Civil Society

March 7, 2017


Oyako-Shokudo Also Satisfies People's Heart

Keywords: Disaster Reconstruction Food 

Photo: Leaflet of Oyako-Shokudo
Copyright Veteran Mothers' Society All Rights Reserved.

Tohoku Fukko Nikki (Tohoku Reconstruction Diary), a weekly feature in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, delivers news and stories on reconstruction efforts in the communities devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The articles are written through the JKSK Yui-Yui Project, an initiative to support survivors of the 2011 disaster by the non-profit organization JKSK Empowering Women Empowering Society. This month, we present an article published on September 20, 2016, about an initiative to heal minds through cooking and eating together.

I love to cook and serve dishes to guests. I keep saying "Have you already eaten?" to people visiting me. Maybe, this is because I may have inherited a need to care others from my humble ancestors living in the countryside in years gone by.

In Japan, there has been an increasing number of Kodomo-Shokudo (children's cafeterias) across the nation. However, I believe that the national government should take drastic measures to tackle the issue of child poverty, as what the private sector can do is limited. Particularly in Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture, issues specific to this area have become visible in recent years.

In Minamisoma City, it has been five and a half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and there are still people who are suffering both physically and mentally, working men whose wives and children have been evacuated to other areas, older couples who have been separated from their sons' or daughters' families due to the disaster, and workers involved in decontamination and reactor decommissioning. Few people have time to enjoy homemade meals in a relaxed setting. When a young mother asked us why we don't offer cooking classes, the idea of Oyako-Shokudo (which literally means parents and children's cafeteria) came to us, members of the Veteran Mothers' Society, a citizen group in Minamisoma City, to support people devastated by the disaster.

At the Oyako-Shokudo, where various people gather and work together, some people cook, some people serve dishes and all of them enjoy eating and conversation. We can learn how to cook by cooking together. As a qualified dietary educator, I enjoy providing knowledge on nutrition. School students learn how to host guests and necessary manners by serving adults in the cafeteria, allowing them to break away from their poor habits, such as eating alone, consuming an unhealthy diet, and/or frequent convenience-store meals. People of various generations share the same space, eat meals together and chat. We hope to provide a degree of spiritual comfort.

At the Oyako-Shokudo held last month, a junior-high school girl worked hard as a chef, giving a marvelous performance. She prepared and served hamburger steak, performing every step by herself. She blended "okara" (soybean lees, so-called tofu refuse) and tofu into the hamburger ingredients, and made heart-shaped hamburgers. Participants, particularly male participants, were very pleased with the lovely shaped, healthy hamburger steaks, showering her with praise.

For her, I think, it was also a memorable day. Although we only cook and eat meals together, we believe that this is enough to provide joy, and mental reconstruction will start from there.

Sachiko Bamba, Representative, Veteran Mothers' Society