Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Art work :-)

So the group I was volunteering for last time in Inawashiro, Japan Cat Network (JCN) are having a charity concert in Tokyo on June 10th. One multi talented organizer/ singer/volunteer and general all round star, put a plea out for artwork for a poster. I said I would 'give it a whirl'. ....and whirl it I did. It was a whole lot of fun and a tonne of experimentation went on to get the Rocking cat just right. His fans had to be of the right ilk and accessories had to say "uuuuRRRRROOOOOCCCKKuu" not
"Oh, ehm yes, Jazz". You'll see what I mean below;-)

Too foxy looking.

80's leather jacket .....VERY bad move

hmmmmm  a tangent? or workable?  

Messing about with lettering, positions and the audience. Still kind of in the 80's with those red glasses.

Ok this guy is starting to look like he could shake things up a little. I'm going to go with him for the time being. Let's see if he can draw in any fans.

Meet JayCen lead singer extraordinaire of the soon to be world famous Gen'K'atsu rock band :-) (with of course all the correct bad ass rock accessories;-))

So next step was to send it over to the aforementioned extremely wonderful Anna in order for her to work her magic on it. She created this FAB poster. So, there's the first step of the creative process. The next is happening on June 10th in What the Dicken's pub when all the bands listed are going to rock your socks off in aid of JayCen's (JCN) ongoing volunteer efforts in Fukushima. Tanoshimi!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another anniversary

Today marks a year of the sealing of the 20kilometer zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. A year ago today the remaining animals that were inside were given up on by the authorities.  Not only the cows, horses, pigs and chickens but dogs tied to their houses in the front yard. People's indoor cats watching in windows for their people to come home.The authorities imagined the people would be their usual complacent authority respecting selves, but they were wrong. There was uproar both nationally and internationally.

When Japan gets itself into hot water on an international stage it tends to become more stubborn and resolute that "this is the way things are done here". What the authorities weren't expecting was the uproar they created within the country, and across a broad spectrum of society. From farmers to pet guardians to animal welfare groups, the advice to "leave animals behind you'll be back in a few days" and then subsequent "You cannot retrieve your animals" did not sit at all well. There are a few stalwart farmers holding out refusing to listen to the government order to kill their livestock because they have no monetary value. Matsumura san is caring for dogs cats and neighbour's livestock. (pictures follow)http://www.tokyoreporter.com/2012/03/21/from-the-fukushima-forbidden-zone-i-intend-to-stay-until-i-die/

Another group of livestock farmers defying the order to kill their herds have set up an unsubsidised Farm of hope.http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/28/fukushima-rebel-farmers-feed-cattle?intcmp=239
And a lone woman's video appeal to the authorities for her access to her cats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0frBRQ_ndls&feature=related

These groups are getting more help and support from the international community than their own government

Some of these links may be old, but unfortunately the problem they deal with is an area that hasn't seen any changes. There is a Japanese proverb that says Kusaimono ni futa wo suru: If it smells, put a lid on it, as in ignore it if it causes discomfort. Thing is, the lid they are trying to cover the problem with is too small.

I was in Tohoku one month ago. I had the good fortune to be there on one of the days when Japan Cat Network were doing their food drops for the animals still inside the restricted 30km area (note I said 30 not the 20). The animals with collars, the animals who were once people's pets. Only residents have access passes here, all other passes are decided upon at the discretion of the local government. Japan Cat Network has a pass, many other well known animal welfare groups do not. In the very short space of time I was there, I saw four roaming dogs, four chained dogs, three loose cats and two tanukis. The animals don't know what is 20km and what is 30km they just know that one day their humans disappeared and they got hungry.   I obviously can't say where the four roaming dogs, and three loose cats, came from originally but it wouldn't be un realistic for the dogs to have wandered 'out of the zone'. The animals the government say are not there, ARE still there, I saw them, and today on the anniversary of their callous government sanctioned fate, I pray for them.
We called her Kia. She watched from afar.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A moment for a stranger

I never met the Hamu and Eggu's human Mum but I knew of her through my Ofunato friend, M.san. As I mentioned here. She was in hospital and not expected to do well. She had dearly wanted her adult children to take her beloved furbs but none of them were in a position to do so.

