Otsuchi Fundraising event: Year of the Dragon

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Year of the DragonA Benefit for Fort Bragg’s sister city Otsuchi, Japan on Saturday, October 6th at 6:30 at St. Michael’s Hall in Fort Bragg.

Join us for a night of laughter, mystery and magic as Cathryn Fairlee tells traditional stories from Japan, Korea and China accompanied by talented musician Ron Nadeau on koto and shakuhachi.

Enjoy sushi, a kimono display and silent auction. Wine, beer and sake will be available for purchase. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for young adults 12-16. Cathryn’s stories are appropriate for ages 12 and up.

More information can be found on our Facebook group page.

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Otsuchi Old Stock Ale has arrived in Otsuchi!

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Ken SasakiThe North Coast Brewing Company released a special label of their Old Stock Ale and donated the proceeds to the Recovery Fund.
It raised $33,200 for Otsuchi! Arigatou gozaimasu! Your incredible generosity is deeply appreciated.

President and Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich sent a bottle to Ken Sasaki.
Otsuchi Old Stock Ale
Otsuchi Old Stock Ale
Otsuchi Old Stock Ale

Kanpai Kensan! Fukkatsu Otsuchi!

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Fukkatsu Otsuchi Fundraising Event

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Fukkatsu OtsuchiPlease join us for the first fundraiser for the student exchange since 3/11/11.

Fukkatsu Otsuchi will be held on Saturday, March 31st at the Caspar Community Center in Caspar, CA. Dinner from 6-7:30pm, includes chicken teriyaki, sushi, veggies and one drink. Additional beer, wine and sake available for purchase.

Musical performance by Ancient Current and Nick & Ayame Vest.

Silent Auction and kimono display.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at Harvest Market and The Floor Store.

More information can be found on our Facebook group page.

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North Coast Brewing Company announces their Otsuchi Recovery Fund commemorative release

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Otsuchi Old Stock AleFebruary 2012 | North Coast Brewing Co. Press Release

2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Fort Bragg, California and Otsuchi, Japan.

When the recent tsunami struck northern Japan, Otsuchi was one of the hardest hit communities and this charming 800-year-old city was leveled with an unimaginable loss of life and property. CBS recently devoted a 60 Minutes episode to the Otsuchi disaster and interviewed Ken Sasaki, catalyst for the sister city program. Sasaki made it clear how important the Fort Bragg sister city relationship has been in helping to give Otsuchi the encouragement to rebuild and to maintain their “Never give up” attitude. The people of Fort Bragg have sent over $250,000 to help, but more importantly, they sent their love. As a continuation of this support, North Coast Brewing makes a donation to the Otsuchi Recovery fund for every bottle of Otsuchi Old Stock Ale sold. North Coast Brewing invites you to enjoy this bottle with friends & celebrate the recovery of Otsuchi.

Otsuchi recovery fund commemorative release

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Sister cities after the tsunami: 60 Minutes Reports

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Trip to Otsuchi: Day 5, part 2

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Once the crew finished interviewing Satoko’s dad, they let me know that they would split up and one crew would film in town while the other would go to the festival and I could choose which one to go to. Guess which one I chose?

So, the festival was held at the Middle School grounds. The grounds were intact but the school had been destroyed and burned. The festival was really cool. The military band played- they are very entertaining, and the high school band performed. There was also professional Taiko drumming.
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It was nice to spend the day with Etuko-san, Machiko-san, Satoko and Ami. Nana had a basketball game so she couldn’t be there. Sachiko (Crazy Mama) came also and Akiko stopped by for a few minutes to say goodbye.

Ami Sugaya

Ami Sugaya

Etuko called Fumitaka’s mom and Satoshi’s mom and I got to talk to both of them. That was really nice. Lauren (my oldest daughter) called while I was there. It was so nice to talk to her! She was going to the carnival in Fort Bragg. I called Casey so that she could talk to Satoko, her mom, Nana’s mom and Ami. Nana’s mom cried.

Etuko and Ami Sugaya

Etuko and Ami Sugaya

Casey said that talking to them was the best thing in the world.


