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    Posted April 27, 2011 by
    Osaka, Japan
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Recovery in Japan: After the earthquake

    dperrin and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Earthquake strikes Japan

    Innovative ways to help Japan


    After seeing the devastation caused by the March-11 earthquake and tsunami, many people around Japan tried to find a way to help. This is not as easy as it may seem.


    Unless you have special skills useful in disaster situations (such as first aid, psychological support, or even a truck driving license), changes are that, in the first phase after the disaster, you would me more of a burden (as well as a drain on limited supplies) than anything else.


    There is a time for volunteering, but there also is a time for alternative ways to help the population. It is all about being as useful as possible, and a number of innovative efforts have taken place since mid-March.


    YouTube user "Gimmeabreakman" has initiated a collaborative project called "頑張れ日本!" ("Ganbare Nippon!", or "Stay strong, Japan!"). Hundreds of messages have been submitted from over the world, and the resulting video went live on April 25th. Two days later, it has already accumulated over 4,000 views. It is sure to give some much needed hope to Eastern Japan.


    Further South, Kobe resident Kevin O'Shea is running to raise funds for Save the Children's Japan Disaster Relief.
    He is currently training for a homemade 60-kilometer ultramarathon scheduled to take place in June. To date, his efforts have already raised over $1700 for the charity. This is likely to further increase as his run approaches, but he is not going to stop there. He recently announced that his upcoming participation in the first Osaka marathon (October 30th) will also be used to raise funds.


    A side effect of the March-11 events is the dramatic drop in foreign tourists coming to visit the country. This is understandable for areas affected by the tsunami. To a lesser extent, one could imagine why some people decide to avoid Tokyo's power limitations. There is, however, absolutely no reason not to visit Western Japan, including beautiful regions such as Kansai (Kyoto, Nara, etc.), Shikoku, Kyushu…


    The impact of this drop in tourism on the national economy is likely to be significant, and this needs to be addressed.


    I am trying to do my part, while fundraising at the same time, through an initiative called "Project Biwa".


    In short, it is a three-day bicycle loop around Lake Biwa (the largest freshwater lake in Japan, not too far from Kyoto), to document the beauty of the region. The idea is that, if this can bring a few tourists back to Japan, the impact will be greater than any donation I could afford to make.


    The best photos from this trip will be put together in a book, for which proceeds will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.


    While I train for this loop (approximately 300 kilometers from home and back), a fundraiser page is up online, and has already received over $700.


    Regular updates on this project are posted online.
    Website: http://dimitrislens.blogspot.com/search/label/Project%20Biwa
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/project.biwa

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