The meeting was at the home of the team's oldest member,
75-year-old Betty Hirata.
"…have you eaten yet? Are you in a hurry to go (laughter)?
What I mean to say is can we eat or do you want to speak?"
We do both…as we speak about the upcoming trip and eat a lunch
of sandwiches, chips and soda. Hirata says she's eager to leave for
Japan and get to work.
"I'm not a young chick. But I've handled tools and I'm strong
and healthy and so I figured 'I think I can do it…I will
Hirata is going with five other team members. On this day, the
team is meeting about packing the right gear for the 13-day
"Today we'll be kind of making sure that we all have enough
warm clothes. The weather is much colder there now."
That's team leader Yuri Kimura.
All of the team members belong to the Sacramento Japanese
United Methodist Church on Franklin Boulevard. The church offered
to send volunteers right after the tsunami. But eight months passed
before their offer was accepted.
Kimura speaks Japanese and has been in contact with the Tohoku Disaster Center
in Japan - the group
organizing relief efforts.
"When I last spoke with them they had been doing continued
outdoor work despite the cold weather. They're doing some painting
of some cottages. They were working on an individual's home to
still continue to clean the tsunami debris and dirt off of one of
With all that
cleaning and light construction work, Kimura expects each day to be
a challenge - and not just physically…
"I anticipate as I translate for the team and talk to
individuals about what they experienced, what they felt, how their
recovery has been I think that will be the most emotionally
challenging for me."
That emotional challenge for Kimura and the rest of the team
began last March when news of the tsunami was first
CNN report on tsunami...Male Anchor: "We're
watching a live tsunami hit Japan. If you're watching us from
around the world here on CNN, that is what you're watching…
"Seeing trucks and boats and things just wash along…you know,
from the ocean…it was unreal. I was just in shock for quite a
Team member Mary Nakamura…
"And at some point I just, I couldn't really watch it too much
because it was just flooding all sorts of emotions just seeing the
images and seeing how devastating it was and how helpless many
people were because of the natural disaster."
Team leader Kimura says she first got word of the disaster
from a friend's text message.
"My parents live in Tokyo and I have some friends and family
in Japan and (my) definitely immediate concern for their
Kimura says she's familiar with the region hit by the
tsunami…having traveled there four years earlier.
"To wonder what had happened to some of those towns and the
people that we had encountered on our journey, it was…I think the
hardest thing was staring at the TV and not being able to do
anything. And so I'm glad to be able to go and help and to see with
my own eyes the recovery and to remind people that we have not
For 75 year old Betty Hirata, the motivation to help tsunami
victims, in the middle of Japan's bitter winter, is rooted in her
"To think that something like this has happened to our
ancestor's country, it was very hard to see it on TV. So, I'm all
ready. It's going to be cold but I've got all my gears
When Hirata and the other team members return home, they'll
share stories and photos of their time in Japan at an event on March 11th
- the one-year anniversary of the disaster.