The other day I received a solicitation for sleeping bags for one of the coastal towns in Iwate Prefecture that was all but destroyed by the March 11 tsunami. The town is called Kamaishi. More than 600 people in Kamaishi have been confirmed dead, with another 600 unaccounted for. More than 1,600 homes were swept away. The donations were for survivors who for now must live in school gymnasiums without adequate facilities or supplies. I kept thinking, as I got out a sleeping bag to donate, that I had heard of the town before. Finally it dawned on me — one of the manhole quilts I wrote about in an earlier post was for Kamashi!
That’s the quilt, above. It was made by a famous American quilter named Shirley MacGregor as part of a series inspired by Japanese manhole covers. As I explained in a column I wrote in 2008 for The Japan Times, almost all cities and towns in Japan have manhole covers that depict some point of local pride. Kamaishi is known for its tora-mai (tiger dance), so they have, or had, manhole covers that look this this:
This news story in English shows the devastation in Kamaishi cause by the tsunami. I’m trying to find ways we can donate relief funds directly to Kamaishi. In the meantime, you can click here to make an online donation for Japan to the Red Cross.