Eggu being his adorable self
She was beside herself with worry about what to do with them. A friend of a friend of a friend told her about her experience with my contact. She decided to meet. They spoke and H&E's Mum said Ok, then she said no, then she said ok and then she insisted that where ever they go, they go together. If we could guarantee that, then she would allow it. I confirmed this with JCN and the lady gave her permission to release her darling boys to our group. Judy and I picked them up and ferried them to the Inawashiro shelter. We arrived with our arms two inches longer than when we had set out, they were well loved cats:-).  Longer arms and all cats accounted for, the two boys spent time in the quarantine room as per protocol for new members. Having been indoor babies since well, when they were babies, the shared quarters were kind of a shock to their systems. We realized this and put out an appeal among volunteers for a foster home or an adoptive home for these sweethearts. Jen and Dave were up for it, and the two 4year olds moved out to Fukushima.

Hamu living up to his name ;-) Big 'ole sweetheart!
When I was in Inawashiro I took photos of the boys everyday and mailed them to my friend in Ofunato. Just to give her piece of mind that she had done the right thing by these boys. Jen and David also posted a great photo album on the JCN facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/japancatnetwork/ page so I copied and forwarded that to  M. San as well. I wanted her to be able to say with certainty to the family should they get in touch that Hamu and Eggu were doing really well and were in a wonderful foster family. That they were being loved on and that of course they ruled the house :-)

Last Friday morning M. san was contacted by a family member and they inquired about the two kitties. M. san was thrilled to be able to report on their well being. She mentioned she had many pictures and that the daughter was more than welcome to show them to her Mum. The lady asked if M. san would visit so she could tell her firsthand. My friend decided she would. Friday afternoon saw at the bedside of a very sick elderly lady. She had printed out all the photos we'd sent. She relayed what she learned of their new place and temporary life. Hamu and Eggu's mum pet the pictures and tickled their chins. She cried.She held them to her chest. She said thank you. She said she was so relieved. She said she was ok with everything now. She passed away two days later. I'm glad she got to know that her beloved boys are going to be just fine.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Getting there....but almost not

So I'll step back a little bit. A little before Hamu and Eggu. Right back to my Naha departure.... or lack of it. I was booked onto the longest flight in Japan; Okinawa to Sendai. I was at the airport 50 minutes early, or so I thought. I swiped my check-in ticket and this is where I should have realised things were amiss. The machine spat out a 'go see a member of staff NOW" slip. Keep your hair on, I can do that!! geez. Member of unperturbed staff seen, time for the ritualistic pre-departure sandwich. I had done this every other time, why would this instance be any different? I settled in to my very very good meal deal. I got lost in its avocado and entangled in the fries alongside. It was just what the doctor ordered. Nothing I could replace now if I realised I had forgotten it. Haaaaaaaa the build up of stress over the last few days decompressed. I'd have a few hours before volunteer mode slipped in. Car rental was arranged. A place to stay in Sendai confirmed. I was good to go. On the hour I got up, paid my dues and ambled down  through the souvenir section. Oooooh some last minute shisas to add to my Okinawa souvenir offerings. By 10 past I was fixing my bags on the X-ray machine but couldn't find my flight details on the board above. I asked another member of staff which gate the Sendai flight left from. He replied in perfunctory monotone "It left from gate 23". Pardon? Left? what do you mean left? as in opposite from right? or Holey Moley ..departed? Noooooo!! It left early? you mean it is closing? oh if it is closing, dude! I can run.  I CAN RUN, I can sooooo run!! I am fast dude! no, really I am. I swore on my ability to break the speed of light but they bizarrely didn't budge.
Sure the ticket says 14:35 It is only 2.15.
Please look at your ticket Madam.
I whipped the boarding pass out of my back pocket ready to duel to the death on departure times. See? 14.35!
Madam, please look closer,
Crap!! Why didn't I have my glasses on? There it was, as plain as day the minute I held it up to my nostrils 14.05!  Ugggghh. I said I had so many appointments to meet the next day, reservations tonight  and things to get done. I had to be in that area this evening for the volunteer organisation.

