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Socks for Japan is no longer active, but we keep this site the way it appeared during our operation so that survivors, donors, and volunteers can look back at how the world helped us help Japan.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. Roberta Kilstrom
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Thank you for setting this up. It has been an awful feeling of helplessness watching the photos and video and then hearing about one crisis after another. Folding a thousand paper cranes is not nearly so directly helpful! Many thanks.

  2. Gabe
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    FAQ: what makes you uniquely qualified to deliver socks to those who need them? Why would one spend an inordinate amount of shipping costs compared to the price of the socks being sent to you? Are you sure the post office can still deliver packages to your location at this time?

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Our location is perfect for this: we can get to the disaster zone, but we can still receive mail. Yes, we checked with the post office before setting this up. They were confident that they could handle the volume, and city volunteers are gathering the dollies, trucks, and community space that we’ll need to sort, translate, and distribute.

      I’m not sure what more “qualification” one need have to help in an emergency. Nobody asked for a role in this. We’re all doing our best.

  3. Shay
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink


    Tell me, if there are countries with on-going, prolonged strife in ways people of developed countries cannot even fathom in their daily lives-people and children suffering who’ve probably never even faced the concept of a sock- why do you choose to put efforts (ridiculous as they are) to Japan, one of the most developed countries in the world- which, by the way, faced the earthquakes with the efficiency of a well-wired computer?
    This is not only unnecessary, but somewhat offensive, I’m sure.


    Take this sort of enthusiasm, and use it on countries that actually require it.

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Please read the info page. We realize we’re not providing primary support.

      Survivors of the Kobe quake say with tears in their eyes that they remember receiving a care note during the crisis. If a pair of socks comes with it, what’s the harm? We’re being careful not to overwhelm emergency crews by creating our own volunteer force of people who can’t leave the local area to help in the disaster zone. We’re also making it clear that this is an additional way to support, not a replacement method.

      As for using our enthusiasm on “countries that require it,” the devastation here requires all of our enthusiasm. We’ll continue directing it, and are thankful to others for joining us.

      • R H Peters
        Posted March 20, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        You stated: “Survivors of the Kobe quake say with tears in their eyes that they remember receiving a care note during the crisis. If a pair of socks comes with it, what’s the harm?”

        It seems then, you would approve of delivering “care notes” only, due to their proven benefit – *without* the socks. Which is absurd. (D’ya think?)

        AND, did you ever stop and think, what people say was important to them regarding an event they are now well-distanced and safe from in both time and space, might reflect what is going on in them at the time of their saying it, changed by whomever they are reminiscing to, and not necessarily reflect the actual/factual experience they endured during the crisis itself?

        You go on assuming what someone tells you happened in the past, was what *did* happen, as though unquestionable fact. (Bad assumption. Human psychology is more complex than that.)

        (Don’t believe me? Then put to a test! … Go deliver some “care notes” only, without accompanying socks. Then go visit the same person a few days later, and see how much the person reports the care note “helped” him/her.)

        Some would call that “science”. I call it: “stop making dim-witted assumptions whose virtue is making you feel better for believing them”. Hello.

        • Jane
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          No, it’s not absurd. I really don’t understand why you would take the time to negatively criticize Jason for an incredible effort. I’m not saying that experiencing 9-11 as a New Yorker is comparable to the devastation in the tsunami zone, but you’d be surprised at the tiny details and kindness I remember clearly.

  4. Felix T. Katt
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    This is a ridiculous idea. Enough said.

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Maybe it’s not enough said. If you have better ideas or ways we can improve upon our idea, fire away. Between rolling blackouts and continuing aftershocks, we’ll be sure to consider them.

      • Lisa
        Posted March 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        This is a great idea, and hope you won’t be dissuaded by the negative comments. There is need all over this world every single day. We each decide who to help, when to help, and how to help. The important thing is that we help. Judging and criticizing how others choose to help is of no help at all. If you do not want to send socks, don’t send them. Socks on the way!!

    • jon
      Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      I have a feeling you’re Felix Salmon. And I am even more convinced you’re an enormous douche bag.

