News Overview 2014

Ōtsuchi in Japan: "Under One Roof"

Ōtsuchi in north-east Japan was almost completely destroyed in 2011. Today, a new workshop gives people the opportunity to engage in crafts and to gain qualifications for future work.

Funded by Robert Bosch Stiftung, the workshop in Ōtsuchi in northern Japan is situated seven meters above sea level and about seven kilometers from the coast. The destructive forces of the tsunami did not reach this far back in March 2011. A community center opened a few months ago directly next to the building and is accessible to people with disabilities. Just a few hundred meters away stands one of the 48 temporary housing complexes that accommodate the residents of Ōtsuchi who have not yet moved away or who have been unable to build a new home since the disaster. Ryoichi Usuzawa, one of the founders of Magokoro Net (which translates roughly as "network of honesty/warmth"), also lives in such a temporary development a few kilometers away.

Last Friday afternoon, the opening ceremony of the accessible "under one roof" workshop was held in bright sunshine. Those present included prominent local figures, many network volunteers, and people from the community. A representative of the German embassy and two employees of the Foundation also attended. The workshop contains equipment for working with wood, sewing machines, a 3D plotter and a laser engraving machine. The facility is open to everyone with the aim of bringing hope – as well as work – to people who were traumatized by the tsunami disaster. Lessons are available to those who want instruction, but visitors to the center are also free to do their own thing.

Kazuhiko Tada, also from Magokoro Net, was not personally affected by the natural catastrophe, but he is fully committed to the charitable organization. He explained that a great deal of hard work and time was necessary to obtain permission for the various initiatives from the authorities, and the mission is not yet over. In addition to the workshop, the network has built the community center and tea rooms, which are often the only feasible public meeting places in the makeshift housing for less mobile people. Magokoro Net also organizes its own car pool to make the residents of otherwise poorly connected housing developments more mobile. At the same time, the head office of the network provides accommodation to volunteers from around the country who travel to the area for a few days to help with rebuilding projects.

The opening ceremony lasted just an hour and featured seven short welcoming speeches, the reading of messages of congratulations, the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, and the traditional throwing of rice cakes. After the formal ceremonies, it was not only the local press that took an interest in the visitors from distant Germany: heartfelt words of thanks were offered from all sides. While this kind of support is unusual for the Foundation, it represents a small but important contribution, as became increasingly clear during the afternoon and evening on visits to the temporary housing complexes. The people in Ōtsuchi had their entire city taken away from them in one fell swoop (more than 90 percent of the city was destroyed), and the workshop gives them the opportunity to engage in crafts and to gain qualifications for future work.

(Julian Hermann, October 2014)

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