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Quake-hit areas stuck with huge amount of unwanted donated items

36 Comments

Local government officials in the disaster-stricken Tohoku areas are struggling to deal with the excessive amount of donated items, many of which are stockpiled in school gymnasiums and other temporary storage facilities. Officials said many items, such as winter clothes, blankets and heaters, are no longer needed, but donations are still coming in.

On Wednesday, authorities in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, decided to organize bazaars to sell some of the excess items and donate others to different charities in an attempt to ease the backlog. Out of approximately 10,000 boxes of donated goods, about a third are not needed, including around 8,000 children's knapsacks, officials said.

Similarly, a school in Ishinomaki received so many donated goods that officials were forced to decline further donations during Golden Week. After the March 11 disaster, a cold snap immediately followed, and that's why so many gas heaters and winter clothing were sent. Although the weather is now warmer, authorities said that futons and blankets will be needed once temporary housing has been built, but until that time, the school gymnasium can't hold any more items and there is a shortage of other storage locations in Ishinomaki.

A senior administrator said, "Items have been donated with the best of intentions, so we don't want to let them go to waste, but the administrative challenge has been huge. There are still a lot of people in need in other areas, and we need to get some of these items to those people."

In the town of Onagawa, a similar conclusion has resulted in the planned disposal of 8 tons of donated goods that are surplus to requirements. The town also plans to dispose of all future donations that are dirty or damaged. According to an Onagawa municipal official, "We have too many winter clothes. What evacuees need now are lighter clothes, washing detergent and other everyday items."

He called for donors to keep their eyes on the news and to continue to provide appropriate aid to meet the changing needs of affected areas.

© Compiled from news reports

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The weather is not warm yet. If it`s unwanted in Japan give it to Hati, Africa, or China. Seriously what are people thinking about.

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The government needs to keep it in storage for next (winter)year.

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or-a pair of scissors can turn many winter clothes into summer clothes!

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There is way too much stuff being donated. There is more than enough canned goods, water, clothes, etc. What the evacuees really need now is a place to live, a job, medical facilities and schools.

I've also heard that very little of the donated money has reached the evacuees, even two months on. And I still see people outside stations collecting donations. It's really frustrating. This stockpiling and delay in allocating money makes me not want to donate in future disasters.

I often wonder where the 10 billion yen that Masayoshi Son donated went. If I were him, I would personally oversee its disbursement to build a clinic, small school or something like that.

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smartacus at 09:52 AM JST - 6th May There is more than enough canned goods, water, clothes, etc.

What's your source for this? I don't doubt that there are sufficient canned goods and clothes, but I've heard from my friends in the areas that bottled water is still in relatively short supply, particularly those in the areas with radiation problems with their groundwater.

What the evacuees really need now is a place to live, a job, medical facilities and schools. I've also heard that very little of the donated money has reached the evacuees, even two months on. And I still see people outside stations collecting donations. It's really frustrating. This stockpiling and delay in allocating money makes me not want to donate in future disasters.

Yeah, but you don't just plop down schools, buildings and clinics like you're playing a sims game. Town planning, building permissions, power and water supply lines, etc. This sort of disaster is a phenomenal opportunity for these towns to rebuild intelligently, make better use of the space, build better buildings and build in a more planned manner.

Some people want to rush in and rebuild stuff RIGHT NOW, but honestly it's going to take half a year before they've really got the ball rolling so why not tack on an extra month of planning and get it right, because otherwise it's just a crying shame.

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It would have been helpful had the government and NPOs been more specific about what was/is needed as time went by.

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As much as I am sure their intensions were well meant, but this disaster was a good excuse for people to fill their 'motainai' needs and get rid of a lot of their old goods without having to pay for it to be picked up.

Speed - It would have been helpful had the government and NPOs been more specific about what was/is needed as time went by.

Actually, they have been. They mostly wanted money.

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Seriously what are people thinking about.

