CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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When people really need a break

KOBE (UCAN): While it may not be payback time in Kobe in Japan, people still remember the shock and uncertainty of life in the wake of the 17 January 1995 earthquake that practically destroyed the whole city, and especially how important the helping hands that reached out to them were.

So this summer, 11 parishes in the city invited people from radiation threatened Fukushima to come and spend a bit of time at the seaside with them.

Their guests were mostly mothers and children, who explained that they really did enjoy the opportunity to play freely in the open air and especially swim in the sea, which they cannot do at home.

Between August 2 and 5, some 23 young people, 10 mothers and two sisters were hosted by 75 local children and families in Kobe for four days of fun and frolic at the seaside.

The invitation is the brainchild of a priest from Kobe, who noticed how parents were reluctant to allow their children to play outside because of the fear of radiation during a recent visit to Fukushima.

Kazuyoshi Kakoi, from Kitasuma parish in Kobe, said, “My own house partially collapsed in the earthquake 17 years ago. Even though my lifelines were cut, I still had to raise a child who had been born only 10 days before. That’s why I wished I could go up and spend a year or so helping those in the Tohoku disaster area personally; but I couldn’t take the time off work, so it never happened.”

Naoto Hashimoto, from Chuo parish, was 16 at the time of the Kobe earthquake.

“At the time, I needed help from other people. So I constantly felt the desire to go and do something for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” she said.

A mother from Fukushima, Junko Sato, commented, “I was truly happy watching the children playing so energetically in the outdoors and in the sea.

“I was finally able to step back and think objectively about Fukushima and about myself—how the invisible radiation had made me unnecessarily nervous and how I had been living with a fear I couldn’t fathom.”

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