“Eating Power” Accelerates Restoration of Disaster-affected Producers
As a part of our activities to support business partners who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, about 40 members of the Seikatsu Club visited a number of producers from May 9th to 11th. The Seikatsu Club delegation learned about the situation at the time of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami, and the restoration that followed. Both the Seikatsu Club members and the business partners pledged to work together in efforts toward reconstruction. (Posted on May 24)
Takahashi Tokuji Shoten is determined to restart production of the “Oden-dane Set”
The Seikatsu Club's fishery products suppliers along the Sanriku coastline (Miyagi Prefecture) were badly damaged by the disaster. The Seikatsu Club has been supporting them by asking its members to make donations. Members of the Seikatsu Club visited three of the affected producers during the tour.
The group first visited Takahashi Tokuji Shoten Co., Ltd. in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, the area which suffered the largest number of victims of the earthquake and tsunami. The company produces fish meal products including "Otofu-age" (in which minced fish and tofu are mixed and fried). Two of its three factories were totally destroyed, while the first floor of the only factory remaining was inundated with mud.
"I thought a tsunami would come after the earthquake, so I told our employees to evacuate right away. From the next day, I tried to find out if they had survived or not, but one person was missing for a while. I even visited morgues. Fortunately, as we found out later on, everyone turned out to be safe,” recalls Mr. Hideo Takahashi, President of the company.
It was the beginning of their struggle against the mud, and members of the Seikatsu Club and other volunteers worked with them. One of the product lines of the factory at the headquarters was restarted in October in the year of the earthquake. An initial igniting ceremony was held to celebrate the restart of the factory. “The fire will also light the local community,” said a journalist who attended the ceremony.
Takahashi Tokuji Shoten is now building a new factory in Higashi-matsushima City, adjacent to Ishinomaki City. Solar panels have been installed on the roof of the factory with donations from the members of the Seikatsu Club.
“By operating the new factory, I hope to light up our local community. This fall, we will definitely resume production of the ‘Oden-dane Set’ (a package of ingredients for food known as oden). We would be very happy if you would enjoy eating it,” said Mr. Takahashi.
Maruju Abe Shoten is planning to supply raw oysters cultured in Miyagi Prefecture.
Maruju Abe Shoten Co., Ltd. is a supplier of raw oysters to the Seikatsu Club. Located on high ground in Minami-sanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture, their factory was not damaged by the tsunami. However, local aquafarms were devastated and the oysters were swept away.
Even so, “Mangoku Bay in Ishinomaki City, where seed oysters are grown, suffered relatively little damage. In addition, many fishing boats survived along the Karakuwa Peninsula, the main location where oysters for the Seikatsu Club are grown. We will be able to supply oysters from Miyagi Prefecture next season,” says Mr. Hisakazu Abe, Executive Director of the company.
Members of the Seikatsu Club went on board fishing boats and were able to look down and get a direct view of the large oysters that had been seeded at an aquafarm in May last year.
The group enjoyed lunch at “Kaki Koya” (Oyster Cottage), which was built facing the ocean as a symbol of reconstruction by the Oyster Division of Karakuwa Branch, Miyagi Prefecture Fishing Co-operative. People can pay to eat seafood, including oysters, here. At the lunch, Mr. Seiichi Hatakeyama of the Oyster Division greeted the group and said, “The sea is now being restored to its normal state as the number of oyster beds increases. The donations from the Seikatsu Club have been of great assistance to us."
Pledge to strengthen cooperation with the Omoe Fishing Co-operative
At end of the tour, the group visited the Omoe Fisheries Co-operative in Miyako City, Miyagi Prefecture which produces “Niku-atsu Wakame” (fleshy wakame seaweed). They attended the launching ceremony of a fishing boat which will be used for fixed-net fishing. A tsunami as high as 40 meters hit this area after the earthquake, and the fisheries co-operative lost almost everything they had, including their fixed-net fishing boats, fisheries facilities near the port, and roughly 800 small-scale boats.
The Seikatsu Club decided to donate fixed-net fishing boats through donations from the members. The new boat, the “Daigo Netaki-maru,” is the third boat of this kind. “Fixed-net fishing is the key to our business. We are finally getting into full swing. We really appreciate the tremendous support we have received from the Seikatsu Club,” said Mr. Ryuichi Ito, President of Omoe Fisheries Co-operative.
“It has been two years and two months since the earthquake. I am impressed that facilities such as processing and handling factories have been rebuilt so quickly. I can see how hard you have worked,” said Mr. Koichi Kato, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union. “The launching ceremony for the third fishing boat we have donated marks the end of our ‘assistance’ to you. Let us continue to strengthen our co-operation among co-operatives*,” said Mr. Kato as a token of solidarity.
*6th Principle of the Statement on Co-operative Identity
After completing the three-day tour, Ms. Atsuko Kikuichi, a member of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative Union Consumption Committee said, “It was the first time for me to see the areas affected by the earthquake. After listening to the producers, I thought that the power of our collective purchase has accelerated their reconstruction efforts. I felt a strong sense of the ties between the producers and ourselves, and I will tell as many people as possible about this when I go back to my local community. I will keep on working to enhance our “eating power”, not only for the reconstruction of the affected communities, but also for the development of both sides.”
More time is still needed for reconstruction. The Seikatsu Club will continue to work with the producers to achieve full reconstruction.