Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Natural Brown Sugar Project—From Okinawa’s Miyajima to the Northern Quake Victims

2HJ received an offer from the people of the “Tohoku he Tida no Megumi Wo! Project” (Sending Sunshine to Tohoku (the northern area)! Project) in late March of this year, to send natural brown sugar from Taramajima, Okinawa to aid victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This project purchases Taramajima natural brown sugar with donations collected in Miyajima and surrounding communities, and sends the sugar to people affected in the Tohoku region via aid volunteer groups. 2HJ helped out by breaking down the sugar and repackaged them with help of group volunteers from various schools and corporations,and sent them to Tohoku.

Message from Yuriko Taguchi, “Tohoku he Tida no Megumi wo!” Project Headquarters:

Whether on break from farm work and other hard labor, or enjoying a relaxing moment talking with friends, there’s always a piece of natural brown sugar close by. Its natural sweetness soothes our hearts, and minerals give us a healthy life. 
Seeing the disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the lives of the distraught victims on TV, day after day, greatly pained our hearts. But being in Okinawa, so far away from Tohoku, we felt hopeless in offering help. That is when one idea came to mind. 
We said, "Why not send natural brown sugar to the affected areas? We can call out for help from the people of Miyajima, Taramajima, and everyone that loves Okinawa. Let us purchase Taramajima natural brown sugar and send it to the victims!" 
Natural brown sugar is healthy and safe for everyone to eat: from babies to the elderly. It is soft to chew and easy to swallow and its natural sweet flavor is liked especially by the elderly. Its simple goodness soothes the heart. Moreover, it stores extremely well at room temperature, and is the ideal ingredient for soup kitchens because its purity makes it easy to cook with. With all it has to offer,  this sugar is something that the earthquake victims can surely use. 
From this idea began our project—to send Tamara natural brown sugar, made in one of only seven islands of all of Okinawa—something that Tamarajima is proud to be known for—to the people that can really use it. 
It was this strong will of our project advocates that attracted the great help of Miyako Seito Co. Ltd., producers of Tamara natural brown sugar. We purchased roughly one ton of sugar—about 10% was in bite-sized pieces, something that production on Taramajima can’t keep up with, and the remaining 90% was large 30-kilogram chunks. 
Recently, there has been an excess of Okinawan natural brown sugar held in stock. It is because of the slowing economy and the introduction of cheaper competition from abroad. We hoped that our project can help spread word about Tamara natural brown sugar, and also contribute to buying some of the stock. However, much of the stock comprised of large chunks made for commercial use. Seeing that the sugar we could buy was too large to send to Tohoku, we nearly abandoned the project. That is when Second Harvest Japan, an NPO and active supporter of the Tohoku quake victims offered to help. We were told “we [2HJ] have many volunteers that come [to our office in Tokyo] every day, so we will use hammers to break up the big chunks, and send them to the quake victims.” Since then, our project has received much attention and donations, far beyond what we initially imagined could be possible. 
Natural brown sugar is dear to the people of Okinawa. It is our gem. It supports the longevity that our culture is known for. It was precious nourishment for those hiding in bomb shelters during the Second World War. We feel gratitude for this opportunity to give back a little to Okinawa’s sugar cane industry, and gratitude for the chance to have our gem sent to the over 160,000 evacuees forced out of their homes by the quake. We also feel gratitude to everyone that helped make this project as large as it is. In closing, I wish to express our gratitude in my language of Miyajima. 

Tan Dei Gaatandei

Miyajima to 2HJ
Shipment departed for Tokyo on April 13

Local volunteer groups and Miyako Seito employees prepared roughly 1 ton of natural brown sugar to be sent to victims of the Tohoku quake. Photo courtesy of The Miyako Mainichi Shinbun

Natural Brown Sugar Wrapping Project
Many volunteer groups offered their time and effort to break up the sugar chunks, many weighing as much as 30 kilograms.

Yokohama Commercial High School (YCHS)
YCHS students, many from the GLOCAL-Y club, came and helped out! 

Eight 30-kilogram chunks (240 kilograms in total!!) were hammered in to small pieces. Each piece was then individually wrapped and enclosed with a message.

A big thanks to everyone at Yokohama Commercial High School!

Deutsche Schule Tokyo Yokohama (DSTY)
Each piece of sugar wrapped by the kids of DSTY was accompanied by a cute drawing and personal message. 

A big thanks to everyone at Deutsche Schule Tokyo Yokohama!

Danone Waters of Japan, Danone Japan and Kagawa Education Institute of Nutrition
Many volunteers from Danone Waters of Japan and Danone Japan came to the 2HJ office to help. Everybody worked smoothly. The goal of three boxes was finished quickly, thanks partly to the volunteers from the Kagawa Education Institute of Nutrition, who came earlier to prepare.

Message from the volunteers of Danone Waters Japan:
"The recent earthquake made us realize strongly that as a company in the business of water, we are also a part to the larger infrastructure of society. We will like to use this as a time to consider what we can do and what we must do as a part of our society. Volunteer work strengthened our teamwork and we all enjoyed working with the other volunteers. It was a great experience."

A big thanks to everyone at Danone Waters Japan and Kagawa Education Institute of Nutrition!

Sending Love, Hope, and Natural Brown Sugar to Tohoku
The natural brown sugar was sent to an evacuation center in Ofunato City in Iwate Prefecture. The gentle yet powerful sweetness of the natural brown sugar was very well popular received and everyone liked it.

Note: Part two of the Natural Brown Sugar Project will take place in June.

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