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Tom Berkes walks to the coast of Sendai at sunrise

My first glimpse of the aftermath from the ravaging tsunami was by car on my first day in Sendai.   Feeling insulated by the luxury of a car ride through the devastated neighborhoods I felt a need to walk through the destruction.  In the early dawn I headed toward the ocean where this life changing event began.  I move through neighborhoods of newly constructed apartment homes, built on the adjoining land of the nearby katsetsu. These were developed for those that could afford to buy or lease a new home after losing their previous homes.  Some of the units are still under construction but already the area has a feeling of permanence.  Many of the old homes may never be rebuilt.

Approaching acres of open field dotted with countless empty house foundations the rising sun reflects off the many trackhoes sitting in the muddy remains of what was once a community of homes and businesses lost in an instant when the pacific ocean unleashed the 30 foot wall of water that would consume  nearly 500 square miles of land and take close to 20,000 lives.  The tractors sit, anticipating their days work with outstretched arms, waiting to be guided in picking up more rubble, knocking another flooded house from its foundation but longing to reach through the debris and scratch the back of the earth to awaken and encourage it to rebuild itself and regenerate its soil so that it may once again sustain growing plants and living organisms that were destroyed by several days of salt water saturation.  The few structures still standing in this area may have a chance to be rebuilt but for now sit with broken windows, sagging roofs and missing stairs and beams having been taken over by a few sparrows for their winter home.  Some of the houses that were miraculously spared now have small gardens growing vegetables in soil that had to be trucked in to replace dug out salt water compacted dirt that could no longer sustain life.

 

I approach a group of workers standing in line at the Coffee Boss, a vending machine located at the edge of a field to provide them with morning coffee or tea beforebeginning another day of systematically removing debris and foreign objects from the land before them.  They separate the trash into small piles on the side of theroad; concrete in one pile, plastics in another, electronic items in its own heap and organic materials that can be composted in yet another.  All of these are later added to a central location where the mounds of rubble accumulated rival the size of nearby warehouses, each mountain still containing its own specific material tobe later recycled.  Across the street in another field, a lone volunteer dons his hardhat and with a simple garden hoe, scrapes rubble into into piles with the tractors and trucks rumbling about their duties in the background.  I can imagine he has been doing this by himself for over six months and will continue until he has cleared this piece of land or at least purified his soul to the point that he is ready to immerse himself back into a life he once had or one he has not yet discovered .

 

The quality of the air changes and I sense that I am getting close to the ocean.  I walk through one last graveyard of houses, large, abundant extravagant ones built close to the ocean that surely once provided a feeling of protection, status and comfort for their owners, albeit a false one as these homes were the first to be swallowed by the rapidly moving tsunami.  While I would expect these would be some of the first to be rebuilt, there is no sign of any progress here.  I hopefully believe that of the former residents, no one wants to be the first to return to a new home amidst the rubble only to find that the house is a shell, void of any semblance of community that is thriving in the kasetsu’s just three miles inland.The pavement ends and I am in a wooded area of Matsu trees, pine trees that reside near the ocean.  A few are left standing in the midst of thousands of fallen ones,  proudly standing over thirty feet tall, their roots having probed the earth for an aquifer pure enough to sustain life near the salt water of the ocean.  Their countless brothers and sisters lie on the ground, bent over and crushed by the relentless flood of sea water that took their lives before consuming thousands of other creatures.  Walking through a cloud of dragon flies I can hear the crash of the nearby surf.  The insects, birds and new vegetation sprouting under the canopy of the Matsu’s are the first to reclaim the space and begin repopulating their species near the ocean.

I look out at the sea.  It is calm, the surf gently splashing against the sea wall which is once again performing its job of keeping the land and the sea separated.  I can imagine the height, up to 100 feet in some areas, and the power of the waves that were created by the shifting tectonic plates last March but have a difficult time fathoming the the width and the breadth of the tsunami that engulfed this very coast for hundreds of miles.Closing my eyes I listen to the voice of the water telling me that it was not to blame.  I can not place blame on the ocean or even on the parents of nature.  Purification comes when it is mostly needed and least expected.  Knowing the Japanese people and their love and respect for humanity, for nature, for community, I do not understand why they would be in need of purification.  But, they accept it with a humbling, respectful silence as they strive every day to create a new world to live in. One of peace, propelled by love that only comes when you are of service to others and your planet.

A flock of geese pass overhead on their migration south.  They soundlessly form their group, not in the normal V-formation but in the shape of a heart.  I believe  the heart of Sendai and Japan is on the mend and healing has already arrived.

