September 16, 2011
On September 9 approximately 30 volunteers participated in the Festival at Hayamahime Temple Festival Temple, which is located in the Oginohama area of the Oshika Peninsula. This report is about the festival.
The Hayamahime Temple. This is a historic temple and there are even inscriptions of poems by Ishikawa Takuboku, a famous Japanese poet here.
Volunteers participated in the festival because they have been assisting with debris removal and work in the fishing industry in the Ogihama area for a long time, as well as helping with cleaning activities around the temple in the lead-up to the festival.
These steps were cleaned because of the algae that was making them slippery (photograph taken September 7). The volunteers have good memories of the approximately 200 steep steps that they went up and down many times in the process of cleaning them. We would like to inform those that helped the cleaning efforts but were not able to participate in the festival to know that the festival was held without any problems. Thank you for all your hard work!
The volunteers took part in ceremonies and worshipped at the temple with local residents.
After everyone finished worshipping, the main feature of the day, the Omikoshi was revealed. Omikoshi are portable shrines that are carried around the local area during festivals in Japan. Volunteers helped carry the shrine, including some international volunteers who had helped in the clean-up activities as well, who had the chance to experience carrying an Omikoshi for the first time.
Local residents came to see the Omikoshi and the people carrying it as they set off to carry the Omikoshi around the area.
The Omikoshi crew carried it through the streets still surrounded by damage from the tsunami with energetic cries of “Wasshoi! Wasshoi!”.
The Omikoshi’s first destination was the nearby temporary housing area. Most of the local residents participated in the festival, but there were some elderly residents who held their hands together in prayer as they looked out the window or came outside to make monetary offerings.
The Omikoshi set off again and headed towards the port, taking breaks in the shade along the way. The port area was significantly damaged in the tsunami but efforts towards re-commencing oyster farming are being made.
As a result of the ground subsidence caused by the earthquake, the ocean is now only 10cm below the edge of the dock.
At the port several boats were docked and waiting for a ceremony to be performed.
It was difficult to get the Omikoshi onto the boats because of the lack of steps and the swaying of the boat.
The volunteers split up and boarded several boats together with fishermen and local residents, and the boats set off from the dock onto the peaceful ocean.
The ceremony taking place at sea.
The boats returned to the dock and the ceremony finished as the Omikoshi was returned safely to the temple.
The Omikoshi crew received a large round of applause and are surely proud of their achievement, and relieved to have finished their important task.
After this delicious smells could be smelt from the temple area. While one group had been carrying the Omikoshi, others had been preparing a barbecue.
The Omikoshi crew was hungry after their hard work but of course couldn’t forget that the barbecue was a treat for the local residents.
Plate after plate of meat and vegetables were delivered to local residents as they sat at tables and enjoyed the barbecue, talking and laughing with one another the whole time.
The yakisoba (stir-fry noodles) was popular and disappeared quickly.
The volunteers sat together with residents, listening to stories from the time of the disaster.
After the barbecue, the residents and volunteers had a great time playing games such as Suika-wari (Watermelon chopping) and bingo. The residents thanked the volunteers for all their hard work and said, “Please come back to Oginohama. Next time let’s have a barbecue with fresh oysters from here!”
In response to this, volunteer leader Saza Shinsuke said, “Thank you for letting us participate in today’s festival with you. Next year we will come in the fall to visit and we are looking forward to eating delicious oysters.”
Peace Boat interviewed one of the local residents, Mr Esashi Toshihiro, while the festival clean-up was taking place.
Q: This festival is held on September 9 every year but I am sure that this year the festival had a different meaning. Now that it is finished, how do you feel?
Mr Esashi: Yes that’s right. Of course it had a different meaning this year, but I didn’t think that we would be able to hold such a wonderful festival as we did. Even though I knew the volunteers were coming to help, I still felt this way even until this morning. But when I arrived at the temple to see so many people gathered together and the preparations for the barbecue having already commenced, I realized that it was going to be an amazing event. Today is a weekday and so the children are at school. I really felt that I wanted them to see how clean the temple and port area had become and so I called the principal of the school and the children managed to come by lunchtime.
A picture of some children gazing at the ocean. These children are the future of Oginohama.
Mr Esashi: I am in the oyster farming business but I had stopped oyster farming this year after the disaster. I stopped because I couldn’t imagine working. But now that some time has passed and as I see the port area is becoming cleaner each day thanks to the volunteers and residents work, I feel the strength to want to try again. I made a promise at the festival about oysters for next year. The oyster season is from October to March and I want everyone to be able to come back in fall next year and try the oysters from here.
Mr Esashi shaking hands firmly with the volunteers and promising to meet again (Mr Esashi, left).
During the barbecue, Mr Esashi was overheard saying, “I forgot for a moment that we were suffering from a disaster.”
As each day goes by, ties are formed between the volunteers and the local residents. These ties are leading the people affected by the disaster towards recovery.
All photos by Nakamura MitsutoshiTAGS: cleanup • Disaster Relief • festival • international volunteers • Ishinomaki • Japan • Kanto-Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami • Oshika Peninsula • oysters • Peace Boat • peaceboat • Relief • temporary housing • Tsunami • Volunteer • volunteering • Volunteers