Ami Sugoya and Satoko Kariya

Ami Sugaya and Satoko Kariya

There were a lot of people there and it seemed like people were enjoying themselves. It was a really hot but beautiful day. We sat at some picnic tables and visited for a long time. I asked Etuko-san and Machiko-san if there was just one thing that Fort Bragg could do for Otsuchi, what should it be. Machiko-san said, “The money is good, we need that. But this…” and here she gestured between us meaning this visit, “is better.” She said that she feels closer to the people of Fort Bragg and to the exchange program than ever before. It meant so much to me to hear her say that, I was moved.


Sumo wrestlers in OtsuchiAfter the festival we went to see a sumo wrestling exhibition over by the bath houses. As we walked up to the field there was a buzz of excitement. There was a very tall, huge wrestler at the entrance and he was surrounded by people wanting autographs. Ami explained that this man was very famous in Japan and that it was very exciting to meet him. So, we got his autograph and some pictures with him. He was not Japanese so I asked him where he was from…Estonia. Interesting note: He speaks five languages: Estonian, Russian, English, German, and Japanese.

There were wrestlers there from all over the world- Estonia, Russia, Japan. We got a few more autographs and also took some pictures with the former #1 wrestler in Japan. Etuko and Machiko giggled like schoolgirls to get their picture with him. It was so cute. Ito-san and Tobai-san were there.
Sumo wrestlers in Otsuchi
Etuko and Machiko
Sumo wrestlers in Otsuchi

Machiko and Etuko with the former champion sumo wrestler

Machiko and Etuko with the former champion sumo wrestler

Sumo wrestling champion in Otsuchi
Sumo wrestling champion in Otsuchi


There was a sumo wrestling show at 3pm with the current world champion sumo wrestler. It was inside a covered area with a dirt square and raised dirt platform in the center. We all went in and found a place to sit. The CBS crew was in the stands across from us. As soon as we got settled there was a flurry of activity around us and we were herded down onto the dirt to sit right in front of the raised platform. Satoko’s mom was explaining to me that these are called “sand in the face” seats and that it was an honor to sit there. Anton came over to mike me and said, “you’re not getting away with this one” and so Bob came to sit with us and we talked about the “sand in the face” seats and what an honor it was.

Champion sumo wrestler in OtsuchiThe wrestlers came out. There were three of them: The champion and two others. There was also another man who had some pieces of wood that he would bang together. They positioned themselves on three sides of the raised platform.Sumo wrestling champion in Otsuchi The champion came to the center. He squatted down and you could see his muscles quivering, He raised one leg and….BAM! He raised the other one…BAM! Then they left.

I looked at Bob and he looked at me and said, “is that it?” I looked across at the cameraman and he was laughing hysterically. It was hilarious. Not exactly newsworthy I guess, but everyone seemed to have a great time and they were excited to have seen him.

Sera SasakiWe saw Sera and her mom on the way out.

Ami, Satoko and I were standing on the road waiting for Satoko’s mom to pick us up and Ami looked at me and said, “stay.” It broke my heart. I wish I could. One of the CBS drivers has decided to stay in Otsuchi. He wants to volunteer and Ken-san hooked him up. I think that’s amazing.

Next, we met at our favorite restaurant: Lawson’s convenience store. We’ve eaten breakfast and lunch there every day. I had to say goodbye to Etuko-san, Machiko-san, Ami and Satoko there. It was very hard. I don’t want to leave.

Now that I’ve been crying, it’s time to go back to town center and interview with Bob. I always seem to have to interview right after having a good cry. I’m fairly certain that very little of it will make it onto the show though, so I’m not worried about it. It will be a 12 minute segment: 11 minutes of Ken-san and 1 minute of me crying. I’m good with that.

The Qin Jazz Bar Otsuchi

The Qin Jazz Bar

We did the interview at the jazz bar (what’s left of it). The past two days have been very hot and the stench is overwhelming. There are also flies everywhere. There is nothing worse than that smell. Nothing.


Now, it’s time to go. I said goodbye to Chris, Ron and Anton (the cameramen and sound guy). They had to drive down to Sendai because they can’t travel on the bullet train with all that equipment. It will be a grueling trip for them. I also had to say goodbye to Fuki, Masa and the other drivers. Masa said he would find me on Facebook. I’d given them all gifts at the hotel that morning so there was nothing left but to say goodbye.