Boooooooooom magic words. From `yeah yeah we have heard it all before' attitude to 'ahhhhhh a volunteer'. The ANA staff rallied and had a few transport options available to me within minutes.I was whisked here, whisked there,  bags followed and I suddenly I found myself on an economy ticket in first class to Nagoya. Well helloooooooooo comfort :-) 

A quick stop for a beautiful sunset in Nagoya
and I was Sendai bound. The rent-a-car company was waving a placard with my name on it upon a arrival and a little more whisking around ensued. After being thoroughly whisked, I found myself behind the wheel of a car that was more fit for skiing or kayaking than pet transporting. But hey, I've been a Girl Guide in my time and I can work things out:-) I found the hotel, found the parking lot, found my room and conked out. Next day was for catching up with Miyuki and hopefully delivering one of Lexie's stress coats that I had promised to a little yorkshire terrier in the Kasetsu jyutaku the last time I was up.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hamu and Eggu

Posts will be a little bit higgledy piggeldy (don’t think I have ever seen that written downJ) but here goes one of the stories I partook in while revisiting the Rikuzentakata Ofunato areas.

            Before leaving Okinawa, I got in touch with everyone I had met up North through the last few trips. The people I’ve dropping lines to all year to see how things are evolving for them. One lady has been an amazing fountain of information. If it weren’t for her there would be no Tufty, Setsuo, http://earthquakepets.blogspot.jp/2011/08/in-limbo.html#comment-form
She helped to smooth out some of the wrinkles officialdom comes with. This trip was no different.

On our long distance phone call she mentioned that she had heard of an elderly woman in the temporary housing who had been admitted to hospital. She knew the lady had two cats and was contemplating rehoming them. She said she would get in touch and let me know if she needed any help. I called her when I arrived in Ofunato. I had a car, space and I was ready to rumble. I was hitting my gears, I was back in the groove. Then a reality check rained down on me. The owner of the two cats had lost her husband and son in the tsunami. She lived in the Kasetsu jyutaku alone with just her two four year old furries. She had had a very bad year. Depression slowly sidled its way into her life and along with it a myriad of other problems. Her relatives helped as much as they could. Their focus was naturally on her, not her kitties. The cats had spent some time alone at home before the word got out that they were there.
While a little perturbed, they bounced back well and once they found themselves in human company again, world order was restored. Except it was only a temporary solution. Hamu and Eggu had been given to a relative who had allergies who then in turn had to find someone who would take them in. Up steps my Ofunato friend and takes the two, four year old cuddlers to her rented accomodation. She let the family know that they had options with us. They said they would get back to me. That afternoon a text told me we could pick them up on our last day. That evening a text told me we couldn't.  Same again the next day. The heartbreaking decision that was being worked through for this family was just awful. Our last day saw us driving into Ofunato on a 'yes' but getting to the traffic lights before the pick up point on a 'no'. I decided to drop off one of our Japanese flyers so they could take their time in deciding. I met with my friend and she was profusely apologetic for something that was really quite out of her hands. 

She reported they didn't want the cats to be separated, as they had been together since birth and been literally velcroed to each other ever since. I have always heard it is a bad idea to split up a bonded pair of dogs so I presumed the same would go for cats. A quick call to Susan to hear what the JCN policy is on that point and a resounding 'no splitting' was heard loud and clear from the other end of the line. It is a bad idea all around, the cats will have a harder time adjusting to the loss of their 'bestie' which may manifest itself in behaviour problems from despondency on one end of the spectrum to agitation and acting out at the other end. 

These two puddings already had enough chopping and changing without subjecting them to it all over again. The owner was reassured that if these two are going anywhere then it would be together. She decided it would be the right thing to do by her furbs and relinquished them to JCN. We drove them to Inawashiro where they got their shots updated.They are holding their own in the quarantine room but are not happy about the limited up down space arrangements. They had a whole Kasetsu jyutaku before. I've been telling them 'not long now, not long now' but that excuse is wearing thin.They are ready to get out of their 4 storey condo and hopefully into a new home environment. Cats that know nothing but an indoor life like these handsome boys, get a tad stressed in shelters. It is kind of like being accustomed to 5 star hotels and then finding yourself in a dorm room in a youth hostel. All going well they will be out of the Qzone by the end of the week. I'll be sure they get an extra tickle and cuddle session or five to tame the turmoil. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Flying visits

