Ofunato Summer 2011 Volunteering – Water Closets and Free Candyfloss.

The Thursday and Friday saw me back with All Hands and onto a Job that taxed us both physically and mentally. We Had to remove 3 prefab bathrooms…
WITHOUT destroying the walls


There were only 4 of us. Very similarly minded, quite capable and of course. Very keen to do a good job.
We had heard the job was the gutting of 3 bathrooms and in our brain that meant real bathrooms. With tiles and porcelain.
The reality was a little different. In Japan many apartments have bathroom units. self contained prefab Fibreglass and plastic contraptions that are installed in one piece when the building is being put up.
I think, as is customary, they did not expect anyone removing the units to ever want to re use parts of them.
The owner of the complex did. So we had to think of creative ways to remove the bits and pieces holding it together.

We paired up and worked on different units and Thanks to our Madcat team leader from Bristol we managed to figure shit out. The first day was more of a learning session. The 2nd day was solid putting lessons into practise and fighting the power.


For our sins we were received a rather large selection of food and drink from the owner of the complex including his very own home made somen which was very damn tasty indeed. We also got mochi, peaches, dango and more. The calories gave us the energy we needed to push on with the work and not only did we finish about an hour before the day’s work was scheduled to end, but also 2 days before the entire job was scheduled to end.


That Friday night after supper and a bath, I discovered a small Bon festival going on across the road from the secondary All Hands sleeping quarters. It was being hosted by the city volunteer office for the people who lived in the temporary shelters nearby, as well as the residents surrounding area.


I was adopted by a pair of 1st grade primary schoolers who had tonnes of fun being silly and talking Japanglish to me. Having more than enough experience in dealing with their age group I broke out the Great Teacher Daruku and made sure they had a great time!


It was over rather quickly but it was a surprisingly large amount of fun where I got to interact with many of the local residents and grow to love Ofunato city even more. My bud from the Tuesday beach trip also dove right in, learning the dances as he went.


To cap it off, I found a group of girls doing a light painting stop motion animated video for their friend’s upcoming wedding. I borrowed a shot but my lens being quite a bit brighter than their Point and shoot, I managed to capture the painter as well. What they were doing however really made me happy. It shows that, especially with the young people, Ofunato is starting to come back to life. While normality is a while off, the happiness, hope and ambition is coming back.


In fact I saw more real honesty, friendliness and drive in the people of Ofunato (And the volunteers I worked with) than I have seen anywhere else.

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