So, with Hiroshi-san, Bob and Draggan I left Otsuchi.

OtsuchiThe drive through to Tono was very treacherous. It’s basically a one-lane, very winding road through the mountains. Beautiful, but my heart was in my throat the entire time. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get to Morioka.

As much as I didn’t want to leave, it was a relief to get on the Shinkansen (bullet train). Draggan wanted to buy a little toy Shinkansen for his son. He came back with it and Hiroshi-san leaned over and said, “you don’t want that. That’s a staple gun.” I said that was a great gift, his wife was going to really appreciate it when his son staples his little sister’s fingers together. Draggan said, “but it staples REALLY FAST!” We laughed so hard.

By the time we got to Tokyo Station it was about 11:30pm. Draggan and Hiroshi-san took one cab and Bob and I another. I got to my room at about 12:15am. They had given me a message at the front desk. It was from Ogihara-san, who had made a trip to bring supplies to Otsuchi with her daughter and son-in-law . I will be meeting her for tea tomorrow. She said she has some pictures for me.

We met in the hotel lobby at 11. She came with her mother. They were both very nice and we talked about both of our trips. Her son-in-law, Stephen Green, is from Mendocino. She told me that she is coming to Mendocino and will stay for 3 months. I’ll look forward to spending some time with her. It was great to meet her.

My taxi is here. I fell asleep almost immediately and slept all the way to the airport. I feel totally exhausted.

At the airport, I got something to eat, picked up a gift for each of my girls and exchanged my yen. Now, I’m on the plane waiting for takeoff. I’m anxious to get home but I’m so sad to leave. I wish I could have stayed longer.

This has been the most difficult but also the most incredible experience of my life and I will never forget it.

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Trip to Otsuchi: Day 5

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Today is my last day in Otsuchi. I can’t believe it. I really don’t want to go.

There’s a festival going on today and I know that Nana and Satoko’s moms, Satoko and Ami will be there so I hope I’ll get to go. I’m not sure what the schedule for filming is yet though.

Satoko and Hideaki Kariya

Satoko and Hideaki Kariya

This morning, we’re going down to the harbor where Bob will interview Satoko’s dad, Kariya-san. Satoko and her mom met us there.

A sightseeing boat washed ashore by a huge tsunami sits on top of a building in Otsuchi, Japan, on Monday, March 14.

The Hamayuri in Otsuchi

Kariya-san was the captain of the Hamayuri, the boat that was atop the hostel in the iconic image from the tsunami. We had our goodbye party on that boat in October. I never imagined then what was to happen just a few months later.

Hideaki Kariya, Captain of the Hamayuri

Hideaki Kariya, Captain of the Hamayuri

I think Satoko thought it was kind of funny that her dad was being interviewed for this big news show with all these people and cameras. It was a good interview, such an incredible situation that Kariya-san survived because of chance circumstances. If the boat would have been in Kamaishi, where it normally docks, Kariya-san would have been on it and he would have been killed. It happened to need maintenance that day and so was docked in Otsuchi.

Otsuchi harborI cannot get over the enormous mountains of debris down here. There are piles of fishing nets, pieces of boats. There are a couple of boats in the harbor but I can’t imagine that they can fish for anything as the water is contaminated. You can see across the bay to the area in front of the tsunami gates and there are even bigger piles of debris over there.

The flies are terrible. It’s hot again today and on the hot days the stench is overwhelming. A body washed up here this morning.
Otsuchi HarborOtsuchi HarborOtsuchi Harbor

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Trip to Otsuchi: Day 4, part 3

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Sera Sasaki

Sera Sasaki and I at Kiri-Kiri Elementary

Now it was time to meet Sera Sasaki at Kiri-Kiri Elementary School. She came with her mom and her sister. They were all so nice and it was wonderful to finally meet Sera. She has done so much for us. I really liked all of them. Sera’s mom cried.


Sera Sasaki

Sera and I presented the poems that Fort Bragg 5th graders had written. I read one of them, by Kate from Mr. K’s class and Sera translated it. It was beautiful. The kids were so cute. After we finished I introduced myself to all of them and shook their hands.

