On January 24th, a cold wave hit Minami Sanriku with a light dusting of snow. Ten children arrived at the Portal Center and warmed up the room by the time we began our first art workshop. The participants were between 5 and 15 years old, all members of the Yosakoi dance team. They are kids who are used to expressing themselves through dance, and on this day they had canvasses, paint, sponges and other texture options, as well as their own hands to communicate what they loved about their hometown.

Volunteers from Ohana International School in Tokyo prepared all the art supplies and bags of home-baked cookies and muffins for each child to take home. Together with three international students from Tohoku University, volunteers provided a friendly, multicultural environment for kids to feel safe about communicating in a combination of English and Japanese, and painting whatever they liked. 

As each painting was completed, Ohana volunteers went around and interviewed the children about what was in the painting, and the story behind it. One girl painted an octopus, a special product of this district. Another girl painted a vegetable garden her family took care of outside their temporary housing. Themes in other paintings included a sunset over the ocean, a snowy scene, fireworks, Kamiwarizaki (a regional tourist attraction with an old legend), etc.

It was a quality time for participants and volunteers to learn about one another. While painting, children talked about what they should study in the future, and a volunteer shared when and how he chose his current path. One of the moms described how their life has been since the disaster, reminisced about how the Yosakoi team was formed, and told us how needed it is to have an opportunity for kids to enjoy each other’s company.

To show their appreciation to the volunteers, children performed the Yosakoi dance after the workshop. Their faces and posture changed the moment the music started, and the kids transformed into a group of highly energetic dancers. 

By The Numbers


10 : Children from the Yosakoi Dance team in Minami Sanriku attended.

06 : Volunteers from Ohana International School in Tokyo hosted the event.

05 : Volunteers from O.G.A. for Aid in Tokyo and Minami Sanriku supported the event.

03 : Dance Routine Performed.

15 : Works of Art Created!

Visit Ohana International School here to learn more about their educational programs in Tokyo.

PS. Download the class lesson plan here!