Socks for Japan 日本語

Jason’s speech  Jason’s two-year remembrance op-ed

Socks for Japan is no longer active, but we keep this site the way it appeared during our operation so that survivors, donors, and volunteers can look back at how the world helped us help Japan. We are so grateful.

Letters from Survivors | Letters to Survivors | Volunteer | Email List

Here’s a way you can help Japan, directly and meaningfully. There are many places to donate money, and that’s a wonderful thing to do, but direct aid is cherished by survivors because it shows them that you personally care. My office location is perfect for a direct-aid operation — close enough to the damage zone that we can physically get there to help, but far enough that mail delivery is working.


  • Send only new socks. All human beings are comforted by a fresh, clean pair of socks. Other advantages socks offer this operation: they’re light, their sizes are easy, they don’t break, people need lots of them in disastrous times away from home, and people can keep them forever to remember that somebody from far away cared. Please do not send any other items of clothing, food, etc. Just socks, but go ahead and choose nice ones that will brighten somebody’s day. You might receive a discount by showing our letter to your local store manager.
  • Put each pair in a sealed plastic bag. Want your socks to find needy feet asap? So do we! Please speed up our processing by taking socks out of bulk packaging, removing clasps or ties binding them together, and putting each pair in its own sealed clear plastic bag. Waterproof bags, such as Ziploc brand, are useful to people without homes. They serve a dual purpose: delivering socks in good shape, and providing a way for people to keep items dry.
  • Enclose a care letter. Japanese people treasure letters, especially ones from foreigners. Survivors of the 1995 Hanshin quake in Kobe said that care letters were among the most uplifting items they received. So, please enclose a copy of your letter with each pair of socks in a plastic bag. For help composing and translating your letter, see our care letter creation page.

    Image of steps to a perfect package
  • Label, compress, and seal. You should now have a pair of socks and your care letter in each plastic bag. One more helpful item: a label. Either write on the outside of the bag or insert into each bag a piece of paper identifying one of these categories: man, woman, boy, girl, baby. (We no longer need any socks for children.) Once that’s done, squeeze out excess air to make the bag as small as possible, then seal it shut. This preparation will make our inventory management and distribution a cinch!
  • Write your email address noticeably on the package. The most efficient way for us to keep in touch with you, and track the status of your package once we receive it, is via your email address. Please write it on the outside of your package so we can communicate with you without opening the package.
  • Write “Urgent: Relief Supplies” boldly on the package. This will avoid import duties, guarantee priority handling at customs, and achieve rapid processing through hubs. Packages are arriving more quickly than usual. Everybody is dedicated to getting this nation back on its feet — in clean socks!

Please ship your package to my office:

Jason Kelly
Plaza Kei 101
Wakamatsu-cho 615-6
Sano, Tochigi 327-0846

EMAIL: PHONE: +81 501-014-7773

Thank you for your support! When your package arrives, we’ll send a note to you at the email address you wrote on it.



Several reasons. Many of the survivors ended up barefoot after fleeing in a hurry. In the disaster zone, feet get wet and then extra cold at night, especially in currently freezing weather. People often forget about socks in favor of more obvious items like blankets and jackets. Receiving a new, fresh pair of socks provides a moment of comfort. If those socks arrive with a caring note as well, it’s very heartening for survivors. If you’ve ever been stuck in a pair of wet, cold socks or no socks at all, perhaps you remember how soothing it felt to pull on a warm, dry pair. Survivors have already requested socks on TV news.

Socks aren’t primary support, but a token of care that will last beyond their small mid-crisis comfort. All supplies exist here in Japan, so we wanted something that delivered meaning past the need of the moment, something more special than what people get from emergency teams and government supplies. Military socks are not the most comfortable. Small joys matter. A March 17 CNN article observed about the survivors: “It was the little things that helped them retain their sanity as an end to crisis still seemed distant.” The next day, an AP story said a city hall worker reported his town needing “gas, vegetables, socks, underwear, wet wipes and anti-bacterial lotion.” Most importantly, shelters themselves are requesting socks.

Good ones! Demand is in this proportion: 50 percent women, 50 percent men. We no longer need any socks for children or babies. Everybody prefers color over white because white gets dirty quickly in shelters. Focus on quality, not quantity. The number of people donating takes care of quantity. Make your socks and letters count for the individual survivors receiving them. We’d much rather receive 50 gorgeous pairs of socks properly packaged one-pair-per-sealed-bag with a wonderful letter, than 500 pairs of low-quality, white socks completely unprepared without letters.

No. Despite the image created by ninja movies, most Japanese socks are of the regular variety. The split-toe, called tabi, is seen most commonly as a carpenter or construction worker boot, called jika-tabi. Regular socks are fine.

People love to see a photo of who sent their socks and letter, so include one if you can. A popular way is by printing your photo directly onto your letter. Another way is to print your photo and glue it to your letter, if it’s handwritten. For help with the message and translation, see our care letter creation page.

From the United States, the Postal Service is the most economical, and its one-week delivery time is fine for the extended operation under way. People are shipping every day, so we’re receiving a steady supply of new socks. There’s no need to pay extra to get yours here quickly. Japan’s country price group is 3. Packages sent via First-Class Mail International cost $10.76 for one pound, $17.64 for two, $24.52 for three, and $31.40 for four. One donor wrote: “Priority Mail flat-rate shipping is per box, so if you box each size and gender separately, you will be paying a LOT more than if you bag them separately and then put the bags into one box.”

From Jiun: “Airfreight cost is calculated by actual weight or dimensional weight (WxLxH/5000), which means the tighter you compress/pack your socks the cheaper they will be to send. Vacuum bags are the best way to compress socks. A 20cm x 20cm x 20cm box of socks might weigh only 2.2 lbs, but its dimensional weight is 3.5 lbs.”

