Tzu Chi Distributes Relief Funds in Anamizu, Noto Peninsula, Japan. | Photo courtesy of Yueh-fong Lee | B&G Marine Center and Martial Arts Hall, Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/19

Over five months have passed since the earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula on New Year's Day. Many damaged houses in the disaster area remain untouched and in their original state. As of May 14, the death toll from the earthquake stands at 260, with 79,618 homes damaged. Currently, 3,873 residents are still taking refuge in shelters.

Relief Funds Distributed – Is This Real?

Starting May 17, Tzu Chi volunteers in Japan began distributing relief funds based on household population at the  Morohashi Community Centre, Kabuto Community Center, Sumiyoshi Community Center, and B&G Marine Center and Martial Arts Hall in Anamizu Town. Over three days, families received funds, with the smallest households receiving 130,000 yen (approx. 829 USD). Many residents were initially skeptical about the distribution, finding it hard to believe such a generous gift was real. Isoka Ohyabu, 47, came to collect the relief funds on behalf of her grandmother. She told the volunteers that there was widespread doubt in the community, with people wondering if the distribution was a scam. To her surprise, it was real.

Tzu Chi volunteers sat down to drink tea with the locals, using the opportunity to listen to their stories and concerns. | Photo courtesy of Jing-Huey Chen | Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/19

Several residents were moved to tears upon receiving the relief funds and reading the heartfelt letters from Tzu Chi’s founder Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Mr. Kiyoshi Ikegami, who read the letter aloud and was overwhelmed with emotion.

The warm words in Master Cheng Yen’s letter and the elegantly packaged relief funds deeply touched many residents' hearts. | Photo courtesy of Cheng-chung Lo

"We are deeply grateful for your help, especially since Taiwan was also hit by a major earthquake!" Many residents were brought to tears during the distribution. On May 19, Mihoko Wakabayashi, a 90-year-old resident, came to receive her relief funds. She shared with Tzu Chi volunteers that the earthquake struck on her birthday, making the memory even more indelible.

Japanese Residents Embrace Bamboo Bank Charity

Inspired by the stories of Tzu Chi’s charitable work in Taiwan, Mihoko Wakabayashi expressed her gratitude on behalf of the local community, noting that the people of Noto Peninsula are not as expressive. Before leaving, she contributed a 1,000-yen note (approx. 6 USD) to the bamboo bank, saying, "I want to do good deeds, too."

Professor Katsuhiro Sawada of Kanazawa Institute of Technology, who had previously volunteered during Tzu Chi’s hot meal distribution, understood the challenges faced by the volunteers. Witnessing the distribution of relief funds, he described the experience as deeply moving.

Mayor Koki Yoshimura of Anamizu Town personally thanked the Tzu Chi volunteers, expressing that their concern and the relief funds would significantly motivate the community to move forward.

Acts of Kindness Foster Unforgettable Bonds

Etsuko Hirota, 81, who had previously enjoyed Tzu Chi’s hot meals at the “Anamizu Town Sawayama Communication Hall Pluto," came to the distribution site on May 19. She said she came not just to collect the relief funds but also to see her old friends, giving the volunteers a warm hug. She told them she had saved a lot of coins for Tzu Chi but couldn’t bring them because they were too heavy.

The volunteers accompanied her home, where she placed the relief funds on the altar in her home as a gesture of deep respect. She then handed over a large bag of coins to the volunteers, expressing her love for Taiwan.

Dr. Wen-bi Chen, who had been introducing local officials to Tzu Chi volunteers since the earthquake, and his wife also donned Tzu Chi volunteer vests to help with the distribution. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to participate.

The first round of relief fund distribution for the Noto Peninsula earthquake included 252 volunteer shifts with aid provided to 1,091 households. Tzu Chi hopes these efforts will help the residents regain confidence and rebuild their homes soon.

(Reported by Tzu Chi Foundation)