TV Asahi on Tzu Chi's hot meal distribution in Anamizu Town, Japan. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation 

After 17 days of hot meal distribution, the first phase of Tzu Chi’s relief efforts in Anamizu, Noto Peninsula, Japan ended on January 29. Volunteers distributed a total of over 7,000 hot meals at the Anamizu Town Sawayama Communication Hall Pluto and Anamizu General Hospital. To make this possible, volunteers gave a total of 273 man-days. The selfless contributions of the volunteers attracted the attention of the local media and made a deep emotional impact on the local community. Gratitude was mutual as everyone said goodbye with heartfelt emotions. Not only were local people grateful for the selfless efforts of the volunteers, but the volunteers were even more grateful for the opportunity to give.

Most of the volunteers came to Anamizu from Tokyo and Osaka. At the time, due to airport closures, they had to endure a journey of at least five hours by road to reach their destination. Each day, they rose early in the dark and travelled over an hour into the disaster area. They worked tirelessly; they faced numerous challenges such as unsuccessful attempts to cook rice due to freezing conditions, insufficient ingredients and water shortages. These experiences tested and honed the volunteers' ability to adapt to unexpected obstacles.

Volunteers prepared ingredients the night before for seamless on-site cooking the next day. | Photo by Joyce Chou

Undeterred by the cold, the volunteers carried out hot meal distributions every day at the Anamizu Town Sawayama Communication Hall Pluto and Anamizu General Hospital. Their efforts attracted the attention of local Japanese media, with at least eight interviews conducted as of January 28. That was the final day of hot meal distributions at Anamizu Town Sawayama Communication Hall Pluto – it left both residents and volunteers reluctant to part ways.

On the final day of hot meal distribution at the Anamizu Town Sawayama Communication Hall Pluto, the team expressed gratitude and bid their farewells. Residents responded with warm applause, expressing gratitude during meal pickup and afterward. The atmosphere was filled with appreciation and heartfelt goodbyes. | Photo by Joyce Chou | 2024/01/28

Yohhei Niwa, a reporter from TV Asahi, commented on the important support from Taiwan for the hot meal distribution in Anamizu. Various media outlets covered the efforts; as it was the last day, reporters came to conduct interviews.

The Asahi Shimbun Company interviews Tzu Chi staff Joyce Chou, exploring the reason why she traveled all the way from Taiwan to Japan to support disaster relief. | Photo by Chen Jing-hui

Tzu Chi volunteer Chen Jing-hui (陳靜慧) said: "The sudden departure from here truly feels heart-wrenching. We accompanied the local residents, but in reality, they accompanied us as well."

On the last day of the hot meal distribution at Anamizu General Hospital, Brother Ida Tatsunari reported the number of meals served and the number of volunteers involved to Superintendent Koji Shimachu. He also presented a token of appreciation from Tzu Chi. The chief deeply bowed and embraced, reluctant to part ways. | Photographs provided by Tzu Chi Foundation | 2024/01/29

Although the hot meal distribution ended at Anamizu General Hospital on January 29, we believe that what we gave goes beyond the warmth of the food; it is kindness and mutual assistance among people. The spirit of helping others never ceases. May this warmth reach the hearts of everyone in need.