Possibly the only photo in this blog where you'll see me wearing a dress:-)
As I mentioned in the last update I flew home for a very brief visit. I had been invited to a reception in the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland's residence. He and his wife wanted to extend their gratitude to those Irish people who had contributed and are still contributing to Japan's recovery. It was a very pleasant evening and my mother and I met a lot of very interesting people. I was pretty nervous while lining up to greet the Ambassador but needn't have been. He and his lovely wife were very friendly and relaxed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today........March 11th 2012

Like this day last year, I'm in Ireland. Thankfully there was nothing as dramatic or horrifying on the TV news this time around. Today I attended a beautiful concert in aid of children suffering from PTSD in the Tohoku region.

My heart goes out to everyone connected to Tohoku and all the emotions that will resurface today. For those who lost loved ones and those who are still hoping to find closure for their personal journey. Today part of Higashi-Matsushima Shi was here in Dublin with me.

In May last year I visited a small coastal town that saw its world turned upside down in a heartbeat. I met comedian san, http://www.blogger.com/blogger.gblogID=2870931379825235121#editor/target=post;postID=2881754181117456658 we had come back after our rounds of pet care and food drops and helped him and his friends clear debris. There was everything in the mountain we were working through. Hospital health records, sports trophies, single shoes, kids' toys (everywhere) and what caused the strongest stabs of sadness were the photos. The photos of happier times. Weddings, graduations, new babies every life milestone was in these mountains of debris.

The place we were clearing was about 3 miles inland. We were at the foot of a hill.The whole town arrived onto the Sanno's property as the natural topography stopped the laden wave in its path.They not only had their own destruction to deal with but everyone else's as well. The tractors, the garden sheds, the washing machines, the fridges, the villager's belongings were there piled up to the second floor level in what used to be the Sanno's garden. And this was MAY already 2 months later.

We worked, we lifted, we dug, we disentangled all afternoon . When it was time to drive back to Sendai Mrs. Sanno pulled Jackie and I aside. She wanted to give us a gift for all our hard work. This lady whose home was in tatters and spread half way up the hill behind her lot wanted to give us gifts.

She lifted the tissue ever so carefully to reveal three pieces of beautiful handmade jewelry. This was where I was sure that I had made a mistake. Oh, right........ it was to SHOW us what she had found not a present. Whew! at least I hadn't said anything. "Here you are" she said in perfect English. The first English I had heard her say all day. Pardon? I reconfirmed in Japanese.Yes, she wanted us to chose one each.
She had found them in the debris behind her house. She had made them by hand. That afternoon when we were pulling cables from the debris she had found her bedroom contents strewn between the bamboo trees behind her home. She had carefully spent the afternoon rinsing the mud off from between the beads, stones, wires and clasps of her creations.She had painstakingly cleaned every last trace of mud from them and presented them to us as a gift of gratitude.

We had been in this position before, all attempts at refusal are brushed off. You can try as we did to gently say no, but it is futile. You'll leave with what you are being proffered.TIme and time again I heard, "this is the Japanese way" as a guest in anybody's home I have never left empty handed, whether it be with left overs or fruit from the garden, if you have brought a gift with you, you can expect to leave with something too.

So today Sanno san was very strongly with me in spirit in the Peppercannister church in Dublin, Ireland. As I, with some of my family and some of her country's people here, remembered the departed and wished those left behind some ease in their pain.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So I just succinctly 'came out' with the subtly of a sledgehammer in my last post. I'm not with the blue brigade anymore. I'm donning white or black.I'm supporting Japan Cat Network (who do dogs too ( as you saw in the last post))  They are who I'm heading North to volunteer for. They were the original co-founders of JEARS. I worked with Susan Roberts on each of my trips to Tohoku and have nothing but good things to say about those experiences. Soooooo when I found out that I had another five days of volunteer leave upon the clock striking midnight on January 1st, I knew there was no other group that could use my days like Susan and JCN.