Board Member,

Thomas Berkes

Temporary housing in the Tohoku region of Japan

I awoke early from my sleep on the floor of an apartment in one of the Sendai community Kasetsu’s.  This kasetsu is in one of many temporary housing developments that the Japanese government has built to bridge the lives of thousands of the displaced residents of Rokugo and several other villages destroyed by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Within these communities there is a general sense of joy among the residents.  The apartments are all the same;  small, clean and efficiently providing basic needs for its residents of a place to cook, eat, bathe and sleep.

In addition, these temporary developments have become a place to create community among the people.  A choir from one of the local schools showed up and gave what appeared to be an impromptu concert consisting of one beautiful song for the audience casually gathered on their porches or in the community center.  After presenting the neighbors with flowers the students brief visit added another stone to the building of this fledgling community of gracious survivors.

Thomas Berkes

Students in Fukushima have not played outside for months…

Students in Fukushima haven’t played outside for months because of the nuclear reactors explosion following the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. People are wondering: Is Japan still safe?

The population of the residents in Fukushima before March 11th, 2011 was around 250,000.  After the earthquake and tsunami 10% of the population evacuated to other areas of Japan. In addition, one out of three children have been relocated due to the level of radiation that can cause damage to their younger developing bodies. The youngest students in my class showed me their dosimeter (a sophisticated geiercounter system) necklaces that was given to them by the Japanese government.

October 10, 2011 was the first day of my teaching English to students in Fukushima, Japan. While exchanging names during the first moments of class a level three earthquake shook the walls of the Shumei Center in Fukushima. The students began attentively speaking the word “Jishin!!!” (which means earthquake) and began standing up to run out of the learning center.  The moment the earth shook I was aware of the everyday challenges these students face.  The strength residents of Fukushima must have to remain living in this area that still has a high level of radiation and the future risks associated with living there are such an inspiration. Light and Love to the people of Fukushima.

During this afternoon we sang “The Hokey Pokey” to learn the different body parts. We also sang a Japanese song called “Zui zui zuikkorobashi” and passed around a purple (English) ball for a question and answer session to get to know one another.  The students in Japan have a sincere interest to learn the english language. I will return to visit the Shumei Center to see the children this spring 2012.

Stephen Sato

 

The Realities in Sendai

The residents of Rokugo were immediately moved to local and state buildings after their homes were destroyed.  In Rokugo the middle school “Rokugo Chugakko Budokan” became a safe haven to the public for weeks after the destruction of the tsunami.  These structures provided people shelter and a place to sleep.   Many aftershocks followed for weeks giving people a constant reminder of how unstable the island of Japan is to our global changes.

For now the government of Japan has issued temporary shelters for the families displaced by the terrible power of the sea. Today the homes in Sendai remain severely water damaged and unsuitable for residence. Some families were lucky to be chosen to live in temporary shelters with limited means.

The Sato family members in Sendai plan to start the rebuild of their own homes this Winter 2011.

There are other families of Rokugo that weren’t as fortunate as this one…  How can we help them get their lives back to normal?

KASA’s first fundraiser in Santa Fe, NM

 

We have successfully completed our first fundraising event on August the 11th at Vanessie in Santa Fe, NM.  The inaugural celebration of KASA raised awareness of the ongoing situation in Japan.  This event included Keishi Yazawa a taiko drummer native to Sendai and vocal artist Madi Sato (who’s family is from Sendai, Japan as well) that performed for the evening.

 

Special thanks go out to Santa Fe Jin, Vanessie and Smoking Bachi Taiko for helping with this event to raise funds for the people of Japan to recover from the earthquake and tsunami.  Special thanks to all of our sponsors and donors.  Without you our work wouldn’t be possible!

 

KASA Board Members travel to Japan for volunteer work.

KASA board members are traveling to Japan October 2011 to volunteer their time and to locate families in need of assistance. This trip will mean traveling deep into the community of Rokugo.  KASA will determine the best ways to help their community to rebuild their lives and raise their spirits!  To provide your assistance to these communities visit our “Help Now!” page.

We are humbled by your interest in the KASA relief effort!  To volunteer your time or to find more information about our future plans contact Stephen or Madi Sato. You can also become an official member of KASA through our “Help Now” page.

The Economic Impact of the Miyagi Prefecture

Matsushima IslandsAlthough Miyagi has a good deal of fishing and agriculture, producing a great deal of rice and livestock, it is dominated by the manufacturing industries around Sendai, particularly electronics, appliances, and food processing.

As of March 2011, the prefecture produced 4.7% ofJapan’s rice, 23% of oysters, and 15.9% of fish.

As of July 2011 The Japanese government has decided to ban all shipments of beef cattle from northeast Miyagi Prefecture over fears of radioactive contamination.