Ohanami 2017 – Cherry Blossom Viewing

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On a recent visit to the Fukushima region of Japan, Aid For Japan founder Akemi Tanaka caught up with developments.

On the 1st April we gathered at Fukushima railway station and took the bus to Hanamiyama Park for cherry blossom viewing (hanami). Joining us for this visit were Maria (a 15-year-old survivor of the tsunami, who lost both parents, her sister, grandparents, pet cat and her house), Sumika Hayakawa (the director of Aid For Japan in Japan), charity supporters Yuriko and Richard, Mr Ara (who has looked after his sister’s orphaned child since she lost her parents to the tsunami. The girl was six when the tsunami struck.) and Mr Takahashi (founder of NPO Hanamiyama wo Mamoru kai).

Unfortunately, it was a rather chilly and cloudy day, and the cherry blossom was not fully out yet. However, all was not lost as plenty of plum trees were still blossoming, and our knowledgeable hosts were also able to explain a number of the other beautiful spring flowers that were braving the cold.

After a pleasant walk through the trees we retreated into the visitor centre for refreshing cups of tea and delicious Japanese sweets.

Leaving the hills behind, several of us accompanied Maria to Sendai, the regional capital – only a short journey by high speed Shinkansen train. Our first stop was a Karaoke venue, Maria’s favourite way to relax. The younger members of the party, Maria and Sumika were both in good voice singing the latest anime theme songs.

For dinner, we were invited by Emiko Iwasaki for a lovely kaiseki meal. Akemi is a member of Zonta club in London, and Emiko is the representative of Sendai Zonta club.

Meal complete, we were to visit Maria’s new apartment, a welcome change from the often-fraught environment of the orphanage she has lived in since 2011. However, Maria explained that she hadn’t had chance to tidy up properly after moving in a few days ago, so at this point the party went its separate ways.

Aid For Japan’s mission is dedicated to supporting the orphans of the 2011 tsunami. This includes arranging for some of the orphans to visit the UK, but also on occasion to see how they are coping at home. Your donations help to make this happen.