Other tips: from Canada use the Canada Post calculator to find what’s best or try Greyhound and Takkyubin per Joanne’s suggestion, from China use eBay for free shipping, from Malaysia use FedEx or POS Malaysia, more to come


Then we’ll gratefully accept and put every penny toward taking socks and letters to survivors as quickly as possible. Please see our donation page.

Yes, but please read our volunteer info page.

Not unless you think I go through a lot of socks.

We already did. This concern is left over from when we first began, on March 13, just after the March 11 disaster. For fun, we’re leaving the answer here: Yes. We have plenty of people and plenty of space. We’re using my office, and borrowed a nearby vacant accounting office as well. Socks and letters are small. When taken out of boxes and put in compressible bags, socks can be packed into ordinary vehicles by the thousands. Here’s the accounting office, prior to our moving in:

Front of Yamaguchi accounting office

Want to witness the major transformation of that quiet office into our sock processing supercenter powered by volunteers? See Angels of the Earth.

In Phase I, we distributed twice a week, on Sundays and Wednesdays. In our current Phase II, we distribute less frequently and at a slower pace to spend time with survivors. You can see our schedule on the volunteer info page.

Yes. Even after we stop distributing socks, we’ll visit survivors and follow up with the ones featured in our reports. To stay informed, please join our list.


  1. Suvira
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jason,

    I’m very to trouble you. I sent 30 socks from the UK on the 26th April and wonder if they have been received. My e-mail address was on the package with the sender’s address.

    Thank you very much for everyone in you team and very best wishes,

    • Posted May 13, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Suvira! We’re catching up on email confirmations, but are still about two weeks behind. Sorry about that! So far, we haven’t missed a single package that we’ve been asked to track down, so the odds are good that yours arrived. We’ll get a note to you one of these days.

      • Suvira
        Posted May 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        Thank you very much Jason :) suvira

  2. Maria Stefani
    Posted May 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Hey.. Have you got the package of socks I send around last month?? Thxx

    • Posted May 16, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Probably, but we’re behind in emailing confirmations. We’re catching up fairly quickly, though, so you and others waiting should receive a note from us soon. Thank you for helping us out!

      • Maria Stefani
        Posted May 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        ok cool.. :D were happy to help out… thx for organising this.. :D

  3. Frankie Browing
    Posted May 18, 2011 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Hey Jason,

    What an incredible thing you are doing. I am part of a small school district in Eastern Washington. Our school just finished raising 535 pairs of adult socks. The bad news is that shipping cost was not calculate into the fundraiser. We are desperately trying to come up with the money to get the socks to Japan. According to your update site, we are going to miss the deadline for mailing. Is it too late? What do you think we should do? Please try to get back to me as soon as you are able. Thanks so much.

    Frankie Browning

    • Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      I sent a note to you about this, Frankie. We’ll be able to accept your socks shipped after the deadline.

  4. Karen Hendrickson
    Posted May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Jason.
    Thanks so much for doing what you are doing! My students (I teach Japanese) have collected some socks; I’ll be sending them Wednesday morning, since they didn’t finish packing them up until this afternoon. I’ll be in Japan from June 19 – July 2, doing some volunteer work in Kesennuma and Iwate, where I have friends. I am also taking a student, who will be staying for two weeks near Ashikaga (Our sister school, Hakuoh, is there). As I was addressing the package I saw that you are headquartered in Sano, just down the road. My student was hoping to do some volunteer work too, but I can’t take him to Miyagi and Iwate; do you anticipate needing help with anything even beyond your final distribution? Reyne is an amazing guy…and a rower with beefy strength, which I am sure he’d be happy to lend to you, as long as volunteering didn’t interfere with his study at Hakuoh. Please let me know if you might have need for his help. Also, I put my cell number in the box. Call me if you need help in Miyagi and Iwate. Thanks! Karen

  5. Joanne
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Hi Jason, and his wonderful crew….

    I just wanted to say that the best way to send socks from Canada is by shipping the box by Greyhound to the nearest Takyubin office. Greyhound bus costs about24.95 minimum and is SO much cheaper than Canada Post as is the Takkyubin post. The Takkyubin part from Vancouver cost us 69.95. This was a $100 cheaper! They have offices in Toronto and Vancouver – here is the link: http://www.yamatoamerica.com/e/parcel/canada.php

    All the best and thank you (and bless you) for all of your efforts.


  6. kylie
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I sent a box of socks from Australia in early April, then I sent a further box in late April from my work followed by a final one last week. I haven’t heard of aany of them arriving yet? The first one I can understand as my husband wrote the address in his traditional hard to read capital letters, but the other one I am more concerned about, as I included a business card as well.
    And, if you mysteriously receive a box next year because it has been doing the rounds of the post offices, sorry

    • kylie
      Posted May 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      PS- I used to live in Iwaki, so was very sad that my socks didn’t get there in time for your trip- one of my favourite activities was to bike to Shinmaicho lighthouse and beach for an afternoon- pretty difficult to see that area so badly devastated. Thanks for all the work!

  7. Deanna
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I really wish I would have seen this before the deadline. I wanted to help. But it’s after May 16th so I’m out of luck.
    Are you going to be doing something similar to this again?

    • Posted May 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      We’re still accepting socks gathered prior to the deadline, but are discouraging new multi-thousand-pair gathering efforts, such as school sock drives and church announcements, this late in the schedule. Anybody who’s gathered and properly prepared socks for us should ship them asap. See our guidelines. Thanks for wanting to help, Deanna!

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