Search for property

Searching for a new workshop location

What was the next step after you decided to move forward with rebuilding?

We couldn’t build the workshop right away, so we figured we should just find a place we could all gather first.

Because we had no more workshop, we had to suspend our trainees’ activities for early April.

And we would visit our trainees’ homes, or everyone would gather in the park. We staff sometimes had meetings on the benches outside the supermarket.

We had to find a temporary place to get together, so we started looking around, but our problem was we didn’t have the funds to rent a place.

We petitioned the city government, and for a short period from around April 17th to the end of May, we were able to borrow one room in the disabled welfare center. We used the mornings to get everyone together for activities, and in the afternoons we searched for new locations and went around greeting people.

By April, our business partner from Arahama had already resumed their business. That company had also suffered major damages from the tsunami, but even in those circumstances they reached out to us, so we staff and trainees volunteered to gather up the company’s equipment that had been washed away by the tsunami and was covered in mud, and wash it with a pressure washer.

After that we also started preparing for activities at the workshop, wondering if maybe we could make crafts or find something else to do. We were really grateful we were able to continue our relationship with our business partners even though our workshop was destroyed.

The prejudice barrier and property hunting with trainees

We were only able to borrow the room in the disabled welfare center until the end of May, so we were also property hunting alongside our activities. Our trainees seemed to notice how hard the staff were working to prepare to rebuild, and they asked us of their own accord if there was anything they could do. And so we thought of something they could do that wouldn’t be too burdensome, and asked them to search for properties.

But during the property search process, they repeatedly heard prejudiced statements about disabled people.

Unfortunately I think the real estate agents and property owners were worried there might be some sort of trouble with an organization for disabled people. We hadn’t done anything to deserve such criticism and humiliation, so it was sad. I wished people would be more understanding of social welfare organizations.

When we went to see real estate agents with our trainees, they would refuse to rent to a facility for disabled people. Right in front of our trainees, they would say, “We could never rent to disabled people.” I don’t ever want to have such a sad experience again.

It was really hard until we secured our current property, but I think it was a really good thing that we did this along with our trainees.

We somehow found the Wakabayashi building we’re in now, and opened on June 7th. But our contract with the disabled welfare center was until the end of May, so we had to suspend our activities for the 6 days until our opening, although we felt bad for our trainees. They were understanding about this. During that time we did consult with them over the phone.

It’s because we worked together with our trainees until our reopening that we know the value of our workshop and of everyone who’s cheered us on. And because our trainees searched for properties with us during that process, they now feel like this workshop belongs to them.

Prejudice and understanding cooperation

What are your thoughts about your current activities?

We still have a long way to go. We’ve only just now established a basis for running our organization, including our activities.

We ended up at our current location with no other options, so we would like to look for our next base, but it’s quite difficult and there are a lot of issues. We faced prejudice against disabled people when we were looking for our current workshop, after all.

We found the building we’re in now through a real estate agent who was understanding of our organization, so we were grateful. We were introduced to this agent by a key person in the neighborhood we’re in now.

When I look back on it now, I realize we were accepted by our neighbors right away in Arahama where our previous workshop was located, and I’m really grateful for how kind those people were.

And so this time around I’ve realized how severe society’s judgment is. It’s sad to think our trainees face judgment like this every day.

Living in government-paid housing

So you were in the shelter until around May. Did you move into temporary housing after that?

I moved into a vacant house that was paid for by the government as temporary housing for disaster victims. I lived there with my family, about a 20 minute drive from my hometown.


Around how long did you live there?

Until September 2016, five years and four months. The house had been built a long time ago and no one was living there, so at first I had a hard time getting used to the environment, and it was quite hard because I couldn’t move around freely inside. But it was better than prefabricated temporary housing because it provided private space for our family, and we were grateful we were able to get it because all the apartments and such were full at the time.


Did someone from the city give you the information about this house?

A friend actually introduced it to me. We knew we couldn’t stay in the shelter forever, and my family really wanted to find a place to settle down soon. So although there were a lot of inconveniences and concerns for me because of my disabilities, we decided to move into the vacant house. There were lots of other vacant houses in this region, and disaster victims did live in them for some time, but the area is surrounded by mountains and has a lot of bugs like stink bugs, ladybugs, and centipedes, so a lot of people moved into prefabricated temporary housing. The house we lived in had also been vacant for six or seven years, so even if we cleaned it there were still a lot of bugs. But even so, we were grateful to have private space for our family and be able to live together as a family.