After we were done, the three of us were standing outside of the school and I told Sera and her family that I hoped they would come to Fort Bragg. I said that they couldn’t stay the whole time with Angela, that I wanted them to stay in my home too. Sera’s mom laughed and said, “I would invite you to stay at my home, but it’s destroyed!”

Now, I had to go with the news crew again. We drove back out to Kanezawa so that they could get some shots of the beautiful rice paddies there. It’s a gorgeous valley, mountains reflected in the rice fields. I walked around and took some pictures. It was nice to enjoy some quiet and peaceful scenery.

Ando, OtsuchiTime to go to Satoko’s house. On the way, we stopped down at the harbor. They wanted pictures of the island. I told them about the shrine and the lighthouse that used to be there. You can actually see how the land slopes down into the water and it is flooded where it wasn’t before.
Ando, OtsuchiAndo, Otsuchi

poppies at Kariya houseSatoko’s house is completely untouched! The tsunami came right up to the edge of their neighborhood. The only damage they had were 3 broken cups. On the deck were some poppies blooming in a pot. They were from the seeds that I’d given to Machiko in October.

The crew came in and talked with the family without filming for a while. They really like the Kariya family and are very interested in Satoko’s dad, as the captain of the Hamayuri. They did film for a little while then left Fuki and Masa with me which was nice because Masa translated.

The entire family is lucky to be alive. It’s only by chance circumstances in every case that they survived. Satoko’s mom had been in Kamaishi working on March 11th. After the quake, she was stuck there for 2 days, then she was able to get as far as Tono by car but from there had to crawl and climb through the rubble to get home. It was wet and slippery, very frightening for her. What is normally a 30-minute drive took her 4 hours.

Satoko’s dad was on the Hamayuri when the earthquake hit. The boat is normally docked in Kamaishi, but it was in Otsuchi for maintenance that day. If it had been in Kamaishi, he would have been killed.

Satoko was at home because it was a half day. If not, she would have been walking home from school at that time. Her grandma and grandpa were also at home. Satoko saw people walking and standing on the sea wall after the first tsunami. They wanted to watch. When the second tsunami came, she watched the wall of water wash them away. I cannot imagine the effect this has had and will continue to have on her.

Her grandpa became ill from the shock of the tsunami and they were unable to find a hospital or doctor to treat him. He died 3 days later.

Kariya Family

The Kariya Family

Nana, Etuko and Ami came over later. It was amazing to see all of them and I had a wonderful time. Machiko made us cup of noodles from the food bank. She laughed saying how awful they were but we all enjoyed it. I’d given her a dish towel when I was there in October and she’d put it under the glass top of their living room table. I was touched.
Kariya and Sugaya families

Kariya and Sugaya families

Machiko Kariya
Nana and Satoko

My exchange daughters, Nana and Satoko

Nana and Satoko want to learn English and find jobs that will take them to America. They also wish they could go to high school here.

When I left I hugged both the girls and Nana said, “my mom”. I love these girls so much. On the way home, Masa said that he could see how much we love each other, like family. He was actually choked up.

I don’t want to leave tomorrow.

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Trip to Otsuchi: Day 4, continued

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Kiri Michimata's house

Kiri Michimata's house

After saying goodbye to Ken-san, Sachiko and Akiko picked me up again. Akiko wanted to take me to her house and to Yamazaki-san’s house. Both are right near the train station. On the way there we passed Kiri-san’s house.

Akiko's houseAkiko’s niece Chiaki was on the last exchange. She lived with Akiko, for all intents and purposes Akiko is Chiaki’s mother. Akiko’s house is still standing, but totally ruined. Her mother’s room is the one on the far left. As we were walking through she said, “welcome to my home”. It was filled with debris. One of Chiaki’s shoes was on the floor. We came out to the back of the house where Chiaki’s room was. All that is left is the concrete foundation. Her room had been torn from the rest of the house and washed away. Akiko said that she had talked to Chiaki right after the earthquake and she’d said that she was ok. But after the tsunami came she never heard from her again. She said that she still believes that her mother and Chiaki will come back.
Akiko Yamazaki's house
Akiko Yamazaki

