Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quilt trip to Tohoku part 1

I returned from the quilt trip last night and will soon be leaving for cub camp. I want to share  few things but do not have much time for a long post.

After our early morning delivery of rice balls to the homeless in Shibuya, We returned home to pick up my bags for the trip. My husband came along as far as Tokyo Station and carried one of the bags and made sure I found the right train.

Here is our train. This model is the "Hayabusa" or Peregrine Falcon. My companion, Adachi-san, and I boarded this train in the morning at Tokyo Station for the first leg of the journey.

The train took us as far as Morioka, North of Sendai and the Prefectural seat of Iwate Perfecture. Iwate was one of the two hardest hit prefectures by the tsunami.

Tokyo Union Church has three "sister" churches in the Tohoku region, one of which is Miyako Community Church. My trip had been arranged between Adachi-san and Iwatsuka-sensei, the pastor of that church. This church is independent and thus, not supported by other denominations.
Iwatsuka-sensei, two years since the disaster, has been more involved in community service than in his own church affairs. Thus, the quilting activity was set up to serve the community.

From Morioka, we took a local bus, several hours further to the towards the coastal area of Miyako, where the damage was hardest. Reverend Iwatsuka picked us up at the bus terminal and drove us around, showing the damaged areas and the place where the classes were to be held the following day.

One can still see the base settings of the houses that were washed away by the tsunami. The school building in the distance was inundated on the first floor.

Iwatsuka-sensei showed us the plans for reforming the city, but those have not yet begun. The space at the upper right of the signboard is the area where the new housing will be built but the land has not yet been cleared or work begun.

The main road will be re-built further inland.
There will be no buildings in that disaster area.
The port area will have a higher sea-wall and the broken sections will be replaced using a stronger design with a wider base.

The section wrapped with the blue tarp is what is left of the sea-gate, and in the background you can see the concrete sections left behind when the sea-wall was breached.

To the upper right are the buildings of a fish-processing factory built after the disaster.

This is one view of the "temporary" housing where the evacuees have been living.

Each housing area had a small community meeting room. This is the place my classes were to be taught.

When my weekend activities are over, I will share with you the class experience, but before I end here, I wanted to share one other facet of the trip.

In Japan, we are very sensitive to the changing of seasons. Whether early or late, spring marches in in an orderly fashion. Late winter brings the Camellia, February the Plum and Apricot blossoms open in turn, then the Sweet Daphne and the Daffodils. Even each variety of Cherry has a time to be enjoyed without competition from other blossoms.

I really didn't know what clothing to pack because the area had had snow just a week or so earlier, so I was stunned to arrive to a place where spring was in "attack mode". It seems all those blossoms had waited so long to spring forth that they couldn't wait and take turns.

 Every variety of Cherry was in competition with its neighbor.

These were mixed with plum and peach.
Kerria and Azaleas,

Magnolias in the garden with Daffodils at their feet,

Baby's Breath in the background,

Flowering quince, putting on a show



Tulips in all sizes and colors,

And high on the hill-side, wild Wisteria, festooning the trees.

And, cheering them on, the voice of the Bush Warbler, in Tokyo, a harbinger of Spring.

BUT, mixed with that, the voice of the Little Cuckoo,
which usually arrives in the Tokyo area in June, in time to parasitize the Bush Warbler's second breeding.

After a busy day of travel, we spent the night (and the following nights) at this hostel, the Hokumin House, a volunteer housing center, donated by the Hokkaido Christian Network.
(In front is one of the two Chinese missionaries from Arizona, who spent a night there, and attended the quilting session as well.

Accommodation was fairly quiet and comfortable as I am accustomed to sleeping on futons, but my brain could not shut off as I anticipated the following days of teaching ... would my Japanese be adequate ... had I prepared well enough ...  would I meet the expectations of the group?  Knowing of the sincere prayers of my friends, I finally was able to grab a few hours of rest.
More to follow......


  1. What a beautiful profusion of flowers! A gift perhaps to the area after the devastation and destruction of other years. I bet your class went wonderfully.

  2. Julie, heartfelt thoughts will be with you all the time you are away, and I am so sure your classes and the group will all be trouble-free. I can see everyone so welcoming you, and so happy to have you in their area. A long journey,lovely fast train!! Fondest greetings and warmest wishes for the days ahead, Jean.

  3. Julia, I voted for your quilt on quilters gallery. It is stunning, did you design it or is there a pattern?

  4. thanks for showing all the photos - so much work to do to make the city relivable.

  5. Oh my! I just saw your "For everything there is a season" quilt in the Quilter's Gallery today - breathtaking!!!!

    And regarding your trip - I'm sure you did a phenomenal job with them, but the suspense is killing me!

  6. Thank you for a fascinating insight into the area you are visiting. And good luck with your classes.

  7. I am always in awe at all you accomplish, Julie. Thanks for sharing all the photos with us. I know your class will go well. Glad you're enjoying the beautiful spring weather.

  8. The flowers are wonderful - spring is super anywhere we can find it. Your classes sound like a wonderful idea to help. So often we forget that help is needed long term after these disasters.

  9. I can't wait to hear and see more of your trip! What a journey you had.

  10. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. I look forward to stories of your classes - I hope that they went well. Also - I voted for your quilt today in the Quilter's Gallery - it's BEAUTIFUL!! - ;))

  11. Hello Julie, all the pictures are so beautiful. The train is cool. The flowers are amazing but the tulips are out of this world. I love the purple tulips very much. Thanks for sharing with us. Hugs.

  12. Friends in Sapporo are finally enjoying the spring flowers and warmer weather too. Seems like there should be more of a gap. Can't wait to hear about the actual classes. Good job, have fun with the Cubs.

  13. I hope you have a good time with the Cubs and won't keep us in suspense very long about how your classes went. I'm glad Spring made a second appearance for you. Wow two years is a long time to live in temporary housing.

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  15. Thank you for going out to Tohoku to do this mission. Your pictures are great... I can get a sense of the loss and also the sense of new beginnings. I'll be looking forward to your next installments about your teaching.

  16. Julie I followed your blog for a long time then lost it when my DH gave me a Mac for Xmas and we lost many of my quilting contacts so lovely to find you again through one of your quilts on Quilters Gallery and then to find A farmers Daughters letters through you was an added bonus. Do you need any fabric for your group you are meeting in Tohoku, I sent a quilt up there via a friend who family lived there and would love to help more. I can post direct if you have a contact up there. Cheers Glenda PS Thanks for such a wonderful travel log of Japan and fabric of Japan.

  17. Dear Julie,
    Thank you for giving so generously of your time and energy to so many. Readers of your blog love hearing about your trip.
    Not only spring blossoms but also the people of Tohoku must have welcomed you with open arms. JoAnn is right, assistance is needed LONG after a disaster, and you are doing a brilliant job. No need to worry about anything.

  18. That disaster still hurts. :( Thanks for sharing the pictures of how they are rebuilding or planning to rebuild. I'm so glad that nature gave forth so much beauty this spring! It's very healing. :)