Drowning Hearts at Lady River

Last Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, we distributed 10,448 pairs of socks to survivors in Ishinomaki and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture. Here’s the route map from our base in Sano using the Tohoku Expressway, a distance of 349 km (217 mi):

In a sign that ours is a blessed effort, we found a family that owns a large 4WD van that they rarely use. They agreed to rent it to us at a reasonable price for one month. With our new van, we can transport up to 6,000 pairs of socks at a time. Its 4WD capability and high clearance make it perfect for taking us deep into damaged areas where the need is greatest. Here’s the van prior to its first distribution trip:

I write that this is a blessed effort because we received the van just before a trip that required its sturdy off-road capabilities, as you’ll see in photos below. The vehicles we used prior to this van would have been unable to make it to a few of the shelters that needed us on this trip. There’s something magical going on. We felt it when looking over the van’s dash at city streets turned to muddy rivers, knowing that we could press on thanks only to the capabilities offered by this van that arrived in the nick of time.

What’s more, the van seemed eager to help. The family that owns it keeps it shined up for trips to the mall or movie theater, never really putting it through its off-road paces. Fully loaded with socks and volunteers, facing tsunami mud and earthquake damage, the van’s roaring engine declared, “This is what I was made to do. Let’s hit it!” Hit it we did, down pathways like these:

As with other shelters we’ve seen, some in Ishinomaki overflowed with donated used clothing in piles — but no socks. Look at the unclaimed clothes at the first shelter, yet how eagerly survivors gathered to receive socks and letters from us:

Inside massive shelters:

touching personal moments abound:

After distributing Thursday night, we parked the van in a lot beside the city’s Red Cross hospital. There were few cars there so we had no trouble finding a place. At 11:33 pm, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck hard, shaking us awake. The van shuddered and bounced, and other cars around us joined as if live music had dragged them all onto a dance floor. The volunteer with me, Asuka, cried out at the too-familiar sound of shaking earth and sirens in the distance. When at last it stopped, loudspeakers warned of another tsunami. “Not again,” we thought, and shuddered in a different way to recall that we’d driven near the coast less than an hour earlier. The roads filled with volunteer cars racing to the hospital to help with another potential onslaught of victims. The parking lot went from empty to full before our eyes. We made our way inside the hospital and found the following scenes, snapped quickly with Asuka’s mobile phone camera.

Doctors, nurses, and volunteers assembled a high-volume trauma center in about ten minutes:

then stood ready to receive victims, who arrived by ambulance:

Despite the thorough preparations, we didn’t expect to see many victims that night for the grim reason that most people who could be killed or injured by a tsunami were already dead or receiving treatment. Areas within the tsunami zone were wiped out on March 11 — there’s simply not much left to be destroyed by another tsunami. The one that followed last Thursday’s quake was small, anyway. Those two factors together made for a relatively slow night at the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital, for which everybody was grateful.

However, the earthquake destroyed power and water service to parts of town, again, and some survivor shelters needed people to leave. We found that out the next morning at our first shelter stop, where the director explained the situation to us.

She suggested that because so many survivors were living on the streets and in ruined houses, we should park our van in front of a natural gathering area and put up hand-made signs announcing socks for distribution. We used cardboard and markers from the shelter to make signs, then parked the van in front of an abandoned train station where military trucks pull in with supplies.

People streamed from the nearby “neighborhood,” which was actually a collection of lumber and crumpled metal in chaotic piles behind a few standing buildings, to line up politely for socks and letters.

We had to limit the quantity to two pairs of socks per person, but even so we gave away hundreds of pairs at that one stop.

This man and his bird showed us why he needed socks:

When we’d worked our way through about half the crowd, a quiet boy with scratches and cuts on his face pushed to the front. He tapped my arm and asked, “Is it OK if I just sit next to your van? I won’t make any trouble. I just want to sit next to it.” I said sure. He pulled over an orange crate and sat with his head bowed, with no further explanation. We kept distributing socks to the crowd until everybody was gone.

Still the boy sat. “Would you like some socks?” I asked. He said yes, and took two plain white pairs from the bag I held open to him, a most humble choice. “How about more for your family?” I offered. He shook his head and began to cry, and I guessed at the reason he didn’t need more socks. I tried talking to him but he didn’t want to talk. He said I could take a picture of him, but not of his face. I never found out what happened to his family or why he wanted to sit by the van. Maybe his father once had a similar van. Maybe his mother used to drive him and his siblings around town in a similar van. We’ll never know. Eventually we needed to leave, and all I have left of that boy is my memory of his quavering voice and the photo he allowed me to take.

