Important! Most of the info on this page applies to our Phase I procedure, which has changed now that we’re in Phase II. We don’t seem to need volunteers at our slower pace, but aren’t sure yet. For now, we’re leaving this page as-is so you can see what it means to volunteer. The dates shown are correct. If you’d like to be on call, please leave a comment at the bottom. We’ll update this page soon when we see how the first few trips go. Thanks for your interest!
Many people far from Sano have asked how they can help Socks for Japan directly. They’re willing to make the trip, they say, and just want to know when to come, how to get here, and what we need.
If you’re such a person and would like to give us a hand, please read this entire page.
We process socks in Sano on weekdays from 5:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am. We usually distribute in the disaster zone on Wednesdays and Sundays, departing Sano at 3 am, trying to return by midnight. We sometimes go on other days of the week if events or demand justify doing so. We can take four or five people at a time in our HiAce van (plus 10,000 pairs of socks). Note that we are winding down phase one, so our processing times are no longer as regular. We’ll let you know what’s happening when you’re in town.
DISTRIBUTION SEAT AVAILABILITY
Almost every volunteer traveling from far away wants to distribute socks to survivors. With limited seat availability and our policy of granting first priority to sock processing volunteers, however, we can’t accommodate everybody’s desire. In the list below, blank spaces indicate seats available for volunteers (none currently).
When we were active, the list of upcoming distributions appeared here. After we completed each one, we moved it to the list below. Our final distribution was on the one-year anniversary, March 11, 2012, and was very moving. Report on the way.
3/11/12 Sat: Jason and Takako to Ishinomaki and Onagawa
10/17 Mon: Adam, Jason, Makiko to Ishinomaki and Onagawa
10/08 Sat: Jason, Rumiko to Ishinomaki
7/06 Wed: Akina, Jason, Rumiko to Ishinomaki and Onagawa
Trumpets! We distributed our 150,000th pair on July 6!
7/02 Sat: Jaime, Jason, Kaho, Naoko M, Takuya to Watari/Yamamoto (plus cranes)
6/29 Wed: Jason, Kaho, Miwa, Naoko M to Oshika-hanto (plus cranes)
6/25 Sat: Hiroyuki, Jason, Sarah, Takako to Watari-cho
6/22 Wed: Jason, Rich, Takako to Higashi Matsushima
6/19 Sun: Anindya, Jason, Rich, Takako to Rikuzentakata
6/15 Wed: Hanna, Jason, Shawn, to Ishinomaki and Higashi Matsushima
6/11 Sat: Jason, Rumiko, Shawn, Tatsuya to Tagajo
6/08 Wed: Hanna, Jason, Sayaka, Shawn, Yoshiko to Ishinomaki
6/04 Sat: Jason, Kirsten, Rumiko, Sachiyo to Onagawa and Oshika-hanto
Trumpets! We distributed our 100,000th pair on June 4!
6/01 Wed: Dan, Hiroko, Jason, Joe, Rumiko to Watari and Yamamoto
5/29 Sun: Asuka, Jason, Joe, Roger, Siena to Minami Sanriku
5/25 Wed: Jason, Joe, Naoko I, Shufang, Stuart to Onagawa
5/21 Sat: Jason, Jose, Miwa, Rumiko to Ishinomaki and Higashi Matsushima
5/18 Wed: Hashim, Hiroyuki, Jason, Shanta, Yuya to Ishinomaki
5/14 Sat: Asuka, Jason, Siena to the Osaki Nanohana refugee festival
5/11 Wed: Adrian, Jason, Rumiko to Ishinomaki and Oshika-hanto
5/08 Sun: Atsushi, Jason, Kiku, Rumiko to Higashi Matsushima
5/04 Wed: Jason, Sachiyo, Takako, Toshiaki to Ofunato
5/01 Sun: Hiroko, Jason, Miwa, Takako to Minami Sanriku
4/27 Wed: Jason, Morio, Nae, Yukie to Higashi Matsushima and Ishinomaki
4/24 Sun: Asuka, Jason, Sachiyo, Siena to Ishinomaki
4/20 Wed: Jason, Rumiko to Natori and Iwanuma
4/17 Sun: Jason, Rumiko, Tatsuya to Kesennuma
4/13 Wed: Jason, Miwa, Yoshiko to Rikuzentakata and Kesennuma
4/10 Sun: Asuka, Jason, Siena to Ishinomaki and Onagawa
4/07-08 Thu/Fri: Asuka, Jason to Ishinomaki
4/05 Tue: Jason, Rumiko to Shichigahama
4/02 Sat: Jason, Joss, Takako to Yamamoto-cho
3/31 Thu: Jason, Joss, Takako to Watari-cho
3/27 Sun: Jason, Rumiko to Iwaki
3/21 Mon: Jason, Yoshiko to Kitaibaraki
WHEN TO ARRIVE
To join a distribution, you need to arrive in Sano two days prior. We don’t want to meet you for the first time in our parking lot at 2:45 am, nor do we want a frantic phone call from you at 10:30 pm the night before, informing us of your travel challenges and asking for our help when we’re trying to sleep before the trip. Such unprofessional behavior makes our job harder, not easier.
To join a Wednesday distribution, you must arrive in Sano on Monday, stay that night, process socks on Tuesday so you understand what a special inventory you’ll distribute the next day, help load the van, get to bed early Tuesday night, then leave with us early Wednesday. Part of working a distribution is helping us prepare for it and then getting enough sleep before our early departure so you’re not dragging all day. When you show up just in time for a free ride to the disaster zone, toting your camera, sleeping half the day, casually passing out care packages you did nothing to help prepare — you’re a tourist, not a volunteer.
If you can’t manage this schedule, you can’t join a distribution.
GETTING TO SANO
We don’t help with travel planning nor reimburse expenses. Please use resources at your disposal to get yourself to Sano.
WHERE TO STAY
We negotiated discount prices for our volunteers at two hotels in Sano, each a short walk from Sano Station. When making a reservation at either, be sure to mention that you’re a Socks for Japan volunteer:
Hotel Sano Inn
4,000 yen per night, no cleaning service or meals
Hotel Sunroute Sano
5,000 yen per night, includes cleaning but no meals
5,500 yen per night, includes cleaning and breakfast
WHAT YOU’LL DO
If we don’t confirm that you can join us on a distribution, you’ll work at our sock processing base per our set schedule, and possibly daytime on weekdays if we have enough people available to warrant opening. You can see photos of that work in our report, Angels of the Earth.
For a distribution, you’ll meet at our base or your hotel at 2:45 am, drive 5-7 hours into the disaster zone, help announce to people that we have socks and care letters, help distribute the socks and care letters, then return to Sano late that night or early the next morning. A typical day sees us distribute about 5,000 pairs of socks, but that varies and so does the method by which we distribute. Sometimes we visit shelters, other times neighborhoods, other times schools, and still other times military distribution points.
You should know that the mood on distributions varies dramatically. It’s often heartbreaking, with volunteers and survivors crying, people going silent for long periods, and so on. It’s occasionally fun when even survivors joke about the situation or we ask people goofy questions like, “Did you remember your point card?” or “Can you read Japanese?” or “How many husbands do you have?” — the latter being a funny slip-up in Japanese and also a play on a woman telling us she needs socks for multiple men, such as her son, her brother, and her neighbor. It’s wonderful when a whole group of survivors breaks out in rolling laughter for the first time in a long time.
Spend some time reading our reports. If you’re going on a distribution, prepare for a long, emotional day with unpredictable results. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
COMMUNICATING WITH US
Still interested? Use the comment section below to let us know what you’re planning. We’ll reply to you, and update the info above to reflect FAQs.