 different kinds of seafood including oysters, mackerel, whale, sardines, saury, tuna and flounder fin. Cans are strong. Although they may be covered in mud and the labels may have peeled off, there are many cans that survived and there is nothing wrong with the contents. If the contents are alright then people might be willing to buy them. And if people buy the cans, then the employees who love these cans may be able to continue working. These cans were renamed “Cans of Hope” because of their ability to save lives and livelihoods.
The volunteers who were helping to collect the cans had two rice balls for lunch each day. They were often offered a can of seafood to go with the rice balls. Ms Iota has tried the seafood many times and she says, “The soy-miso mackerel is good, but I like this one better!”
Printed on some of the rescued cans were the words, “We are grateful for the opportunity to meet people.” These are also words that the factory manager Mr Ito has said many times.
With each day that went by, more and more cans were collected, eventually reaching a total of 800,000! About half of the cans rescued are in salable condition and will be sent to stores around Japan offering support. Peace Boat also helped to sell some of the cans at the Ishinomaki Recovery Market which was held at the Kawabiraki Festival.
On August 3, the very last can was finally collected. Ms Iota, who picked up the last can on behalf of all who ,helped was of course beaming with a smile. Holding up a thank you card she said, “Thanks to these cans I was able to meet the people of Ishinomaki, the employees of the Kinoya store and all the volunteers. Thank you very much!”
Photos: Suzuki Shoichi
*Read more about the Cans of Hope on the Kinoya store blog (in Japanese).TAGS: cans • cans of hope • cleanup • debris removal • Disaster Relief • Earthquake • festival • food provision • international volunteers • Ishinomaki • Japan • Kanto-Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami • kawabiraki • kinoya • mud • mud removal • Peace Boat • Relief • Tsunami • Volunteer • volunteering • Volunteers