Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We hope for your continued support this year…

Happy New Year! How have you been so far this new year? I pray that each day has found you safe and happy.

Recently, I received a call from a Japanese friend living in France. My friend asked me, “What’s Japan like these days?” So, I shared my personal thoughts and impressions.   
“I feel that people these days are stressed. They always seem to be rushing around. I feel that in Japan there is no longer a sense of calm at home or at work.” “Few children go outside to run around and play like in the old days. Instead, many of them stay at home doing things like playing games on their cellphones.”  “Crime and kidnappings have increased. It’s no longer safe for children to play alone outside. Also, many kids have to study until late at cram schools. Kids today seem very busy, and I feel sorry for them.” “Young people these days earn lower incomes and are having a difficult time.” “Unemployment has also increased.” “The government collects taxes and medical expenses and all sorts of things from us citizens, leaving less and less for living expenses. However, prices remain high and it’s a problem for everyone.” “Japan is a scarier place these days. The number of murders has increased, and it seems that some are willing to kill for trivial reasons.” “You hear people talking about traditional ‘Yamato Nadeshiko’ women and saying that Japan is the ‘country of the samurai’, however that was the Japan of long ago. Today’s women are stronger, but at the same time men seem to have become weaker.” “Japan has changed.” I won’t say whether the Japan of long ago was better or worse than now. However, I think we might benefit from standing back and comparing the two Japans – the Japan of long ago and the one we have today – and thinking about their good points.

“Aim to be Beautiful at Heart”

On the evening of January 3rd (2017), I saw a program called “Time to say whether you Like it or Hate it” on TV. The show interested me, so I began watching. Suddenly, the topic switched to “A Debate between Beautiful and Unattractive Girls”. The show started referring to the girls as “Beautiful and Ugly”. The beautiful girls would criticize the ugly ones, then the ugly girls would criticize the beautiful ones. The beautiful girls would brag about themselves and criticize the ugly girls, then the ugly girls would shout back in frustration. Sometimes the program’s announcer would laugh and egg them on.
Watching this show made me sad. Why is a round, fat face considered ugly? Is beauty defined simply as slim and skinny? When someone judges others simply based on their outward appearances, pretentiously calling themselves beautiful while coldly declaring someone else a failure as a person and looking down on them because of their appearance – can such a person really be described as a “beautiful person”? Conversely, what about those who are sad because they were born fat, feel bitter towards their parents because of this, have low self-esteem and are convinced they are doomed to unhappiness?
Do overweight people have to be unhappy? I generally sense warmth and tolerance from them and I think of them with respect.
Why don’t people focus on being “beautiful at heart” instead?
There are old sayings that go: “Your face in your 40’s reflects how you lived your 30’s” and “You make the sort of face you will have in your 50’s while you’re still in your 40’s”. Also, “Your 50’s will define the face you have in your 60’s”. In other words, you are the one who has made the face you currently have. The sort of life you live influences your expression and the type of face you have.  
It’s definitely the case that warm and generous people usually have kind faces. Children find this sort of person easy to approach. Someone who is kind and always sees the good in people has a pure and beautiful face. Even if they are a wrinkled old woman, I think they are beautiful. There is a saying: “Your thoughts become your reality”. Also: “Words have power”.  
Our words and your words. Our thoughts and your thoughts. Just as a single ripple on a lake gives birth to more waves that spread out over the surface of the water, washing away impurities and making it beautiful, in this same way my kind thoughts and your thoughts – and the words we say - can multiply and spread out across Japan and the whole world and make them beautiful again. Don’t you think? Let’s all try to become “beautiful at heart” together. Why don’t you join us and try to make your face a warm and happy one too?

“The current situation of those affected by the Fukushima disaster”   

I will tell you about the current situation of the people from the Fukushima disaster-affected areas.

(A disaster-affected person from the Odaku neighborhood of Minami Souma)

“One third of those who were living in the temporary housing units have returned to their homes in Odaku. Those of us remain behind in the temporary housing are short on building materials. Workers have been taken up by other projects, so those from Fukushima have been put off until later and we can’t build our houses. But we can only live in the temporary housing until the end of March. They say that the government will demolish the houses after that. However, we have nowhere to go. We have no prospects. What should we do?”

(A disaster-affected person from the town of Naraha)

The people of Naraha are able to stay in their temporary housing until 2018.  Only 10% of those from Naraha have returned to their homes. Even those who have already rebuilt their homes have moved back to the temporary housing. The reason for this is that there are no stores or supermarkets over there yet. However, there are plans to build a supermarket in the spring. Right now, the town of Naraha is full of workers during the day, but nobody stays there overnight, so it’s pitch black.  

(A disaster-affected person from the town of Miyakoji)

“The temporary housing will be gone at the end of March, but those living outside of the 20km zone aren’t getting any money to rebuild their houses. We don’t know what to do. Our houses are still in the same condition they were when they were destroyed on March 11th.  Those of us from Miyakoji received a one-time payment of 300,000 yen (about $2,600 US), but we haven’t received anything else since.  A while back I filed some applications and was told that those moving out of the temporary housing would receive 50,000 yen (about $435 US). We were also told that those who aren’t returning to their homes will have to look for a new place to live on their own. Tamura City City Hall won’t do anything for us. The citizens of Miyakoji don’t have anywhere to go and they don’t know what to do. However, I felt that I had to take action, so I contacted a lawyer. The compensation case has already begun. We don’t have anyone that can be in charge of this full time, so the chairman has to take off from work (this affects his income). He is expending time and energy working together with the lawyer and preparing for the court case (he also has to pay his own travel and other expenses).  

【Please help provide support】
I ask for all of you to please continue your support. Please help provide support for the disaster-affected people of the town of Miyakoji, who are not receiving government payments to rebuild their homes and have no source of funds. The cold days will continue for a bit longer so, dear readers, please take good care of yourselves and watch your health. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all of your help.

【Contact information】
Momoko Fukuoka
Mobile:  f.mom.1941@ezweb.ne.jp      080-5547-8675
Fax:  047-346-8675

(I would like to request that calls be made between 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM
local time in Japan.  Depending on my health, it may take some time for me to respond. If this happens, please try calling back again.)

Translation: Karen Carina Rogers

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