  5. Rhonda
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I think this is a great idea, despite what a few comments have said. SOCKS FOR JAPAN, keep up the good work, your intentions are great, and don’t listen to people who are putting you down (they are cowards).

    Good luck and socks will soon be coming your way!!!!!!!!

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thank you. The Japanese around here agree. A strong woman I know, a community leader I’ve never seen emotional before, got tears in her eyes when I explained the program and she asked me to express her gratitude to everybody pitching in.

      • R H Peters
        Posted March 20, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        I notice that anyone on this board is critical of this effort, is vilified as being a “negative”, “mean” person with a bad attitude.

        Yes that’s right. The world can easily be divided between all the GOOD people (like *you* and Jason, King of Good), and then all the other spoilsports who are so obviously rotten, and perplexing too, because they just seem to wanna be negative creeps.


        • Ari
          Posted April 19, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          Dear R.H. Peters,

          Pathetic excuse for a human.

          Don’t you have something else to do? Don’t you have someone else to mock?

  6. Coco
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  7. Don Fet
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    A couple of the comments above reflect the reasons the world is so troubled now. Aside from the nearsighted words above, readers here should consider a few other things.

    First- While Japan is a sophisticated country, the entire country is no larger than California. The devastation is huge; more comparable to having several states of the US destroyed at once. There are 10’s of thousands of people who have nothing left but the clothes on their backs, and no hope of recovering anything from homes that no longer exist… not to mention members of their families who may never even be found.

    The Japanese are a resilient and industrious people. They will hit the street running, doing all they can to rescue and rebuild. In the US, we have people who were caught in the Katrina hurricane that are still waiting for someone to come down and deliver a new life. When you help those who won’t help themselves you perpetuate dependency. When you help those who are self reliant and will help themselves but are in desperate need, it restores independence. It’s seen as a gift- not an obligation, and it’s appreciated. Honor and respect are a way of life in Japan, but they are more of a marketing ploy in the USA. Unfortunately we cannot import those qualities, and we are severely lacking them.

    Why socks? Why not? The Japanese are meticulous about feet, shoes and foot care. This will matter to them far more than it would to an American. In addition, Jason is trying to do this with the resources he has. No warehouses, just a small office and a home. No big staff, just himself and a few volunteers. They can process this level of support within those limitations, and still provide some genuine and appreciated help. Unlike the whiners who would complain here, they will be appreciate support they can get. I shipped 140 pairs of socks to Jason this morning. Another 150 are being shipped tomorrow by others I know.

    Should you still think it’s a poor idea, there is a solution- just send a couple hundred bucks to the Red Cross, earmarked for Japan. I’ve donated there too.

    If you won’t send material goods and you won’t send money- I don’t think you have any room to comment except to apologize for yourself.

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      you just managed to offend an entire nation of people with your comment ‘The Japanese are meticulous about feet, shoes and foot care.’

      and unfortunately, good intentions are not enough. you never judge your doctor, the engineers that designed the quake resistant buildings, or your accountant by their intentions, no judge them by the performance of their job. and years of experience of professionals in the humanitarian response field show us that gift in kind (which is what these socks are classified as) is never as effective as cash.

      it’s a bad idea and anyone blinded by their own ‘compassion’ or ‘intentions’ or investment in a project has lost sight of the the real reason you are doing this – to be helpful to those affected by tragedy.

      • Don Fey
        Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps the comment offended you- but hardly a nation. To the best of my knowledge it is true, and certainly not disparaging.

        The effectiveness of gifts is dependent on the way they are handled. With the exception of a few agencies, much of the cash given to crisis aid winds up in hands that have no need- just greed. Much of the goods that are given wind up being sold to the people who they were intended for or black-marketed elsewhere. WHO you are giving the contribution to is as important as the gift, for it will not be helpful in the wrong hands. I have zero concerns in this case- I have total confidence that everything sent to Jason will be reliably and properly distributed to those in genuine need. 100% effective with no overhead expense taken out.