Nobody says it's not wanted, it's just too much stuff going to some places and not others. I'm sure there are plenty of places that need these items but someone has to store them, distribute them, etc. That's a lot of work and a lot of resources.

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Disillusioned: In all announcements, flyers, etc. I saw, they highlighted that they need new clothes, not used. Nobody was sending their old rags there.

For heaters, that might be the case that people sent used ones not necessary anymore in their households. There will be another winter and evacuees will need those heaters still, no matter where they stay.

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Just donate money.

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"Speed - It would have been helpful had the government and NPOs been more specific about what was/is needed as time went by.

Actually, they have been. They mostly wanted money."

But who wants to give money when we all know how money never seems to get to the people? It is always wasted away in administrative costs. I never give money unless I can give it directly to a person, not an organization. Also in the beginning we heard these people only had the clothes on their backs & 1 small glass of water and rice ball/day so it sounded like clothes, food, and water were their immediate needs that the government was not filling. Money was useless to the people since there were no stores to buy anything. They needed clothes and food so to say "this disaster was a good excuse for people to fill their 'motainai' needs and get rid of a lot of their old goods without having to pay for it to be picked up." is really way off base. Not everywhere in Japan has to pay to have their garbage picked up. I can throw things out for free where I live. So your conclusion is wrong. People gave because they cared and wanted to do something to help their fellow man not to selfishly unload their stuff on another person. Also a lot of the charities only took new things so many of the blankets and clothes are not unloaded garbage but something people went out and bought with their own hard earned money.

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With reports like this, people will be inclined to stop giving all together. I really think the wording of this article is hurtful to the people because it gives the impression that the people are not in need and are unappreciative, but I don`t think that is the true case. I think this is just a case of careless journalism. I think probably needs are still there but not for winter clothes and bedding. The organization I give to has stated this that they no longer collect clothing and bedding items. Now they just collect food, personal hygiene items and things to pass the time (games, books, craft supplies, etc.) but probably the "pass the time" collection will only be for 1-2 weeks since that supply will quickly be filled. But food and personal care items need to be regularly replenished. These run out quickly.

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A few days after the quake, my local city office was asking for blanket donations for Tohoku, when we went down there to donate, most of the blankets they were collecting were second hand, but they were very tidy ( I doubt Japanese people would donate stuff that wasn't). Whether the blankets donated were used or not, doesn't matter. Better that people donated more, than too few, staying warm was a high priority then, that was still rescue/emergency phase of this disaster, people were without warmth and food. We are now in recovery phase, completely different.

I get the feeling that a lot of commenter s on JT don't understand how aid donations work. This was an unforseen disaster that affected a large area. It takes time for money to get to people.

Frungy, Well said. Planning is so important.

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Also, there are things which are constantly in need, such as baby and elder people's diapers, hygiene products, etc. JEARS and other animal resque groups can always use pet food, cat litter, used pet cages and carriers, stuff like that.

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I visited Minato Shogakko in Ishinomaki again last week, and I can verify that they have and continue to received more donated goods than they can handle or store.

True, other areas are in need, so a bit of planning is required before goods are sent.

What is really needed by everyone now in the affected areas is cold hard cash. Rebuilding costs money and this is what is needed the most.

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Perishable food items can also be a burden. My breakfast today consisted of natto and bread two days past its expiration date, overflow from the disaster area. I either have to stuff my face with stale expired bread for the rest of the day or resolve to just throw the rest out. I'm sure there's still some need for the delivery of fresh free food, but otherwise stores are fully stocked again, and even supermarkets destroyed by the tsunami are now operating out of tents and trucks. Many people can just buy what they need (and what they actually want). I agree that money is what's really needed, as people have lost not only cars and homes but also jobs.

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There is more than enough canned goods, water, clothes, etc

As of today, May 6, Minami Sanriku needs water. If I someone called around the Hirota Peninsular I'm sure that they would find someone who says they need some cooler clothes. In some areas, people are moving back to their homes that have been cleaned and so they need futons. And there's not enough canned or fresh food. If you hear of a place that has too much then call the next one, because they won't.