The day continued. We drove around town looking for groups of people receiving supplies from the military or another source, then parked nearby and put up our signs.

We heard from people that as damaged as their town of Ishinomaki was, the nearby town of Onagawa was far worse. One woman told us, “My home town is Onagawa. Now I have no hometown.” We needed to get there. On the way, we passed by the bay where the tsunami had originated in Ishinomaki.

There, we met the Honda family, whose business is harvesting and packaging seaweed in paper-like sheets that are wrapped around rice balls and other Japanese foods. The insides of homes in the area are gutted. Mrs. Honda told us how her family’s many years of living beside the sea had conditioned them to expect tidal waves after earthquakes, so they immediately fled to higher ground with their most precious belongings.

Mr. Honda, however, made a quick decision to save the most expensive boat from his fleet. He ran back down the hill and jumped aboard to outrun the tsunami to an inner part of the bay where he’d noticed little damage in previous tidal waves.

He explained in riveting detail how the tsunami arose behind him as he drove full throttle away from it toward the safety of the inner bay. It caught up to him, but his angle and speed enabled him to surf the front of it “at a speed faster than our big boat has ever gone” until he could steer away to the protection of an inlet, where the boat was tossed violently but left mostly undamaged. Every other boat in the Honda fleet, along with the family’s home and cars, was destroyed. All boats owned by neighbors were destroyed as well. Mr. Honda’s prized boat survived, though, thanks to his quick action and knowledge of the area. Here he is telling his story:

and here’s what became of the boats that didn’t get away:

At the end of our conversation, Mr. and Mrs. Honda accepted socks from us and gave us seaweed in return. They wished us well on our journey to Onagawa, but added, “There’s nothing left there, you know.” Here they are with Asuka in front of their damaged home:

From there, our quest entered a new level of intensity. We’d heard enough about the damage at Onagawa to expect a terrible sight, but we could not have predicted the extent of the decimation. It came as a shock to me that seawater gone angry enough inflicts as much damage as the firebombing of Dresden or the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. Onagawa, which means “Lady River” when translated literally, looks today the way Dresden and Hiroshima looked after their calamities.

Because Onagawa is situated in a valley beside the sea, it was especially vulnerable to the large tidal wave. The wave surged from the ocean and, with nowhere to disperse, climbed the valley walls to form a giant pot of ferocious seawater that swirled mercilessly until draining away to leave almost nothing intact or alive.

The following photos are in order of our entry into the seaside village, so you experience in seeing them the same growing sense of sadness we felt driving into the suffering of poor Lady River.

People still look for friends, family, and belongings.

We continued deeper into the valley.

The water reached as high as the hospital at the upper left of the following photo, where you see a white car lodged against the building:

We drove up to the hospital to look over the damage in the valley. It’s even more heartbreaking from the higher vantage point.

We knew that we did not have enough socks left to handle such a town. We decided to take our remaining inventory back to Ishinomaki where we would distribute it at shelters, then return to shelters in Onagawa on another day as quickly as possible.

Our way out of town needed a different road because soldiers found bodies on the one we’d used to enter, and closed it to collect and remove them. They don’t euphemize anymore. They say directly, “You can’t use this road now. We found bodies on it and we’re not done removing them yet. Drive that way, please.” We did so, and discovered a different perspective on the extirpation.

Soldiers still searched for bodies.

We drove back to our base in Sano late Friday night, vowing to return quickly and with more help. The volunteer team at our base worked double-time on Saturday to prepare another shipment for Sunday. No other adult volunteers were able to join us for the return trip, so Asuka’s 10-year-old daughter Siena agreed to help. I asked if she was scared. She said she was, but that she’d heard all of our stories and wanted to help. With more than 5,000 pairs of socks loaded, the three of us departed Sano at 5 am Sunday for Ishinomaki and Onagawa.

We used the van as a distribution point at a shelter:

on the street:

and at a military tent:

In the afternoon, we drove our inventory carefully marked for Onagawa over the saddest road on Earth back into the seaside valley. We needed to take the high road again; they still pulled bodies from the lower. We saw the hospital across the way:

and soldiers working high up in the valley:

We drove past the hospital to where our map showed the town’s primary shelter to be. With most roads destroyed and landmarks gone, it’s hard to find the way around Onagawa these days. Directional advice goes like this: “Drive past the piles of rubble, turn left at the three crushed cars, go quickly under the collapsing bridge, and you’ll see across the flattened roofs a wrecked fence. It’s on the other side of that.” We became lost, until we found a Mrs. Kimitsuka picking through the remains of her mother’s home. We spoke with her and found out her mother was staying at the very shelter we sought. She offered to take us there, as she was going to visit anyway.