        So much criticism comes from those who are often not helping at all, but are ready to tell others who are what to do with their money and what is wrong with their judgment. I don’t know where you come from- but while the name would appear Asian, the attitude is American. It’s unfortunate that you see compassion as a blinding force, as that sounds like you disapprove of anyone helping in a way that doesn’t have your personal approval, something America is known for. The examples of American disrespect and arrogance continue to shine brightly for the world to see- and most of the time our help has a price of one kind or another. You help your way, I will help mine; no price attached.

      • R H Peters
        Posted March 20, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        I totally agree. Jason clearly is driven by emotion over fact, so, it doesn’t matter if he’s an amateur here or in the investment book business, because it makes him *feel* that he’s doing a good thing. (Thanks Jason, I’m $20,000 in the hole for following your advice. What about my *feelings* about that, huh?! When I brought up your bad advice to you, you attacked me and blamed *me*!)

        So much for feelings. I guess I’m not allowed any. Just Jason, and the people with “tears in their eyes”.

        Fact: ALL THE MONEY BEING SPENT ON POSTAGE is poor use of $$$ and could go to Red Cross instead.

        And I have a QUESTION FOR JASON:

        All those socks people have sent in – what is their total replacement value? Okay, now take that figure, and you know what?? I think you’re rich enough that to spend that at your local Japanese SEARS store to buy the same quantity/quality socks, would not be a big dent in your wallet. Then you could silently donate them to relief efforts for delivery to those who need.

        You would: (1) accomplish the same thing, (2) at less cost because there would be no wasted $$$ on all the postage people paid (and wasted) cumulatively, to get socks to you.

        But that’s a bad solution, right?? Yeah, because it doesn’t give you a whole lot of positive, free publicity. And, it doesn’t get an army of people rushing to their post offices to feel *good* about themselves, and to feel good about *you*! (Which in turn, glorfies your self-image.)

        Hmm … how do we *solve* that problem? I know!: Make it more than about just the socks. Add “care notes”. Yeah! (That way, just buying the socks at SEARS and being silent about the entire deal won’t work – ’cause, where are the care notes then? Yeah, we need all those people to send in original care note messages, so we can involve them legitimately that way, to make this whole idea of everybody *feeling good* work!)

        Buy the damn socks yourself, Jason! You’ve got the $$, I know you do. Then you could do a good thing (donate the socks), without forfeiting the $$ on wasted postate, instead going toward more socks. And then you would be really respected, but alas! – not by the numbers and throngs you *want* to be, and not in the same way, either. (It seems you need the performance stage, and the spotlight, more than anything else.)

        Free publicity and strokes on the “Jason Feel-Good Train”.

        People, don’ t waste your time attacking *me* for this post. Just continue doing what you’ve already demonstrated you have compulsion to do … Finding a way to give yourself delusion that you are effectively helping others in time of need, to make yourself feel good about yourself that you did a “right” thing – something *unquestionably* right because your positive feelings from doing it tell you that is so. (After all, didn’t the lady have “tears in her eyes” when Jason gave her that pair of socks?)

        • Kevin Boyle
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:46 am | Permalink

          Wow you’re a douche.

        • Carol
          Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          You are so negative.. I feel sorry for anyone close to you because obviously you have no warmth about you to give to anyone else. What Jason is doing is a good idea and your negativity is not wanted. Is it so hard for you to accept the fact that someone is trying to good for people who need it? As someone stated earlier, most of those people lost everything except the clothes on their backs, so sending them a pair of socks with a care not is not a waste of funds. People are sending socks and paying the postage and don’t feel like they are wasting their money. Keep your negativity to yourself, no one wants to hear it..

    • Eileen
      Posted March 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I am Korean and have spent months in Japan (most recently in January 2010) and yes, the Japanese, like many Asian cultures, are “very meticulous about feet, shoes, and foot care.” This sensitivity on feet traces back all the way to when dynasties still existed. Growing up I learned it was rude to be bare foot in front of elders. I do not find this comment above offensive at all–it states the truth.

      Moreover, I look forward to contributing to Socks for Japan!

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