One lovely order-er posted them on her blog:-)
I haven't been sitting on my laurels waiting until I can use those days, I have been keeping busy. I donated hand drawn cards to a JCN fundraiser, to a St. Valentine's Day fundraiser for a rescue group here on Okinawa and to Joey the Cat on World spay day. Those cards proved popular and all in all 180-something were individually drawn and put together in five weeks.I think I'll be drawing them in my sleep:-)

That Okinawan rescue group I mentioned above? Doggie Orphans Great and Small, the biggest hearted people you will ever come across. I spoke to them about my Northern trips and we swapped  stories about the world of animal rescue and ALL the kinds of bizarre behaviour we had come across. Just to clarify, that would be people's behaviour not the animal's.;-) It was at a time when JCN was running dangerously low on litter. For all you non cat people, let me just say no litter is not a pretty situation. In fact it is kind of on the messy side, the very messy side. So when she asked can DOGS do anything, I asked what would you have in mind? I had messy visuals and said would a litter drive be weird? Baddaboom..........Look what is going to JCN from Okinawa with love in haul-able increments:-)
D.O.G.S. Rock!!
The wonderful volunteers from D.O.G.S. and yours truly:-)

Seeing what one group of determined animal lovers could do and knowing JCN's dire need, I approached another group of animal advocates here, Okinawan American Animal Rescue Society (OAARS). They put on a stellar performance too and were able to raise the poundage of the donated litter.
Receiving donations from OAARS

On behalf of JCN I would like to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your effort and while I know the kitties are going to be thrilled with their spectacular toilet options, I can guarantee that you have friends for life in the volunteers who were so close to that messy messy situation.You guys literally swept them away the edge of the abyss:-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I've never really been a coveter of  brands and logos to the disdain of my fashion concious students. (Thank goodness the pooches and purries don't judge). But last year was different. Last year I got a T-shirt that I wanted to frame.That blue mud covered, at times drenched T-shirt made me fill with pride each time I saw it.It represented mine and countless others` team work on behalf of the Tohoku displaced pets. That T- shirt is still being worn by some, but not me. My next trip up I'll be wearing another set of colours. A T-shirt belonging to a group who are still in Inawashiro, who are still pulling animals out of the restricted zone (5 puppies last weekend) and who have been there this whole time.I'm excited to head back up and honoured to be a small cog in their awe-inspiring machine.
here's their link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150565619316720.374790.612546719&type=3
A puppy in a polar bear costume:-)
Any mainlanders have space in your homes and hearts for a a puppy or two?:-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

In other news

Before I went up last summer I put out an apppeal for yukatas and jinbeis for Miyuki. http://earthquakepets.blogspot.com/2011/05/positivity.html  A wonderful lady who helped Jackie and I around Higashi Matsushima shi in May. She and a friend set up a Smile campaign to gather festival clothes for the the summer gatherings in her small seaside town. The teenciest tiniest backwater in Japan can't call it self a village unless it has a festival during the hotter months. It is a wonderful season to be in Japan and you could most likely festival hop the length and breadth of the country. One beautiful imperative to these community events is the yukata. Usually a light unlined cotton version of a kimono. It is informal yet traditional and quintessential female attire for firework viewing.The male counterpart is the jimbei. Also made from light cotton but more somber in colouring. There are darker coloured Yukatas for men too but I have really only seen those at onsens and not at festivals.

The Principal bought two entire sets to donate.
So Miyuki asked me, a non-native, if I had any festival attire knocking about the place, I didn`t. However, there would be nothing to prevent me from putting the word out, which I did.Lucky for me the word was heard and the wonderful students I teach up in Kadena rallied around and pestered their peers, parents and part time job colleagues. They were able to round up 27 Yukatas and jinbeis. There were mulitple donations of essential accessories too. Zori/geta, (wooden sandals), obi (belts). I covered the shipping and with other donators contributions combined, I sent up 10kilos of traditional clothes.

I wanted to get a special one for Miyuki as she had been so kind to us before so when I volunteered in June I brought one up especially for her.Friends in Tokyo and Chiba rallied around and contributed to Miyuki`s drive and I realise that I never acknowledged all of these wonderful people here. So please forgive me for being remiss in my gratitude. Thank you for making these Higashi-Matsushima-ns Smile.
Happy ladies:-)

Kasetsu jyutaku resident gets his Jimbei.
Looking pretty:-)