On March 11 of this year, Japan marked eight years since the Great East East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami leveled much of the Tohoku region. It was the most powerful quake ever recorded in Japan and one of the largest ever seen across the globe in recent history. The tsunami it created reached waves up to 40 meters in height in the town of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture and traveled up to 10 kilometers inland in the Sendai area in Miyagi Prefecture.
The Japanese National Police Agency officially reports 15,897 deaths, 6,157 injured with 2,533 people listed as missing across 20 prefectures. Over 200,000 people who survived the initial devastation were — and still are — displaced. Many of them sheltered in temporary housing or have permanently relocated.
Even though much of the visible debris from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident of March 2011 has been cleared away, there are still many children and their families suffering in the Tohoku region. Whole family units, neighborhoods and entire communities were devastated by the event.
I have never handcycled, nor have I been to Japan. This will be one of the biggest adventures I have taken on in my life. ~Josh Stinton
On that same day this year, Josh Stinton started a projected 22-day challenge to handcycle — that is to power himself by bike using only his hands — the entire length of the country. Stinton is a 37-year-old American expat who did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Macquarie University in Australia and now calls Norway home. His over 2,000-kilometer trip would see him propel himself by hand from Cape Sata on the southern tip of Kyushu up to Cape Soya in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost point.
The reason for the challenge? To share the inspiring stories of resilience shown by the Japanese people during the country's many natural disasters (since then, Japan has also been struck by earthquakes in Kumamoto, Osaka and Hokkaido; torrential summer rain and flooding in the western region and a killer heatwave last summer).
Knowing that many families are still in need of relief, he decided to raise awareness for a small Japanese-based group: the Allied Psychotherapy Relief Initiative for the Children of Tohoku (APRICOT) charity. His hope was to meet families along the way and visit towns that are still recovering, share their stories of resilience, strength and courage all while raising donations to APRICOT Children — with 100% of all financial aid raised during the trip going to families who need it.
Before his trip began, Stinton said, “The reason I have taken this challenge on is to raise funds for Apricot Children as they are doing incredible work helping children recover from the mental impacts of Japan's many and frequent natural disasters.”
On April 1, Stinton succeeded in his challenge. He completed the over 2,100 journey (actual kilometers cycled) within his projected 22-day time frame — handcycling 140 kilometers per day — raising over U.S.$5,000 for the APRICOT Children fund.
"I did it! After two years of planning and 22 days of riding I am proud to say that I am the first person to cross the entire length of Japan on a handcycle!” ~Josh Stinton
“This challenge was hard,” he said upon completion, “but nothing compared to what many children around this country have endured. Thank you for helping me help them. Donations can be made at www.apricotchildren.org and 100% of the funds go directly to the charity. Thank you for following my journey across Japan.”
After completing the challenge, Andrew Grimes, APRICOT Children founder and director, said: “All of us in the all-volunteer APRICOT Children charity are delighted by Josh Stinton's amazing success at achieving the goal he set for himself to hand-cycle the entire length of Japan.” He went on to add that “Josh's triumph is a great inspiration to our growing number of private individuals and small group of friends — both across Japan and across the world — who have kindly volunteered their time to become ‘Apricot Children Ambassadors.’”
With his handcycle journey finished, Stinton and Grimes are still working to do more.
The small APRICOT Children charity is still seeking donations to help the ongoing efforts of Japan’s mental health professionals who work in Tohoku to provide counseling relief services for the many children who have been affected by the triple disasters. The mission is to keep raising awareness and funding so these children and their families can receive the long-term mental health care they will need to ensure Tohoku recovers.
To read more about Josh Stinton and his journey, visit his Outspire website.
To donate directly to the APRICOT Children charity please visit the APRICOT Children “Healthcare for the Tsunami Children” page.
If you would like to join the “Apricot Children Ambassadors,” please write to Andrew Grimes (email@example.com) to support the Apricot Children organization working in the Tohoku region and elsewhere in Japan wherever catastrophes have occurred and in whatever place they may happen next.© Japan Today