On our way out, Mrs. Kimitsuka told us her mother had barely escaped the tsunami by running up the nearby mountainside. Later, she and her mother returned to the wreckage and could not believe their luck to find among it the one insurance document they needed. Not all of the neighbors survived, she was sad to report. The couple living at the house shown below tripped and fell, and were consumed by the wave.

The shelter was perched on a hill between the main valley and a back valley. From the shelter, we could see down into the back valley. The survivors in the shelter were a rough bunch, striving to retain good spirits but not always succeeding. We felt among them the strains of mental anguish arising from having lived in a survivor shelter for one month, homes gone, people gone, and as one woman put it, “future gone.” They needed socks badly, and lined up for an allotted two pairs per person, a ration we hate to enforce when looking into pained eyes. I admit to not always enforcing it.

There were happy moments such as meeting some of the local children who survived, and Mrs. Kimitsuka’s mother.

Happiness is the exception in Onagawa, however, not the rule. A shy 15-year-old girl named Akane Hanzawa told us she’d been in school when the earthquake struck. She and her classmates heard the tsunami crashing through the buildings of town, spraying up from them as it went, knocking some over and submerging others. It reached their school quickly. Many students fled up a mountainside. Akane survived that way.

“My friend, Miki, ran with me and stood beside me on the mountain,” she said. “We looked at the whole town as a lake. The school was gone. The wave still crashed its way up the valley, though. Suddenly, Miki grabbed my arm and said she needed to check on her grandmother. ‘No!,’ I told her, but she wouldn’t listen. She ran down the mountain and up the valley toward her grandmother’s house. Nobody’s seen Miki or her grandmother again.”

A tough older man who’d made his living by the strength of his body, which showed up in broad shoulders and a handshake as firm as any American farmer’s, stood silently when he reached the front of the line.

“How many men?” I asked him. Some people receive socks for absent members of their family.

“Just one. Just me.”

I handed him two thick pairs of socks, and told him they looked warm and comfortable. He nodded. “And how many women?” I asked.

His free hand shot over his eyes. He sobbed, “None. They’re gone.” He dropped to his knees, wracked with grief, letting go what had built up inside him after probably many other releases along the way. An understanding line of people waited silently, knowingly behind him. Nobody complained. Nobody checked a watch. The room went still as a strong man’s sobs reverberated among us.

“After the quake,” he said, “we went around the house picking things up. We heard another crashing sound and saw the wave smashing through buildings toward our house, exploding off of them like the ocean does along a coastline. It struck our house before we could run. It washed me up onto the mountain where other people were thrown, too. I couldn’t find my wife. When the water drained away, I went back to our house and found her body in the kitchen. . . . She never got out of the kitchen . . . where she cooked for us . . . many wonderful meals she cooked for us.”

The room waited. The line had become a series of bowed heads as faces looked down at the hands clasped in front of them. The man continued.

“I held her body a long time. I wanted something of her to keep with me always. I pulled her wedding ring from her finger and tried putting it on my little finger, but my finger was too big. I cut the band and stretched it to fit and pinched it back together as close as I could on the back side.” He held up his hand. “I wear my ring on this finger, and my wife’s ring on my little finger, and that’s how it’s going to be until I see her again. I kind of hope it’s not long, to be honest.” He looked around. “I don’t see much point in all this. Not without her. . . . I’m so lonely. . . . Thanks for the socks.”

Akane’s school, Miki’s grandmother’s home, and the ring man’s house once coexisted in the same back valley. We left the shelter in a waning light to pay our respects in the back valley, where the tsunami found them all, where it drowned so many, where its stench and despoliation still clutch at every fragile living thing that dares enter. The whole valley stinks of dead fish and old harbor, but one can’t help but wonder if that’s all. The piles of rubble are deep, and thousands of people remain unfound.

It’s not a place to linger after dark. We left the dank, smelly air behind and drove out of Onagawa for the long ride back to Sano.

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  1. Jordon
    Posted January 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    This article has opened my eyes. I am 14 years old and have a deep love for Japan. I will help Japan in anyway I can. For my birthday, and for christmas, I want socks to send to Japan.

    • Posted January 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Good for you, Jordon. The time for fresh socks to survivors of this disaster has passed, but good people will always find a way to help in the world. You’re such a person! Do good things.

