‘Azumare’ means ‘let’s get together’ in Japanese and that is exactly what the senior citizens, and not so senior members of the community have been doing at the Azumare Tea Salon in north-east Japan.
The popular meeting place in the tsunami-affected town of Minami Sanriku is open daily and hosts around 100 people per day, providing an informal, relaxing space for survivors to gather, share their stories and provide support to each other.
Mr Abe, who resides in a nearby temporary house close to the tea salon, said “I come to this tea salon everyday and enjoy talking with neighbours here. If I don’t come here, the day would feel longer.”
Mr Abe, originally from the Hosoura area in Minami Sanriku, is a ‘tsunami veteran’ having experienced three in his lifetime, first in 1933, then 1960 and the 11 March event.
"After we had the large earthquake and tsunami in 1896 people relocated their houses to higher areas. However, as time passed by, people gradually relocate their houses in the areas closer to the ocean little-by-little. We often forget the experience of our ancestors. We are taught that we should run to a higher place, not away when tsunami happens."
The Social Welfare Council of Minami Sanriku operates the tea salon. World Vision, companies and volunteer groups contribute items to assist with the running of the salon. World Vision provides items such as tea, coffee, cups and refreshments as part of its Community Development project. The project aims to encourage people living in temporary housing to interact with their new neighbours and reconnect with former neighbours.
Even though the space was created with elderly people in mind, a small space with children’s books has been set up, so that when younger members of the community visit, they too have a place to visit. Often, young people will sit with their elders to hear stories from the past or have a book read to them.
Story by Andrea Swinburne-Jones - Communications Officer (World Vision Australia)