Sunday, 20 March 2011

What we aim to do

Hiroshi Yamamoto, 34, from Kobe and I (Adam Isfendiyar, 31, from London, England), travelled up to the Tohoku area of Japan this weekend to see if there is any way that acupuncture could help the survivors of last weeks earthquake and subsequent Tsunami.


Pics: Me, in Sendai  before  the tsunami, and Hiroshi, in Nishinomiya - his hometown.

We have both trained as acupuncturists - me in London (University of Westminster - 3 years degree), and having been studying with other teachers in China and Japan since then. Hiroshi, studied at the Kobe Acupuncture school for 3 years, and now has his own clinic in Nishinomiya (a city in between Osaka and Kobe).

Hiroshi was involved in the rescue of many survivors of the Hanshin earthquake that occured in Kobe in 1995, so this recent disaster is an issue close to his and many other Kobe residents hearts.

Hiroshi and I, after travelling up to Tohoku, saw that there is a need for the help that we believe that acupuncture can provide. It is a very cost effective way of offering some degree of medical assistance and support to survivors of the Tsunami. We require few materials, and what materials we do need are inexpensive. What we need money for is for travel (from the Hyogo area to Tohoku), supplies (acupuncture supplies such as needles and moxa etc.), and the financial ability to support ourselves whilst doing it i.e. daily expenses such as food.

The plan is that donations will pay for Hiroshi, I and other volunteers to be able to travel up to the evacuation camp that we recently visited, and other camps in the Tohoku area (of which there are now over 2300), and to provide long term access to acupuncture, moxibustion and massage treatment, as it is not something that will be effective as a one off treatment. Treatments need to continue over an extended period of time.

We will focus on a few camps, and document them on this blog, so you will be able to see exactly where your money is going. Should we receive enough money, we will recruit more willing practitioners/volunteers, and send them up to affected areas to offer their assistance in whichever areas we think necessary.

Hiroshi is hoping to relocate to Miyagi, so that he can offer sustained and ongoing assistance to the survivors in a number of evacuation camps. I too would like to help in a more hands on way, but there are legal restrictions in that I don`t have a licence to practice acupuncture in Japan, and I have to work in Tokyo, but I will regularly visit the camps, and stay in constant communication with the volunteers.

Another reason that we need to stay for a prolonged period of time in these camps, is that when we visited the Higashi Matsushima camp last weekend, many people seemed to be reluctant to ask for help. I believe this could be a cultural issue in part (people not wanting to cause a fuss), and also partly due to the fact that so much had happened in the last week, that most people didn`t think it quite right to put their aches and pains before all the heartache that had happened over the last week, so not many people came forward for treatment, and we spent a lot of time just talking to people. Often this would eventually lead to them explaining about a particular medical issue that they had, that could be eased with acupuncture.

I think that acupuncture can offer something in a situation like this that the medical profession can`t - something a bit more personal and comforting. Doctors are absolutely essential in a situation like this, and are the front line of medicine, but acupuncture is something that if used over a sustained period of time can be very helpful in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of survivors of the tsunami.

This is an extract from an email from an experienced German acupuncturist Thomas Blazjewicz, who lives and practices in Japan that sums up the current situation and need for acupuncture quite well:

`There are countless people, subject to TRIAGE (!), sleeping on the floor with one thin blanket, no heating (it is currently snowing there and temperatures 
are scheduled to fall to -5 degrees) , very little if any water or food, that are NOT ELIGIBLE to receive medical attention. 
There are simply not enough people who could offer such help.
And the system of western medical care, as brilliant as it is, breaks down in this situation, because it strongly relies on complex technology
(most of which depends on electricity = currently not available) or expensive, highly specialized medication = not available. 

Acupuncture cannot cure many (most) of the conditions currently prevailing, including HYPOTHERMIA, but you can provide at least some 
help as long as you have a handful of needles (if they run out use shiatsu) and your own manpower.
And God knows: those people NEED this help. (already 23 died in the shelters ....) 
Maybe I find my way up there, when roads are opened again for other then military personel ..`

At the moment there is a lot of bureaucracy in trying to organise groups to go and help. There does need to be some orgnisation in the chaos, but also some initiative in the bureaucracy. People up there need help, and they need it now. If we have the financial support to do so we can get up there and start helping straight away.

There is also a need for volunteers of other kinds in some of the evacuation camps. In particular, the survivors are lacking in entertainment. Some of the children have toys, but there are few books or pastimes for the adults. Most people will be spending 24hours in a camp with nothing to do, so if we can receive enough help, we would also like to assist with providing some different forms of entertainment, including small shows, musical acts, art classes, sports games/lessons. Hiroshi has a background in martial arts, so he will also give classes to any interested people in the camps. As Spring is approaching there could also be the possibility of providing trips and outdoor activities, to add a bit of fun to what is a serious situation.

If you would like to help to fund our project, please feel free to ask me any questions either on this blog page or by email - Donations can be made via the Global Nomadic website, this is an organisation owned by my friend Jeremy Freedman, who has offered to help with getting this project off the ground, any Paypal payments can be made on the Paypal account, and should be sent to, putting in the notes section that it is for JETAP, he will then forward the funds to our project. His website can be found at If it is easier for you to donate to a bank account in the UK, I can provide you with my bank details.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thanks for your help.

Adam and Hiroshi


At 4 April 2011 at 09:57 , Blogger TCM-Sozialforum - Chinesische Medizin ├╝ber Grenzen e.V. said...

Hello Adam and Hiroshi,

good job that you're doing! My greatest respect!
We try to support you in any way!

TCM Social Forum


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