  2. Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    please… find the boy… please…

  3. Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I have been avoiding to read your accounts of the disaster because I knew it would hurt me so much. Finally sifted through your articles and this one made me cry the most. It seems so selfish of me to be crying actually, when the Japanese are all holding up a brave front. There are lots to learn and empathy is something rather difficult to manage effectively. Thank you so much for persevering down this road with the socks and allowing me to lend a hand. Hope to meet you in person at some point Jason, it has been inspiring working with you albeit in a small way. Will make plans to come to Japan soon as it has always held a special place in my heart. Also want to express gratitude that without your brilliant writing skills, the world will not benefit from the learning while we follow yours and the team’s journey through the disastrous rubble.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Poesy, for your help in getting the word out and your kindness. We’ll welcome you to Japan anytime. Let me know the moment your plans firm up.

      • Posted November 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        At this point I do not have any firm plans, but the Bald Empathy Movement needs to involve Japan in the final stages. The plan is to get the my ‘sacrificed hair’ stitched into a wig by the Japanese, before I present it to the young girl who is suffering from hairloss due to disease. The 4 months tour has left me very drained and I am back at work for the time being. Aiming to follow up with Japan either in 2012 or 2013, and when I do, I definitely want to connect/get further involved with SFJ if I can still add value then.

        Originally – I was scheduled to come in February 2011, before going to West Africa and Europe, but I could not get my Japanese translation for the media done in time – somehow stars were not aligned with my then-volunteer. When the tsunami happened, I was out in Hamburg and was devastated to see the news on Japan. I felt that in this movement of empathy, we (Helping Angels) needed to lend any help we could afford as a global network who cares, albeit merely a small FB group of only 200o international members.

        Now with the current state of affairs, I find it even more important to involve Japan in the grand finale of Bald Empathy Movement, hope the stars will eventually be aligned for it. I understand that there are far more pressing issues to take care of before I ask priority be given to the art project to raise empathy.

        Meantime, keep up the great work. I am trailing your news not far away.

  4. Lorna Shashinda
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for what you are doing. Part of your mission is distributing socks, and through them, hope and caring. The other part of what you are doing is making sure that people around the world know the stories of these individuals, so that they are not forgotten.

  5. Jolynn
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I stumbled across your blog in search of Japanese way of life for our 6 homeschooled children and I am deeply touched by your work and your compassion…Your stories are touching and honestly one takes a look of what we have and is grateful…

    • Posted May 23, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Jolynn. I’m happy to welcome you and your family to our project and hope it helps broaden your children’s view of the world.

  6. marati
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Japan. Many people are with you in love. You are a most admirable people, whose strength, honor, dignity and wonderful balance of live, are simply awesome. The Holy Spirit that unites us all, will give you even more strenth. Don’t ever give up. Hope lies ahead…………..

  7. Patricia
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing that can be said from this distance that wouldn’t sound trite – it’s so unfair and easy to be overwhelmed and give up. Where does one start to fix all this?? With your actions, your heart and your soul. With socks.

  8. Miko
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    JASON! hey, I had no idea you decided to go up north. Thank you for the work you’re doing. I wish I could do the same. But if you want anything sent to you, let me know.

    Miko from Japanese DMV and Sano.

  9. Kathy Sakamoto
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    We’ve sent a few (69 pairs only) of socks. Thank you for the email in receipt! But after reading this posting, I’m sure there’s much more needed. Your work has taken you far beyond what most volunteers are experiencing I think. We’ll send more. I cannot imagine that two pairs of socks can be enough for the coming months. When and if you switch to ‘zori’ let us know that too!

    We received an email from one family that received our socks! it was really good! They sound strong and determined. 3 boys. I’m hoping the boy who sat by the van will find friends and a family like that one to be part of in the future.

    The man with the ring. It’s sure that he was always the strong one, except for everything that his wife ‘covered’ for him. And it’s incredible – the horrendous power of the ocean. People who live near it know. We had tsunami drills in southern California growing up, but we haven’t had to worry. We loved that we lived on a hill. Made us feel safe. I wish there would be more that we can do…Keep up the good work!

  10. Beth Matsuda
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for your blog and telling the stories of so many suffering. Thanks for your work in handing out the socks. I work with the homeless and know the socks go fast and are a necessary item for so many. The story about the boy especially broke my heart. I am praying for him and the man who lost his wife. May God reach his compassionate hand to them and comfort them.

  11. susan
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    your blog is truly touching and an insight on the actual aftermath. it’s beyond our imagination of the disaster and pain experience by its people. what you all are doing is amazing and courages. god bless your soul and keep all of you safe in your mission.

