【June 2019 No.403】Kyoto District Church Holds Special Event on Earthquakes

“From Miyagi Prefecture to Kumamoto: How baked Sweet Potatoes Connect two Earthquakes” was the theme of an earthquake-preparedness gathering sponsored by Kyoto Aoi Church in Kyoto District.

It has been eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and three years since the Kumamoto Earthquake. In a country like Japan, where there are numerous earthquakes, this could happen again anywhere. Kyoto Aoi Church held a special event on Jan. 20, 2019 in an effort to learn more about the reality of earthquakes and what to do when an earthquake occurs. Suenaga Tsuyoshi and Horita Naotaka were invited to speak. Both men experienced earthquakes and have traveled all around Japan sharing those experiences. They told the 45 of us, including children, of their experiences and the current conditions in the areas affected. As a way of raising funds to support relief work in Kumamoto, baked sweet potatoes were prepared for the participants.

 

As a resident of Miyagi Prefecture, Suenaga experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, as a volunteer at the Tohoku Disaster Relief Center, Emmaus, he also took part in relief efforts. From his experiences, he spoke about the response required following an earthquake.

 

When the Kumamoto Earthquake occurred, Horita was working at the Nishihara Town Office and took leadership in ensuring that 800 residents of the town were taking care of themselves at the local elementary school, which was the designated evacuation shelter. After three years, some normalcy has returned, but they are still in recovery, and rebuilding in some areas has yet to begin. At the home of Horita’s parents, who are sweet potato farmers, the storehouse where sweet potatoes are stored for their final ripening was destroyed. As a farming family that has continued over several generations, they are in the midst of efforts to rebuild and continue farming.

 

Geographically, Kyoto is quite far from the areas affected by the two earthquakes. However, listening to the personal accounts of Suenaga and Horita, the participants could keenly sense the reality of earthquakes. In particular, the following words of the speakers stayed with us. “At the time of an earthquake, of utmost importance are the personal relationships of those affected. In the midst of an emergency, communication with people leads to peace of mind, and peace of mind then leads to solidarity.”

 

The baked sweet potatoes that were sold at the event were grown on the farm of Horita’s parents. Suenaga, who came to Kumamoto as a volunteer from Miyagi, had become acquainted with Horita’s parents. Since that time, Suenaga has traveled across the country selling sweet potatoes that he bakes on hot stones in a small truck he has remodeled for that purpose.

 

Suenaga’s relationship with Kyoto Aoi Church began because the pastor of Kyoto Aoi Church, Rev. Uchiyama Tomoya, was also a volunteer at Emmaus in Sendai. While we learned about the considerable damage left in the wake of these earthquakes, we also learned how people have been connected through these experiences. (Tr. JS)

                  —From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), April 2019

 

宮城県から熊本へ 焼き芋がつなぐ2つの震災

京都葵教会

 東日本大震災から8年、熊本地震から3年になる。地震多発国の日本では同じことがどこで起こってもおかしくない。被災地の実情を知り、災害時の対応を学ぼうと、京都葵教会では2019年1月20日(日)の午後、各地で講演を重ねる末永克(つよし)さんと堀田直孝(ほりた)さんを招いて「震災の今を聞く交わり会」を開き、震災とその後の状況を聞いた。被災地熊本支援のための焼き芋を食べながらの会に、子どもと大人45名が参加した。

 宮城県在住の末永さんは東日本大震災で被災したが、東北教区被災者支援センター「エマオ」のボランティアとして、援助活動をした。その経験から、震災時に求められる対応を話した。

 堀田さんは熊本地震当時、熊本県西原村の村役場に勤めており、小学校の避難所では一時800人にもなった避難者の自主管理の先頭に立った。3年たった現在、被災地は落ち着いてきているとはいえ、生活の再建は道半ばで、復興が手つかずの場所もある。サツマイモ農家である堀田さんの実家では、芋を熟成させるために保存する蔵が壊れた。代々続く農家をつぶすわけにはいかないと、少しずつ再建に取り組む最中であるとのことだった。

 京都はどちらの被災地からも距離的には遠い。しかし2人の体験をとおして、参加者は震災を生々しく感じることが出来た。特に、2人の強調した「災害時に大事なのは人との関係。非常事態において、あいさつを交わせる相手がいることが安心につながり、その安心感が連帯へとつながる」ことを教えられた。

 この日、会場で販売された焼き芋は、堀田さんの両親が栽培したものだった。末永さんは、宮城から熊本地震のボランティアに出向き、堀田さんの両親と知り合った。以来、石焼き芋を焼いて売る車に改造した軽トラで全国を周り、焼き芋を販売している。

 末永さんと京都葵教会がつながったのも、当教会の内山友也牧師が仙台の「エマオ」でボランティアをしたことからだ。大きな傷を残した震災だが、人と人をつなげていることを知る機会ともなった。(まとめ 編集部)「信徒の友4月号」より