2 Years After the Tsunami: Iidate Lions Club

It took minutes for the tsunami and earthquake on March 11, 2011, to devastate Japan. Two years later, communities remain in tatters. Three Lions clubs were particularly devastated. This is the story of the Iidate Lions Club, where all 30 members of the club remain in evacuation facilities.


Thirty-five years ago, Sakae Akaishizawa opened a noodle shop in Iidate. The restaurant he built became an immensely popular community fixture. Then the tsunami rubbed out the restaurant in a flash. Akaishizawa was heartbroken. Making things worse were the required evacuations.

Iidate is a small farming village where life had always been calm and peaceful. Lions in Iidate considered themselves fortunate.

After the earthquake, Iidate accepted approximately 4,000 evacuees from the coastal area. But, heavy contamination with radiation from the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant forced everyone to leave.

Lions relocated far and wide. Three club officers kept in touch with the widely scattered members. Lions in Japan donated funds to the club, and Lions Clubs International waived dues. Somehow the club continued on.

According to the government, decontamination will be completed by March 2014. Akaishizawa wonders if his village will ever recover. Will only the elderly come back? Even if people return, the days of quiet farming in the village may never come again.

Yet there are spots of light in the darkness. Akaishizawa has reopened his noodle shop in a temporary building. Longtime customers travel great distances just for his signature “Kohaku” ramen, the rich noodle soup filled with crispy pork and piles of vegetables. When he sees his customers eating and chatting with one another, Akaishizawa can half-believe the days to come may equal the days that went before.

As time moves forward, so does recovery efforts in Japan and Lions’ efforts to aid their communities. Read the full story of all three Lions clubs online and in the upcoming May LION magazine.


Editor’s Note

Adapted from a story from the Japanese LION.

Lions Clubs International Foundation mobilized more than US$21 million for Japan relief efforts thanks to LCIF grants and donations from Lions worldwide. Among other projects, LCIF helped Lions provide equipment and supplies to support victims who were relocated to transitional housing; provide major medical equipment for hospitals, including a full-body radiation detection unit, ophthalmology equipment and an x-ray machine; and assistance for an economic revival project.

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