Pedaling to normalcy in Tohoku.

It seems that even in a time of crisis (yes, it’s still a crisis 2 month after the earthquake), Japanese bureau-crazy still reigns supreme.  There is a serious need for bicycles in Ishinomaki, Miyagi and while the government there has bikes at their disposal, they won’t release them to individuals in need.   A request must be issued by a neighbourhood organization or a shelter in order to receive bikes from the government.  There are quite a few other prefectures that have access to bicycles as well.  But Ishinomaki hasn’t asked these other prefectures for help, even though they are in need and because of that, no one is helping them because the proper protocol isn’t being followed.  This is Japanese pride getting in the way, while it’s commendable, it isn’t helping anyone.  Attempting to circumvent this government system are Bikes for Japan and Free Tohoku, written by OurWomanInAbiko, who I’ve blogged about earlier.  OWIA wrote about the issues facing those who want bikes on the Free Tohoku Blog, here and here.

I was drawn to the plight of those in Ishinomaki who need bicycles by the flutter of tweets from OurManInAbiko.  They sum up the problem succinctly.

OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

Blogger is down. So, I’ll have to get this news out on Twitter. So, @ourwomaninabiko has been trying to get bikes to tsunami survivors…
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… In Ishinomaki. She’s working with @bikesforjapan and they are great. But she thought she’d try to get city hall to help…
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 1. Abiko City has hundreds of commuters’ abandoned bicycles. Ishinomaki’s tsunami survivors are desperate for bikes. Good fit, huh…?
 
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 2. Abiko is happy to release their unwanted bikes to Ishinomaki if they formerly request the bikes. But, they have to ask for help…
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 3. After a week of prodding by @ourwomaninabiko, Ishinomaki councillor phoned Abiko city hall and said: “Tell us about your bicycles.”
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 4. Abiko said: “Well, the bikes are not ready to go now.” Ishinomaki said: “Oh, OK.” Phone call ended…
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

…5. @ourwomaninabiko found out, asked Abiko pen pusher “Why aren’t you sending bikes to Ishinomaki? “Because they didn’t ask for help”
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 6. What happened here is Ishinomaki politician was too proud to plead for his people, and Abiko was too stuck in protocol to help…
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

… 7. In other words: Abiko City pen pusher refused to help because Ishinomaki politician didn’t say “please” …
OurManInAbiko

ourmaninabiko OurManInAbiko

…8. You know what? Screw these public fuckwits. If they won’t help tsunami survivors, we’ll do it ourselves. Join us! Follow @freetohoku!

Bikes for Japan was created by Daiki Mochizuki, a man who works at a bicycle repair shop in Saitama.  The Mission Statement of the website explains that after the earthquake he loaded tools and parts into a van and headed north.  Mochizuki is just another example of those who aren’t sure what to do, but try their best to help out those in need.  His personal effort inspired others inTokyo and surrounding areas to help.

Japan is a bicycle based society.  Most people use bikes to get to grocery stores, work, and friends houses.  Many people don’t own cars and quite a few of those that do, don’t use them regularly and instead bike to places that are close by.  A bike is a means to get back to normalcy; it allows people to work and move around their communities as needed.  Bikes for Japanis taking actual bike donations or cash donations via paypal.  They’re also on Twitter @bikesforjapan although they only have one tweet so far.

Free Tohoku also chronicles how those who haven’t completely lost everything and are living in their homes that weren’t completely decimated by the tsunami have been left by the wayside.  Most of these people are living on the second floor of their home without access to a working kitchen or toilet and since the disaster, according to OWIA, have received the following items for a family of four just once.

1 rice bowl (one day past its sell-by date)
1 cup ramen noodle
2 six-slice loaves of bread
1 bottle of water (1 litre)
Oh, and also one packet of wrong-size nappies, and powder milk.

The entire post about what OWIA is doing and how she’s planning to help is here.    Even with the new issues at the Daichi power plant, Japan is still being phased out of the news even though there are still people in need.  Bikes forJapan and what Free Tohoku are continuing with the reconstruction project and showing that despite issues with government protocols, there are still ways to help aside from through official channels.  This type of aid is personal and shows that despite what you may read or see on TV the crisis is still far from over and long afterJapan has faded from the spotlight of international news, there will still be people working to restore Tohoku.

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