Japan 2014: Shichigahama

On Tuesday 3rd June I visited Shichigahama (七ヶ浜). Shichigahama is not a place many people will have heard of, but it’s been somewhere I’ve been aware of for the last few years since I first got involved with the charitable organisation Seven Beach Aid. Shichigahama, or ‘Seven Beach Town’, is home to the founder of Seven Beach Aid’s mother, and it was badly hit by the Tohoku tsunami in 2011. Seven Beach Aid supports various small charitable projects, and among them is Yarn Alive. Yarn Alive, based in Shichigahama, is “a community where people come together to knit and crochet and experience emotional, mental and physical recovery”.

Developed by expat Teddy Sawka, and supported by expats Christina and Wendy, Yarn Alive brings together tsunami-affected women all ages to learn how to crochet and knit and support one another. Having something to do with their hands, something to focus on, has helped to alleviate these women from depression and anxiety. Yarn Alive’s projects have now helped people both in Japan and outside of Japan, with knitted goods being donated initially to tsunami-affected areas, and now, more than three years on, to other countries in need such as the Philippines (after typhoon Heiyan) and Jordan (to the Syrian refugees).

It was an absolute pleasure to meet the lovely ladies at Yarn Alive in Shichigahama, and I’m very grateful to them for making me feel so welcome from the moment I met them. I’ve ‘known’ them via their wonderful blog for a few years now, but it was incredible to meet them in person and feel like I’d known them for years.

Yarn Alive meets a few times a week in temporary buildings like these:

Shichigahama

They have spaces that are sort of community centres, which is great, but it would be nice to see them have their own premises and proper space to store their yarn and equipment.

The ladies work on their current projects, and help each other when they need it. Some are obvious leaders, whilst other are just happy to knit.

Yarn Alive

Yarn Alive

Yarn Alive

Everyone seems at home in the environment, each finding their own spot in which to knit or crochet.

Yarn Alive

I’ve never met a lovelier bunch of women, and I only wish I could visit them again and have them teach me to knit!

Yarn Alive

Meeting Yarn Alive

After attending the group, the organisers took me to this newly rebuilt restaurant by the sea for lunch.

Restaurant Totoya (とと家), Shichigahama

Restaurant Totoya (とと家), Shichigahama

 

The fish, caught fresh from the nearby sea, was delicious. It was a simple, but beautiful meal.

Restaurant Totoya (とと家), Shichigahama

We sat talking about the tsunami, and about the recovery. I couldn’t take my eyes off the sea and I couldn’t help but ask: has it always been so empty out there? It hadn’t, of course. There used to be buildings, trees, all sorts of things. But now there is just land. Land that is waiting for something.

Shichigahama

Shichigahama

Shichigahama

Yet I still dare to hope…

 

There are lots of charities out there supporting post-tsunami recovery, but my heart is close to Yarn Alive. If you would like to donate, either yarn or money, please follow this link. There is still a lot of work to be done in Tohoku, but it’s work like this that I believe is really important. It would be easy to forget about people like this, to let them simply live out the rest of their years with no hope, but it’s so important that local communities offer support for everyone, young and old, to help them get through these difficult times. I cannot stress how important I believe the work of Yarn Alive is, and I hope they are able to continue all the wonderful things they are doing.

Map showing Shichigahama with Sendai (bottom left corner)

Map showing Shichigahama with Sendai (bottom left corner)

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