But you should always call ahead before you donate things to the areas. What's needed today, might not be needed tomorrow. But if you hear that people in Miyagi/Fukushima have everything they need then try Iwate because they don't.

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The same thing happened after the Kobe quake. The first thing that was in oversupply was Onigiri (rice balls). They were stacked to the ceiling in convenience stores and other than bottled water that was pretty much all they had for a while.

The water was selling but not the rice balls. Everyone already had too many. For a while there was something like a O-chugen gift war going on. Everyone was giving their rice balls to someone else who would in turn rush off to give them to yet some other person who would do the same thing ad infinitum.

Later came the mountains of used clothing that nobody wanted. I went over to see what was on offer and found a mound of clothes in the street along a river that was about a meter high and a few hundred meters long. There were quite a few people looking at the pile but few were taking anything. I don't know what they finally did with it all.

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The big winners are the transport companies, it seems.

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In Australia there is a 'donation portal' (GIVIT.org.au) which connects those that wish to donate goods and services, with those that need them. Charities (on the GIVIT List) and Donors (in the Virtual Warehouse) will specify if they wish the item to be picked up or delivered. Once an item has been donated (virtually), the charity and donors details are exchanged and they then organise delivery. Perhaps that could work well in Japan and would alleviate stockpiles of 'unwanted' goods.

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If the situation in most areas are the same as Koriyama where I live, then fresh water and bottled water shouldnt be a problem any more. Our supermarkets here have nearly returned to normal as of about 2-3 weeks ago too. I do wish they had a list tho of what things are still needed for donations...

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i'm sure there are many poor countries out there who'd be more than happy to receive the excess donations.

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It's funny coz most people who give away stuff are usually trying to get rid of them. So it could be a problem. That's why donating cash is quite advisable.

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As much as I am sure their intensions were well meant, but this disaster was a good excuse for people to fill their 'motainai' needs and get rid of a lot of their old goods without having to pay for it to be picked up.

This is exactly right. I volunteer with a local organization that was taking donations on behalf of a partner organization in Miyagi, and it looked like a lot of the people emptied their attics and closets out and brought the contents over as-is. We weren't even accepting clothing donations, but people still brought bags of their ratty, worn out clothes. We accpeted blankets at first, but so many of the blankets received were unusable that we had to stop accepting them--our organization can't afford to pay the disposal costs for people's junk.

We did get mostly what we asked for, water and hygiene products etc., but the number of people who tried to use it as an opportunity to ditch their unwanted junk, and who became belligerent when we refused to take said junk, was astonishingly high.

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Yeah, just donate money!

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As far as I can tell, there isn't really a very strong tradition for receiving used clothing in Japan. It was like pulling teeth to find out a way to donate things like jumpers and jackets that I no longer needed, in the days after the quake. Hence the mountains of donated goods that nobody knows what to do with.

I’m genuinely surprised that after the Kobe quake, someone in Japan didn’t take it upon themselves to set up a system of non-profit used goods stores like the ones administered by the Salvation Army or Goodwill in the United States. Seems like a tragic waste. The closest thing Japan has to this sort of system that I’ve seen so far is the recycling program set up by Uniqlo in which it will receive unwanted Uniqlo clothing. The rub, of course, is that none of those clothes are destined for families in need within Japan. They’re all sent to charity networks in Southeast Asia.

It seems that the only way many Japanese are willing to wear something used is if it was procured at one of the ubiquitous "Recycle Shops," like Off House, that pay a pittance for used goods brought in, then turn around and resell them for 50~75% of full retail price. It also seems clothing goods to be found in used shops here are only of the brand name variety, which makes their utility in times of crisis and charity a bit impractical, if not impossible.

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@tokyokawasaki Seems the story's a little different at the middle school down the road.

