The smiles of the children are the source of our energy.  We strive to restore “healthy smiles” in the faces of the children, by focusing on activities that provide “playing time and life in the natural setting”.


I am sure that many of you have naturally absorbed and learned many things through outdoor-play and by being in contact with the natural surroundings during childhood.  I am just another one like you, whose childhood experience has become a strong memory and a formative experience that is my core “source of life” today.


But many of the children and families continue to live in anxiety of the invisible threat in the areas, where there is high dosage of radiation, preventing the children from playing outdoors as they would like.


We have had numerous parents express their concerns saying, “Before 3.11, our children used to enjoy playing outdoors, soaked in dirt, mingling with the leaves, and swimming in the sea.  But after the disaster, we are afraid of the effects of radiation, caused by the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We prevent the children from getting in contact with the soil and plants, and prohibit them from playing in the “sea”.


In a survey conducted between January and March of 2014, 96% of the families answered that they had restricted outdoor play and avoided activities in the natural surroundings, right after the disaster in 2011.  Even 3 years after the disaster, 71% of the families have answered that they continue restricting any activities outdoors.  I hope that these numbers help the reader understand the on-going cruel reality in the disaster-affected areas.


It is not as easy for the affected to migrate or evacuate to a new location. Many are still searching for a new shelter, or there are people who’ve already started returning from the evacuated areas. Many try to shut their eyes from the reality, so that they do not fall apart from the immense anxiety. There are many mothers, fathers and children, who are supporting each other, while enduring and fighting the situation surrounding them.



It is our determination to stand by these people, and learn together through continual trial and error.  As a concrete action, we would like to start by creating an environment, where the children can play outdoors without hesitation and mingle with the plants and flowers, embrace the water of the streams, discover the insects, just as how it was before the terrible disaster.


We enjoyed “Nagashi somen” (Catching and eating somen noodles released in running water. This is usually enjoyed outdoors in summer.)  The happy laughter of the children echoed in the woods.



  Story time, where children listen, think and use their imaginations.



We, “the team of Mori no Yuukagusha staffs”, based in Minamiaizu Fukushima, were quick in getting involved in supportive action toward the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.  We have, since the disaster, continuously been contemplating on “What we can do” and “What we should do”. In March 23, 2011, we dispatched a rescue party to deliver relief goods and fuel to those affected by the tsunami along the coastal area.  Since April of 2011, our phones never stopped ringing with more than 200 calls asking for temporary shelter and recuperation center for the children.  On May 5th, which is the “Children’s Day” in Japan, we made a decision to take in the children in need in Minamiaizu, during their summer vacation.  This is when we established and started operating “Komera no mori Minamiaizu”, working with the participants to renovate more than a 100 year-old traditional Japanese folk house to serve as the base for our activities.


This unique project of creating a recuperation center, gathering forces, not only with the staffs, but with more than 200 volunteer workers from all over Japan, and the children and parents who are victims themselves, was meaningful in its own way.  The work and the sweat that we shed together helped us cultivate the energy necessary to overcome the difficult challenges that we were facing.



The renovation of the old folk house by non-professional workers took us a month and a half, filled with twists and turns and errors.  But in the end, it became a deep learning experience. The accumulation of rubbish collected from the renovation summed up to 3 tons, creating another job for us to transport the waste to the incinerator. We made many travels to the incinerator by rented trucks.  We also transformed the old rotten tatami mats into fertilizer for the fields.  It was only two days before the grand opening of “Komera no mori” that we finished lifting all the floor boards of an area of 60 tatamis, replacing them, and then spreading the used tatami mats back on top of them.



Thus we were able to celebrate the opening of the recuperation center, “Komera no mori Minamiaizu” on July 22nd, 2011.  We felt fulfilled and thankful, as the smiles and laughter of the children filled up the center.  The children started arriving from the very first day of summer vacation, and we continued offering shelter for the next 5 consecutive weeks.  We have since then, not stopped our supportive action for the past 3 years.  May it be summer, winter or spring, we have continuously organized seasonal events, as our way to reach out to the victims.  Looking back, we have organized 25 recuperation camps, offering accommodation to more than 1000 people, including women in pregnancy and children of all ages, babies and toddlers, up to high school students.




A program offered by the artist group, “Dendera caravan”.  One scene during the “Rhythm quest”, presented by the late Toshiya Ozawa and Mari Sakamoto.


Please watch a mini documentary of “Dendera caravan in Komera no mori”