If you are keen to volunteer to help landslide clean-up in Hiroshima, even for only a couple of hours, a good place to start is the town of Kuchita in Asa-minami-ku.
Above is a discussion I had with Jamie, a volunteer who joined me from the Iwakuni base for a couple of hours on 7/17.
Volunteering at Kuchita is highly recommended if you are keen to help out. The local volunteers are very welcoming and are sponsoring insurance for any volunteers for the first month (so at least until August 7th), so if you haven’t yet signed up for the volunteer insurance (6F BIG FRONT building opposite Hiroshima station, M-F, 9-5) for 350 yen for the year, it’s no problem. I was a bit worried about only being able to volunteer for a short time, but the people at check-in assured me that they were very grateful for the help for however long we could.
Kuchita town is a short 20-minute drive from Hiroshima station. Or a 30-minute bus [340 yen] including a 10-minute walk, or only 22 minutes by JR train (Geibi line) but you will need to check if the line is open. To get there, the best advice is to follow Google maps as well as any local information from your guest house or hotel (address and map below).
As you are guided to the area where your group is assigned to help, you walk past thousands of mud-filled bags. Each of these takes at least 10 minutes to fill by hand by volunteers, so the view of thousands of these bags shows progress. These bags will be taken to areas where there is a danger of future flooding to help stabilize areas or block water from others.
Seeing the mud-line high above our heads showing the level the landslide came through the neighborhoods is a powerful reminder of the disaster’s effect on these neighborhoods.
Our work of clearing the drains between houses could only be done by hand. It was easier when the mud is a bit wet (out of the sun) and harder when the mud is dried and hard (in the sun). This was taken at 10 days post-disaster, so as the weeks progress, especially without rain, the volunteer work will become more and more dusty so it is a good idea to have a face-mask handy.
Once the mud was in the bags, we used the wheelbarrow to transport them a short distance to a pile at the front of the house. A truck will then come by and collect the bags to be taken and used in other areas in danger of flooding.
Appliances and furniture soaked by mud are piling up in empty lots in neighborhoods waiting to be collected for recycling or disposal. Having enough space for this waste is a huge problem in disaster areas according to the news.
If you arrive by bus, there will be a 10-15 minute walk to the volunteer center (there may be taxi’s around – say “Kuchita-Shogak-ko” to find the volunteer registration tent). If you are driving, there is free parking for volunteers at the Kuchita Elementary School in the open yard, right next to the Volunteer Check-in.
- Are you ready to Volunteer? Good idea before volunteering to read the 5-points of advice here.
- Kuchita volunteer check-in open Everyday 8:30am – 5pm / Free insurance for any volunteer for the first month / Need to write your address (in Japan), Name, Age and how long you want to volunteer on the form.
- Address in English: 739-1733 Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Asa-Kita-Ku Kuchita-Minami 2-chome 7-2
- Japanese: 〒739-1733 広島県広島市安佐北区口田南２丁目７−2