1995, January 17th, 5:45
An enormous earthquake stroke Kobe city, one of the biggest cities in Japan.
In a few seconds, a lot of buildings, houses, and many other structures crashed down. Several railway bridges fell to the ground or only hung their poles. Roads and streets cracked (but not so widely) and wrecks made them impossible to pass. A part of highway overpass was torn and fell on houses and crushed them.
Four thousand five handred people were died under wrecks of houses, and the following fire burnt more five hundred people.
People who lost their houses went to schools to have spaces to live, and when schools were full, other people had to live in tents. In an area, gas leaked from seaside tanks and people in the area had to move towards mountains.
People had to live on, but there was no view of the future.
For the first few weeks, people ate only some breads and milk which were delivered by nation. Even after the term, they had to eat cold pre-cooked foods. This made people more tired, especially old people. Some old people died because of their tiredness and...sadness. The city of Kobe were exhausted, but they had to put up with the sadness of what they lost...families, houses, usual lifestyles, jobs...everything.
On February 10th, three weeks after the tragic day, I went to Kobe with my knapsack and sleeping-bag.
I chose one of volunteer bases and I was going to stay there for ten days. There were about thirty people in the base. They were cooking warm foods, or helping to get something valuable under house wrecks, for example favorite albums, or the other work is gathering informations, for example "where are available medical services?", or delivering rescue materials, or broadcasting a program about the suffered area in a computer network.
We had only electricity and occasional supply of water, and we had to sleep in small cold tents. Noises of heavy veicles often interrupted our sleep.
But, the atmosphere of our base was very nice. Everyone worked eagerly, and at night, we talked with each other. What we talked about were, sometimes something like "how we can help those people who...", on the other time we talked about the significanse of the volunteer (very objective), and sometimes about ourselves. Often the coversation went on until 2 or 3 o'clock (often with drinking), and on the next morning we had to get up and begun another work.
I belonged to the delivery team, but at first, I had a trouble. There was no one who could stay more than ten days because of their own circumstances, and I was going to stay for ten days. So, I had to be the leader of the team. I had to share our works for members of our team, I had to talk with my bosses, I had to make all decidions, and I had to instruct our new members.
We had several problems, but I'm going to tell you just one of our problems.
Even while I was staying, the condition of our area was changing. Most of the suffered people were getting able to get their rescue materials for themselves. But there must be those people who were difficult to get such materials, such as very old people or handicapped people. We knew only a small part of these people, so we had to arive all houses in our area to ask if they need our help. But it was impossible because the area was too large for us. So we chose severely damaged areas, and we went.
But soon, we found that we had another difficulty on this and had to change our way. Suffered people were so proud that they would not tell us that they need our help (I don't have any intention to blame them. I think it's very natural).
But obviously, there must be some people who need some help. We talked about this at night, and after a long discussion, trials and errors, we decided: "At first, we have to be friend of them. Then, they may tell us what they need." We started from ordinary comversation, and step by step, we got what they need. Thid way was successful. It was very interesting, facinating process. I learned a lot of things from this, and I think this became my beggest experience in my volunteer work.
There were many other problems, but I'm going to talk about present problems.
Still now, the disaster have not finished.
People have moved from schools and tents to temporaty houses, but most of them cannot have their own houses, because they have not enough money. A few old people are still dying because of their loneliness, and a lot of managers cannot restart their companies. And, of course, wounds of the earthquake still remain in people's minds, and will remain forerver.
The disaster is still going on, and it will take a long time to dispair.
Early in the last November, I went to the city alone to take for a walk. It was a fine day, and there was a gentle wind. After I took off a train, I arrived at two places to look for two old ladies. But one had already gone away. Only her worn tent remained. And another woman, unfortunately, forgot me completely because of her age, ninety-one years old. I also saw many foundations of houses still there. Then I went to the base where I had been and the school where I worked after I had left the base. But there was culm, and only a few children were playing on the ground of the school. It was very culm, and from there I could look down the whole of the city. I had a rest for a while, with a cigarette, and then, I left there to go back.