Atsuko Fish reporting out to the Japan Society at the Boston Foundation. The Fish Family Foundation has raised half a million so far but more will be needed.
We heard from grantees and saw many photos of their on-site visit. 115,000 residents still live in about 2,000 shelters. When I see the photos it reminds me of the concentration camps that Japanese citizens were evacuated to. Instead of unused fairgrounds, folks are living in gymnasiums and city halls. Atsuko openly shared how difficult it was to personally experience the enormity of the disaster. Driving past miles and miles of devastation where villages once stood, she and her daughter shared these photos and the tough memories. They also shared the gratitude conveyed across language and cultural barriers they witnessed as Japanese living in shelters bowed and shook hands with American volunteers, crying and repeating the only English they knew "Thank you, thank you."
The Japanese Disaster Relief Fund Boston was established in collaboration by The Japan Society of Boston, The Boston Foundation, and the Fish Family Foundation with an initial leadership grant of $100,000 from Atsuko and Lawrence Fish, who have also pledged to cover all administrative costs of the fund. This will make it possible for 100%* of all contributions to go directly to Japanese disaster victims and to the organizations working on the ground in Tohoku to help the people who need it most. One of the grantees so far is All Hands. All Hands is a volunteer organization doing some of the toughest work, removing the (wet, heavy, toxic) debris. One of the great challenges is that Japan is an island nation with mountains and coastline and a very narroow strip of flat land in between. That means there's no place to remove debris to. They cannot begin to rebuild until the disaster zones have been cleared. I really don't know what the answer is but I'm very glad that organizations like these, with experience in New Orleans, in Haiti, are there working on solutions.
One of Ian Ash's mini-documentary films show a conversation with a school principal, about 3 KM from the edge of the Tohoku evacuation zone. A thousand school children are being bused to his school in a town with exactly the same radiation levels as the evacuation zone. Many feel the government has drawn a rather arbitrary and inaccurate evacuation zone. The Children of Minamisoma.See
Cheerful Pom Pom Sushi
Pom Pom Sushi - avocado, simmered, soy and sake glazed mushrooms, and pickled radicchio leaves wrapped around little balls of sushi rice.
This is a way to enjoy vegetarian sushi and these "pom poms" are the closest I've been to the real thing, having spent my school days on the other end of the popularity spectrum. I wish I could bring this little mini-omosubi (rice balls) to children in Minamisoma!
As I prepared my miso soup to go with my leftover pom pom sushi for lunch, I welled up with tears. As I poked around the box of Japanese groceries in the closet that holds our hot water heater and doubles as our pantry my thoughts turned to Japan. The package of sencha (green tea leaves) reminds me that the first of the year delicate tea leaves were due to be tested for radiation about now. I imagined my family and friends in Japan, eagerly anticipating the results of the geiger counters used among the green hills of Shizuoka. I remembered driving through Shizuoka, marveling at the tidy rows of tea bushes looking like so many giant snowballs, all vibrant green. These seasonal delights mean a lot to Japanese folks.
I fished around, you'll pardon the pun, looking for a package of katsuobushi. That's the dried shaved bonito that flavors the stock for most Japanese soups. I share mine now with the old cat whose taste for unadorned cat food, expensive as it is, seems to have disappeared. He looks at the plain bowl of special food for cats with renal failure as if I've given him a bowl of sand. Blink blink. "Really," he seems to say, "no bonito?" I cave and sprinkle a little on his food, which he then happily dives into.
It seems I'm out. Where will I buy it now? How will I know if it's safe to eat? What has become of those fishing villages who all depend on the bonito for their livelihood, and for their dashi?
As I was slicing scallions for the soup, I realized the simple, quiet act of preparing miso soup is such a comfort. My thoughts turn to those in shelters, unable to experience that daily routine that is so grounding and nourishes more than our bellies.
In my recent newsletter, I shared a story by Ruth Reichl about recognizing the importance of food and celebrating that, even in the face of devastating disasters like the tsunami.
I'm raffling off these two gorgeous books that help us do just that. These charming little sushi balls are made from a recipe in the Kansha cookbook by Elizabeth Andoh, one of the leading authorities on Japanese cuisine. If you're unfamiliar with her work, take a look at her websites here, Washoku Cooking (you may access Kansha through that site, too.) After spending some time with Elizabeth during her brief Boston tour, I can tell you she is inspiring and these books are gorgeous, the food delicious.
Kansha Cooking - Appreciation - Japan's Vegetarian Cuisine or read about her lecture at BU here: Kansha Cooking at BU's Gastronomy Program.Read more about her lectures and demos, here:
Kansha—appreciation—is an expression of gratitude for nature’s gifts and the efforts and ingenuity of those who transform nature’s bounty into marvelous food. The spirit of kansha, deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy and practice, encourages all cooks to prepare nutritionally sound and aesthetically satisfying meals that avoid waste, conserve energy, and preserve our natural resources.
In these pages, with kansha as credo, Elizabeth Andoh offers more than 100 carefully crafted vegan recipes. She has culled classics from shōjin ryōri, or Buddhist temple cuisine (Creamy Sesame Pudding, Glazed Eel Look-Alike); gathered essentials of macrobiotic cooking (Toasted Hand-Pressed Brown Rice with Hijiki, Robust Miso); selected dishes rooted in history (Skillet-Scrambled Tofu with Leafy Greens, Pungent Pickles); and included inventive modern fare (Eggplant Sushi, Tōfu-Tōfu Burgers).
Please donate today - this raffle ends Wednesday. And thank you for sharing this post with anyone you think might be interested in learning more about Japanese food and the incredible work of the JDRFB. My next fundraiser will be in June and will benefit the JDRFB.