  12. Deron Woo
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    It’s so touching after reading what you and your group had encounter, I am so glad that you take so much effort in helping the survivor. Eventhough I am not one of them, I would like to say “THANKYOU” for all those efforts and comfort to the unfortunate. Take Care and May God Be with you always.

  13. Aziz Ahamed
    Posted April 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    You are doing a great job- ‘serving above self and taking time to serve’- should be mottow of all of us who are still living and able to do something who are suffering, and people like you who are doing it are to be esteemed, respected and given hand.
    I wish I could even do a little- how can I?
    Best wishes and best regards
    aziz ahamed/dhaka/bangladesh

  14. Mary Ann Fort
    Posted April 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Our society and news move on so quickly and me must not forget the suffering and dignity of these wonderful people.
    A simple thing….new, clean socks…but something my grandfather thought worthy of mention in his journal as he served in Europe during WWI. A comfort and a small reminder that there are those who have not forgotten.
    God Bless You and Protect you in your work to help these survivors.

  15. Your mother, Jason
    Posted April 16, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I did get your note about my box arriving. I wish I had MANY MORE but, for some reason people are not donating as much as I wish…There has been an article in the Wind and also in the Trail and the News. There is a drop-off in Allenspark at the dump and in Estes at the library. My number has been given out but no phone calls yet! I just don’t know HOW people can see the pictures you’ve put up and not donate a lot of socks. They don’t even have to send them–it’ll be done for them. I so much wish I could be there to do whatever I could. I’m afraid I would only be a liability. I am so-o-o proud of what you are doing and glad you are there to do it–or it wouldn’t get done. I love you so much and think about you always! Mom

    • Posted April 16, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      You’re doing enough, Mom, and I love you for it. It was not long ago that you were the survivor we were trying to help. I’m lucky to have you on my side, always.

  16. Savitha
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for giving many of us living very far away a chance to help the Japanese people in a very small way. I am amazed at the strength and perseverance of you and your team. Please stay strong and carry on the good work.

  17. Posted April 15, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Thank you for being the hands and feet of love for these folks in such desperate need. My husband shared your blog with me…I was brought to tears. I am praying for you and the lives you are touching. Thank you .

    I shared some of your story and pictures on my blog. Hope that is okay.
    Many blessings,

    • Posted April 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      A beautiful post on your blog, Holly. Thank you for supporting us and helping spread the word.

  18. Anita
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m so pleased to see you helping those not in the shelters too. My friend in Japan said people whose homes were intact, & therefore they haven’t gone to the shelters, were trajically being overlooked. It’s so good to hear that aid is getting to them. Thank-you for listening out for how you can best help & being brave to go to where others haven’t. Amazing work.
    We keep you in our prayers & thoughts.

  19. Adam
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    You guys are truly heroic.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, some of it almost made me cry at work.
    Tragic does not begin to describe what those people are going through, but volunteers like yourselves are really making a difference.
    The government should give you medals for this.

  20. Amy
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you for all that you are doing. Your writing brings tears to my eyes every time. It is all I can do to stop myself from crying as I look at these pictures and read the stories of the utter devestation over there. I have sent socks and hope they have made it or get there soon. I wish I could do more. My heart is with the survivors and I hope they receive the comfort that they need in the coming days, months, years.

  21. Posted April 14, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Jason (if I may call you that),

    I just joined the Kelly Letter after reading your outstanding book, “The Neatest Little Book..” To my great surprise, your humanitarian efforts in Japan are the first thing I saw on your website. Not, buy this, buy that advice and a litany of advertisements, but something tangible that gives back the blessing you have been bestowed with. And you did this and reported about it in a matter-of-fact manner, not the least self-aggrandizing.

    Needless to say, I am impressed. You asked for the name I go by when I signed up. Another nice personal touch showing how you distinguish yourself from other financial movers and shakers.

    I actually hope to get to know you. Heck, I’d like to become someone like you.

    Many Blessings to You and Yours,


    • Posted April 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Alan. I’m so happy to have somebody like you climb aboard around here, and from the world of investing, no less. We’ll leave the buy-this-buy-that approach elsewhere, and stick with the help-here-help-there ethic instead.

  22. Robin Winslow
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    I am very sorry for what Japan is going through. What I want to know is what is being done to help all the dogs and cats left behind to starve to death?

  23. Lina
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much for sharing your trips and stories along the way of the distribution. We can never get such in depth understanding from the news report. It is such an unbearable pain from losing your loved ones. I really wish I can do more. R.I.P. for the lives lost and hang in there for all the survivors!

