Street newspapers are a phenomenal, global network. I was touched to read that even in the midst of Japan‘s devastation, a street newspaper struggles to survive, its vendors dependent upon its existence, for their own meagre livelihoods. What strikes me as macabre in the aftermath of Mother Nature‘s triple threat, the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster, is that Sendai is now home to thousands more homeless. The following article ran in the Real Change. It gives a first hand account of the people’s attempts to recover from the horrific blow dealt them.
JAPAN’S STREET NEWSPAPER STRUGGLES AMID DISASTER
Vendors and staff at The Big Issue Japan are struggling in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the nation.
Miku Sano of The Big Issue Japan said in an email to partner newspapers that in Sendai, which bore the brunt of the tsunami, vendors survived but are unable to sell the magazine. “Things are not easy and will not be the same, but we are not defeated,” Sano wrote.
“The vendors and people in Northern cities are fighting for their lives and for the loved ones. We are trying the best we can to support them.”
Distribution of the magazine is impossible in northern cities, “hence, the vendors in Sapporo have nothing to sell,” Sano said. There are plans to re-start football practice in Tokyo, as “many of our vendors said that they want to play football to feel better.”
Diary of a disaster
The Big Issue Japan works with the Sendai Night Patrol Group to help the homeless in Sendai City. Staff members have been providing free meals for anyone sleeping rough as the city attempts to recover from the disaster. Aoiki san, head of the patrol team and magazine distribution in Sendai, allowed us to publish extracts from his diary about the relief effort:
March 14: In Sendai, the supply of water and electricity was restored in some parts, but it will take more than a month to restore gas supply. In the Wakabayashi area, the worst affected area within Sendai city, I saw a very long queue of people trying to get half-rotten oranges and only one banana. A thousand dead bodies are left unattended in a gymnasium, and there is no information about those unaccounted for. We are planning to provide free meals of curry rice for everyone from 11 a.m. The death toll is too big to comprehend, and many people seem to know nothing about what to do.
March 15: Roads, airlines and trains are not allowed to run except for emergency vehicles, and there is the dire prospect of a shortage of goods. More than 1,000 people queued for a motorway bus. I joined a queue for Daiei Supermarket before its opening at 10 a.m., but 30 minutes after the opening, major goods had already gone. There is a shortage of gas cylinders, noodles, tinned food, batteries and rice.
March 16: Public administration is completely paralyzed. Sendai City Council opened a help desk today, four days after the earthquake. Hospitals in the city are only able to provide a partial service due to electricity shortages. Without a battery-powered radio, people are getting no information at all. Many citizens don’t know about the accidents at Fukushima nuclear plant. Local radio stations help people to find out about missing persons. Strong aftershocks at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
March 17: Today the local radio announced about the food at Wakabayashi City Hall, so we had to make 1,000 meals. We gave out curry, miso soup and rice for about 800 people and it was gone in a second. Some hadn’t eaten for three days and queued for the food in the rain.
I am worried becuse there’s no information about what’s going on at the nuclear power plant. I am worried about the radioactive contamination for the north Kanto region because of the north winds. There are thousands of people sleeping in the elementary schools, city halls and public halls. I will do my best to provide free meals tomorrow, although we may run out of stock if we do so.
(Translated by Mayuko Hida and Yushin Toda – University of Glasgow)