Chiaki's room

Chiaki's room

Chiaki Yamazaki

Katsutaro Yamazaki's house

Katsutaro Yamazaki's house

Next she showed me Yamazaki-san’s house, just on the other side of where the train station was. It’s a foundation and a pile of debris. She had set up a little shrine where the front door had been (the porch step was still there). On it were his cymbals, a small record player, his favorite food and drinks and some flowers. She said that she felt that he was watching us, watching me visit Otsuchi. Yamazaki-san's houseShe hopes that the exchange program will go on, to honor him. I told her how much we all loved him, how many lives he touched. There’d been a student from the UK who had contacted me on Facebook. He had known Yamazaki-san and wanted to know if he had survived. He had told me how much Yamazaki-san had meant to him, how he’d changed his life. I told Akiko about him and how he had friends all over the world.
Yamazaki-san's house
Yamazaki-san's house
Yamazaki-san's house
Yamazaki-san's house
Yamazaki-san's house

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Trip to Otsuchi: Day 4

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There are things that I’ve neglected to write about here because I’d talked about them with CBS filming. When I came to Otsuchi the first day and met Ken-san, we stood at the railing overlooking the town and I asked him where he was on March 11th. He was in one of the education buildings on the harbor in Ando. After the quake, he saw the water retreating and thought, “a tsunami will come”. He drove to Ando Elementary School, about a 5 minute drive. He stayed there for 3 days. He was with his daughter and her cat. He was able to contact his wife and say, “I’m ok, are you ok?”

Jun and his mother were at the coffee shop when the quake hit. They fled up the hill through the cemetery. He said they watched the city burn all night.

Everyone has their story and they all seem anxious to tell them.

がんばろうがんばろう! Masa wrote this in my journal. There are flags throughout town that say this, along with “Never Give Up” in English. It says “ganbarou” which means “we do our best, we don’t give up”.

Bob Simon signing Ken-san's carThis morning Ken-san had his interview with Bob Simon. He had him sign his car. I’d signed it on the first day. It’s pretty amazing, totally covered with messages and signatures. Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko had visited recently and the Prince signed it.

Then Ken-san drove Chris (one of the cameramen) around town while blasting Let It Be by the Beatles. He took them through town and showed them where his home used to be.

Otsuchi cemeteryOtsuchiMeanwhile, Sachiko and Akiko met me. I’d been walking through the cemetery. Akiko showed me Yamazaki-san’s grave site where his wife is buried. She doesn’t know yet when his funeral will be. She also showed me her family site and the Abe family site.

Yamazaki-san's burial site

Yamazaki-san's burial site

Akiko's family site

Akiko's family site

Mariko-sanSachiko and Akiko took me to see Mariko-san (owner of the Kotobuki Hotel). She works in a little newspaper shop and lives upstairs. Her son is doing well but her mother is missing. She was very emotional and looks exhausted…no wonder. I told her that all of us who have stayed at her hotel have wonderful memories of her hospitality; the gorgeous breakfasts, the newspapers and photos for each of us every morning. I told her that we will never forget. She said that she cannot rebuild the hotel. The building is dangerous and she said that she can’t run it alone, without her mother.

MarikoThey gave me a banner that they’d made from a tarp. Sachiko had painted “Thank You” on it and everyone had signed it. I’d like to present it at the next city council meeting.Thank you banner from

Sachiko gave me a bag with magazines in it. The magazines are pictures of the quake and tsunami damage. Mariko gave me a calendar from her shop. She showed me a picture from 2006 that she’d somehow saved.

Otsuchi friends
2006 Otsuchi visit

Akiko was telling me how when the tsunami was coming people were walking, not running and that many people stayed in their homes. I asked if it was that they thought the sea wall and tsunami gate would keep them safe and she said yes. She said that there had been another tsunami in the past that was smaller. They thought it would be like that.

Ken SasakiNow, it’s time to say goodbye to Ken-san so we went back to the hill above the cemetery. He had to go to his cousin’s funeral. It was hard to say goodbye but I know I’ll see him again. As much as he talks about coming to Fort Bragg, I feel that when I see Ken-san it will be in Otsuchi.

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