  24. Yujie Seah
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    I can’t help but start tearing when i read the stories. I am so glad that they can receive socks we sent and have just that little warmth and love that they so needed. Thank you Jason and team for making all these happen! And may the survivors be safe and continue to stay strong!

  25. Jackie
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Thank you again so much for everything that you have done for Japan and its people. You are truly amazing. Your writings of your trips are so touching and heart wrenching. We do not know of individual stories in most accounts. I hope that my socks have arrived and been distributed as I hope to send more.
    This morning I was told of this support for Japan song called Yomigeare which can be found at:
    It brought tears to my eyes and it is a wonderful tribute to the Japanese. I do not know if it was shared here already but it is really worthy of watching and listening to.
    Thank you again!

  26. Angie
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing the experience and stories…the quiet boy who just want to sit next to your van, Miki-the little girl who ran back to her grandma but never to be seen again and the man left alone with noone but his wife’s ring on his little finger.. it’s just so heartbreaking to read them….:<
    wish i can do more to help…
    thanks once again Jason and the teams!

  27. Posted April 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much. That was both a truly horrifically sad but extraordinary read. Life in Southern Japan continues as normal, the TV reports of shelters stops and we almost forget that these people are still living through such sadness.
    You are a rockstar Jason. Awesome.

  28. Shou Wee
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful thing you all are doing. Please continue, on behalf of the rest of the world who wants to help, but has no means of doing so. Our hearts ache for them. And yet, we cannot do much.
    And thank you for sharing your story. Do continue to share.

  29. Sue De La Franier
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I applaud all of your efforts to help all of these survivors. For sending emails back to the original donors. And more importantly sharing your all of these experiences with the rest of us. As I humbly sat reading everything, getting to know some of the people you met along the way and seeing how after 1 month far little has change with the reckage. Heartbreak everywhere and yet these survivors still stand, trying to be as strong as they can. Their appreciation for a simple part of socks when their whole world around them has been destroyed is very overwhelming. My heart bleed for them. My God watch over and protect them !

  30. Frith Barbat
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you again Jason for your updated posts. These photos are the most awe-inspiring ones I’ve seen. You’re doing very good work. I will write some letters to give a friend who is collecting socks. I lived in Japan for three years and my heart is still there.

  31. Maria Naito
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Thankyou for sharing your experience. I am sure those people were not just grateful for the socks but the fact you made the effort and took time to talk and listen to them. Heartbreaking. I can’t stop thinking about the boy who sat by your car. My son is a similar age.
    Mito, Ibaraki

  32. Posted April 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Just an incredible read.

    You do not get any of the scale of the disaster in our news.

    What a fantastic choice of help in focusing on Socks.

  33. MaryAnne Cutter
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    This disaster is the worst thing I have ever seen! It’s truly overwhelming . thank you Jason Kelly for being so courageous and kind. I think socks are a marvelous item to distribute. If it were me, I’d stand in line too!! Wherever will all the trash go after the search for bodies. there could easily be someone somewhere hanging on by a thread.
    Heavy equipment is certainly needed! May God provide, in the Name of Jesus.
    I hope people can relocate to higher ground or another city. MaryAnne 4/12/2011

  34. David Van Ommen
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    You’re a good man. Thank you. That’s all I can think of to say with bleary eyes from crying after reading your stories. I lived in Miyagi for 8 years, and now I am back in Canada. Thank you for doing what I wish I could do.

  35. Sara
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I am so relieved to read you made it to Ishinomaki and Onagawa. I spent two years living in Ishinomaki and one of my dearest friends is still in a shelter in Onagawa, his home is gone. You will soon be receiving 3,000 + pairs of socks from upstate NY. We’re hoping to help replenish your stock. Thank you again for getting all the way to Ishinomaki.

  36. Maya Harada
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I just want to say thank you so much for your action. I looked at the photo of a boy looking down…makes me cry. I wish I can just at least pat on his shoulder and say ” It will be OK, someday soon…” but if I realistically ever be able to do that, Instead patting in his shoulder, I will give him a big long hug!

  37. Emily
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t get through this story without crying.

    I feel so blessed to be a part of this project, even in a small way. I only wish I could do more.

  38. Posted April 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I can’t get the image of the little boy and the man with his wife’s wedding band out of my head. So heartbreaking. Do you know what’s happening to all the orphans?

  39. Gregory Iwan
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Many times it is the same. This time it is much more, and different. The scenes rend the heart and numb the mind. But the indomitable human spirit shines through. And an unassuming fellow from the Front Range of Colorado holds the flashlight. Thanks and blessings to all who help. My hope is with Japan, which has shown such tenacity!

