Japanese mothers sell origami birds in Hampstead for tsunami fundraising appeal

A JAPANESE woman whose hometown was obliterated by the tsunami has joined a group of ex-pat mothers living in Hampstead to fundraise for the Red Cross.

Hiroko Wilson, who has lived in Hampstead for a year, grew up in the coastal town of Minamisanriku which was destroyed by the tsunami on March 11.

Up to 10,000 people are still missing after a wall of water poured through the town and swept up buildings, cars and people.

It was not until three days after the tsunami struck that Ms Wilson learned that her parents and brother were alive. They escaped by fleeing to a shelter on a hilltop and are currently living in a leisure centre.

“It’s very hard,” she told the Ham&High. “The town where I grew up has been destroyed.

“People are experiencing real difficulties but they are trying to re-build their lives again. The earthquake was huge but it did not directly affect the area. The houses were all right. It was the tsunami which destroyed the houses.

“I think people are very shocked but they are trying their best. If we can send money to Japan they might be able to use it to help people.”

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She has joined with several Japanese mothers living in Hampstead and the group is raising money for victims of the disaster, which happened when the most powerful earthquake in the country’s history triggered a tsunami which caused destruction across north eastern Japan.

The mothers have been selling cakes and origami birds in the playground of Hampstead Hill School which their children attend.

Up to 9,000 people died in the disaster, with a further 12,645 either injured or missing. In addition, 350,000 been made homeless.

Watching the footage of the earthquake, tsunami and then news of explosions and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was also harrowing for Hampstead resident Noriko Miichi, whose family live in Urayasu-shi, Chiba.

It is a five minute walk from the Tokyo Disney Ride and 20 minutes from Toyko – which was not badly affected by the earthquake – but Ms Miichi says the conditions for people living there are basic.

The sewage systems are not functioning, so people cannot flush the toilet, or take baths and there is no gas or electricity.

She told the Ham&High: “It’s 20 minutes from Tokyo, but you still can’t get electricity or gas. You can’t use water or have a bath because the underground water system is not working.

“Houses are leaning and roads are broken. The whole area is sinking and there are sandstorms, so if people go outside they have to wear a face mask.”

Roca Kimura is also helping to raise money for the appeal and joined her Japanese ex-pat friends on Monday. They have already raised �600 and today (Thursday), the women are due to hold a cake sale.

Ms Kimura told the Ham&High that she had been moved by the kindness shown by the Hampstead community since tragedy struck.

“I think British people are very kind,” she said. “They have tried to show their sorrow and many people have come up to me to say they are very sorry about what has happened.

“Even the Queen has sent her condolences to the Japanese people.”

Children at Hampstead Hill School raised �1,745 for the earthquake appeal by holding a sponsored pyjama day last Friday. Of the 300 children who attend the pre-prep and nursery, 20 are Japanese.

o For more information on how to make a donation to the Red Cross visit: www.redcross.org.uk/Donate-Now?single=1.