There are still areas of need for many of these items. There's just no system in place to make sure that the right things get to where they're needed. That is the real problem here.

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brotherman@

just money:

yep exactly what I did. Don't know whose pocket it ends up lining but certainly know it is wanted and needed. Nonetheless, cheers for those who donated even unwanted items as it is the thought that counts

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LFRAgain

I’m genuinely surprised that after the Kobe quake, someone in Japan didn’t take it upon themselves to set up a system of non-profit used goods stores like the ones administered by the Salvation Army or Goodwill in the United States. Seems like a tragic waste.

The Salvation Army does have a used clothing store, as do quite a few other localized charities. The problem is disposing of the clothing that can't be sold. At Goodwill and other such stores in the US, they will accept any donation because clothing that can't be sold in the stores can go to rag-balers, etc. In Japan everything costs money to throw away, and charities have to be very careful about what they accept, because money spent on disposing of clothes is money that can't be used for charity work.

However, some cities will donate usable items put out on clothing disposal day. I know my city does.

I think people should change how they think about clothing as charity. If something is worn out and holey and you don't want to wear it anymore, chances are nobody else does, either. Consider buying and donating new clothing instead. If something is still wearable; consider holding off on replacing it and donating the money you save to charity. Don't think of charity as something you do to get rid of stuff you don't need; think of giving the recipients of charity what they need and want.

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sarahsuz25,

Thanks for the explanation. You make a very good point about the costs associated with throwing things away here. It can certainly cut into the bottom line of any organization. And I agree with you that donations should exclude items of clothing that are better suited to a garbage heap. But this isn't a case of people donating wrecked clothing. In in the case of the jackets I mentioned, there was nothing wrong with them; They were clean, in good condition, and I wanted to donate them because I realized there were people who needed them more than I did.

But there was no system in place in my area to donate them. At the donation collection area set up in my city after the quake, I saw scores of people turned away with near-new clothing because the officials didn't knwo what to do with it. The only things they were taking then were blankets, sanitary napkins, and baby food. Everything else was refused, and remained so even a month later. Now, almost all donation collection efforts have ceased, largely due to what's mentioned in the above article, and never once did any organization in my city ask for clothing. Which is just astounding, considering how many communities were completely and utterly obliterated by the tsunami.

Again, I understand it involves different mindsets and cultural viewpoints when it comes to charity. But it still saddens me to see so much potential for goodwill squandered for lack of a distribution system based on the premise that charity is a matter of course, rather than the exception only in cases of the extreme.

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I saw on the news boxes piled high at the shelters. The reporter opened a few and we could see old clothes that were rubbish. Old worn out shoes and the like. But I suppose you get that every disaster.

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I guess over supply is better than under supply :)

horrified at 07:18 PM JST - 6th May I saw on the news boxes piled high at the shelters. The reporter opened a few and we could see old clothes that were rubbish. Old worn out shoes and the like. But I suppose you get that every disaster.

That's terrible. I know people want to help but sending torn clothes and worn out used shoes, etc is very rude and insulting to the victims of any disaster.

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If you have kids here in Japan and if you have a Japanese wife or husband, you will quickly find out that giving and accepting USED children´s clothes is VERY POPULAR in JAPAN, maybe getting old clothes for ADULTS is another question but in times of disasters we can not be to picky when we only have the clothes on our back. These unwanted donated items should be sent to poor countries like PERU etc..where there are many, many street children, Bolivia too has cold winters which is starting NOW in the Southern Hemisphere of our world.

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its pretty Simple donate these items to people who NEED them in poor countries. have the stuff on Hold until another Disaster somewhere els. (south sakai) Get Real im sure there was MORE Good clothes & stuff. ever walk into a thrift store? I have & theres Many unwanted clothes That just seem to be an Over supply.

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Give the excess to North Korea. They are still dealing with their man-made disaster....

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send it to australia, winter there is going to start.

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