  40. Posted April 13, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    God bless you Jason! We take so much for granted – you have pushed aside your own personal desires to give what you can to help others in need proving that we can make a difference! Don’t stop – there are many people that need you.

  41. Posted April 13, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Jason, I with every single person on this earth reads this blog and helps in whatever way they can. It brings us so much closer to what happened than watching it on the news. I can’t even imagine how much everyone there is going through and I just thank God for people like you and your team of volunteers who are caring and want to help them. Thanks to my friend, Carly Cais, for letting me know about this. The least I can do is send socks with notes and I thank you for organizing it for all of us and making a big difference. I will be sending lots of hugs and prayers with these socks, too!

    • Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Susan! I so appreciate you getting involved, and so wholeheartedly, from the very beginning.:-) Though I don’t know Jason *personally* I’ve followed his blog and newsletter for so long I feel like I do – and I knew in my heart that of all the people who said they wanted to start an organized effort to help the people affected by this disaster…he was one of the few (if not the only person!) who could do it. I am so moved by his compassion and forthrightness, as well as excellent documentation of all of the group’s efforts…it’s the transparency of this that is truly inspiring and heartwarming.
      Thank you so much!:-)

  42. Posted April 13, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you. God Bless you all. A new day will come.

  43. MisawaBratsReliefMis
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Though any words seam meaning less after reading your documentations. Your words are full of compassion, turth and Honesty.. thank you for your Love.. and for documenting the storys of those that survived and didn’t. That is more than any of us could ever think would happened. Thank you for showing the world what a pair of socks from someone unknown, delivered by someone you didn’t know can do to make the world just a bit warmer by knowing someone does cares! Thank you for showing us the view from the other side so that we know the gift of giving is all important !!
    But when recived is given back 100+ fold. Continuing in Prayer for the People and the goverment and all those helping. Thanking God for all those that have given. What a team ! Thank YOU!

  44. Charles Ou
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Mr. Kelly,

    The documentation of your journey to directly help people affected by the earthquake and tsunamis is a real eye opener. And provides a perspective that one wouldn’t be able to find through popular media sources. I greatly admire and envy your devotion to take direct action in helping others through the distribution of socks. It’s amazing how providing something so basic can go so far in lifting up people’s spirits. Thank you for your kindness and inspiration.

    Charles Ou

  45. Becky Moder
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Tears flow every time I read your newest journey. I am humbled and reality sets in which reminds me of the many blessings I have. My words won’t come but I am blessed to be part of this group. Praying for Japan as always.

    Phoenix, AZ

  46. Amy Franks
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    I’d also like to add that I admire the way that you calmly, systematically and respectfully addressed the criticisms and concerns raised by other disaster relief experts about the need for this project and your qualifications to carry out operations, as well as the impact it would have on other relief efforts.

    People yearn to make direct, meaningful contributions when they can, a fact which is obvious simply by reading the comments by the many who admire and appreciate your efforts. It is not the only way to give, but for many people, especially people who have a relationship with Japan and Japanese people, it is important to try and cultivate a more direct link. I regularly give to the Red Cross, and I appreciate their efforts and respect their institution, but I am not personally invested in their efforts, nor do I know exactly where my contributions are going. And from reading your blog, I had the thought that it would be really fantastic if they documented their efforts in a similar way, with pictures and detailed, well written accounts about people and situations in affected areas, as well as concrete examples about how dedicated funds are being used.

    In other words, I think that the Red Cross and other large relief organizations could learn a lot from your business model.

  47. Lorie McGraw
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your stories. Tears are flowing down my face. As the media turns away from the people of japan you have made us closer to them. Thank you for that, Jason, you have a gifted eye and voice, thank you for speaking for the survivors. My shipment is nearly ready to go.
    Lorie in SC

  48. sandra
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    GOD bless you mr. Jason Kelly and your team , ms Asuka and her little girl Sienna and the rest of the volunteers. Stay strong and healthy and thank you for caring.

  49. Amy Franks
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    These are such amazing posts, for the stories alone (and for the socks! I am preparing a shipment). You honor the dead, and the survivors, by documenting their experience like this. Thank you for everything you’re doing, and thank you for letting us to participate. I am happy to see that the socks are so well received, but I also sympathize with your realization that they often seem like a meager offering in the face of so much loss and pain. Many of the students I worked with on this project asked me, “What do I write to someone who has lost everything, when all I am giving them is pair of socks?” I said, “Good question! This is something that the organizers struggle with as well.” In the end, however, we can only do what we can, realizing that it will never be enough. Generally, humans make lame superheroes. But that you and your team press on with such enthusiasm and persistence, despite no doubt sometimes feeling small and helpless (like we ALL do), is a special kind of heroism to me. And it is the lesson that I have learned, and hope my students have learned, by your example.

