There has been a lot of good coverage of the tsunami a year ago in Japan. The UK movement came together to raise funds for the relief too, working through the very effective co-operative sector in Japan.
Here is a true story of an earlier disaster and how communities in Japan responded through shared action.
In 1959, a giant typhoon ravaged the Ise Bay off Japan, leading to a tsunami which caused over five thousand deaths in the coastal area.
Three hundred volunteers, local people and those from further afield, came together to help with relief and then, after the operations, formed
the MMH Co-op with their savings, which is now one of Japan’s leading health co-operatives, supporting over seven hundred self-help (‘Han’)
local health and welfare groups.
Toshihiko Shibata MD, Honorary Chairman of the co-operative explains that “the Great East Japan Earthquake, accompanied by the crisis at
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is so big and serious that such a little co-op may seem unable to do anything about them. The answer is
very simple. Health co-operatives in Japan are part of voluntary grass-roots movements by the people in local communities. MMH Co-op has
almost no significant subsidy from government, no special sponsors and consists of relatively poor people. We can act to overcome the effects
of terrible disaster because of the sincere practices of our fundamental philosophy, to ‘create communities where everyone can let their light
The co-operative operates a range of health related enterprises, including a restaurant named ‘Hope’ and in their flagship modern
hospital, paid for through member investment, in Nagoya City a cafe called ‘Rochdale’. They have built a ‘welfare village’ for recuperation
of people of all ages.
The street names, chosen by the members include ‘Waiwai’ and ‘Gayagaya’, both onomatopoeias for the sound of chatter.
Disasters break us apart, but, with a little hope, they can also bring us together.