  50. Charlie
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    This is an amazing thing you are doing. God bless you.

  51. Denice Chenault
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Jason thank you for your beautiful and heartfelt summaries of your efforts. My husband, Tom and I live in Longmont and when I read your emails I am instantly transported thousands of miles over the ocean to the doorstep of Japan. It is easy to feel disconnected to the tragedy so far away. Thank you for erasing the boundaries of culture and distance, and allowing me to feel the beauty of humanity. You are a special gift to us all.

  52. Carolyn Riddell
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Jason, a big thank you for all you have done. You and the volunteers are doing such a wonderful community service for everyone.
    The pictures and narrative is wonderful, something no one here has probably seen. The faces of the people are great. You have captured all the emotions they have. Their gratitude is shown in a calm response.

  53. Tom Kennedy
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Jason you are a fantastic person!!!! We need more people like you in this world. I am utterly amazed at how orderly and appreciative the people of Japan appear to be. I only wish that we americans could learn from these survivors.

    Please tell us how to help with donations of socks or money.

  54. Olivier "bil" Leeman
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jason,
    I don’t know how many time we should tell you Thank you.
    Your work over there is so amazing, you are an example for us all.
    Please stay safe!

  55. Jackie Jacobs
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    You have done such a tremendous job by bringing these stories to us. You have shown such courage, strength and selfishness. It takes a lot of passion, drive and caring to do what you are doing. I have been sharing these amzing, but sad images with friends and co-worker. May god bless you and keep you safe.

  56. Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    God bless you, Jason…and all that are working with you. You are doing such good and for those of us who wish we could do more….you are doing it for us.
    I will post, again, your site on my blog…maybe more people will send socks and letters.
    Thank you for keeping us updated on how you are doing.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  57. Jan Devereaux
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Jason, I thank you, too, for sharing these stories and for being there for these people. Who would ever have thought that a gift of socks could do so much for the soul of the receiver and the giver.

  58. Ralph Allswede
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Jason, you are doing a wonderful thing in supporting the Japanese people in their time of need. Keep reporting and we will keep your messages moving around the world. This issue has been pushed from the news vendors for other less worthy stories. Perhaps, we can get it front and center again where it belongs.

  59. Scotte Gowin
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    How do we contribute to your efforts? Paypal?

  60. Maggie
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Again, thank you for all you are doing, for delivering our socks and for telling us their stories. Thank you.

  61. Mark Zeman
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    The world needs more people like Jason and all the volunteers who donated their time, energy and of course, socks. Very inspirational to see the photos and “play by play” of how your time was spent helping these victims.

    The Woodlands, Texas

    • Posted November 17, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      I am 71 yrs old and until five years ago had never heard of a tsunami. Most earthquakes were inland. This is how TV has made our world smaller: now I have seen live pictures of a tsunami. I live in tornado country. Even when the damage is devastating (Alabama) we have warnings and often lives are saved. I liked the comment about the Global Warming Cult. LA

  62. anna Koh
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you and your team for continuing to do this work that we are not doing. It is heartbreaking to read them and even more so for you, I’m sure. Please stay strong and healthy.
    God Bless!!

  63. Mike Hammel
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    The newspapers, obviously after seeing your pictures, have been very lax in reporting the extent of the damage that was done not only to property but to the lives of so many people.

    Thank you for sending these photos on.

  64. Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    thank you for caring.. a picture is worth a 1,000 words.. peace and love to you all

  65. Scott Neylon
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jason & team for your effort and hard work at your end.

    Thank you also for the photos and words that both show and describe the destruction on the ground and the pain in victims’ hearts.

    Megumi & Scott Neylon
    Fujisawa, Kanagwaw, Japan

  66. Amy Gilbert
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear your story. I have been truly touched. Often I can’t look at the pictures because it hurts my heart too much. But I always read the story. How wonderful that God has gifted you and appointed you to this mission of hope. I will be praying for your safety and continued health and energy as you love the Japanese people so well.

  67. Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    you amaze me. thank you for taking the time to share this with us. i cannot imagine …just can’t imagine. you make this a very real story. we have been collecting socks and will have 500 off to you next week.
    *wrapping you in light*

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