By Awake! correspondent in Japan
THE first boats carrying evacuees arrived in ports along the Izu Peninsula during the night of November 21. Later it was decided that these people should be sent to Tokyo, since Oshima is under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo metropolitan government. The metropolitan government together with the national government took the initiative in organizing the relief work. Jehovah’s Witnesses in both the Izu and the Tokyo areas as well as at the branch headquarters, located in Ebina City only about 50 miles (80 km) from Mount Mihara, also organized relief work.
As news reports of the event interrupted regular television programs, Jehovah’s Witnesses living nearby became especially concerned about their spiritual brothers and sisters on the island. Nobumasa Obata of the Ito Congregation and others got in touch with Witnesses in the Izu area and organized activity for the receiving of evacuees. By 6:30 p.m. that day, the Witnesses were at each port on the Izu Peninsula and at Atami, ready to receive their brothers from Oshima.
When Jiro Nishimura and four others arrived at Atami about ten o’clock that evening, the Witnesses in Atami, with Watchtower and Awake! magazines in their hands, met them. Since the government authorities had not yet decided what to do, the evacuees were allowed to stay with anyone they wished. They headed for Yugawara, where Nishimura’s son serves as an elder in the local congregation. The apartment in which they settled became a liaison center for the evacuees of the Oshima Congregation.
At 8:00 the next morning, the Branch Committee at the branch headquarters of the Watch Tower Society in Ebina decided to send immediately two branch representatives to the Izu area and two to the Tokyo area to organize relief work.
As the branch representatives discussed relief work with Nishimura, Mitsuo Shiozaki arrived with relief supplies from his congregation in Numazu. Evacuees especially appreciated the clothes he distributed among them, for quite a number of them did not have any clothing other than what they wore when they left their island. They also gratefully accepted the food he had brought along.
Relief committees were designated in Izu and Tokyo to distribute needed funds to members of the Oshima Congregation. Such committees were also to look after the spiritual needs of the evacuees.
Relief Work in Tokyo
At 9:55 p.m. on November 21, after some ships had left with evacuees for cities on the Izu Peninsula, the governor of Tokyo ordered that all evacuees be sent to Tokyo. Yoshio Nakamura, an elder in the Mita Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tokyo, was asked to organize the relief work there. Nakamura’s apartment became the headquarters for relief work in Tokyo.
He asked some from his congregation and some from the Shinagawa Congregation to come with him. Ten of these left Nakamura’s at about two o’clock Saturday morning and headed for the piers where the boats from Oshima were scheduled to arrive. The brothers were equipped with signs saying: “Members of the Oshima Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please get in touch with us.”
Until the last ship came, they went back and forth between the two piers where the boats arrived. It was then after ten o’clock Saturday morning. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Chuo Congregation also went to another pier where the ships from Oshima arrived. Not knowing which ships would have their fellow believers aboard, the Witnesses in Tokyo tried to meet all the ships that came in to Tokyo.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses,” recalls Kazuyuki Kawashima, “were the only representatives of a religious group who came to meet their fellow believers at the pier. The only other group that met the evacuees was from the teachers’ union.”
By Saturday evening, members of the Mita and Shinagawa Congregations had voluntarily assembled clothing and other relief supplies for immediate distribution among their spiritual brothers from Oshima. The Witnesses loaded these supplies into a van and visited the shelters where the Witness evacuees were accommodated. The Witnesses from Oshima as well as non-Witnesses who were there benefited from the relief supplies.
Encouraged by the Concern of Others
One Witness evacuee related: “When we left Oshima, we ourselves did not know where we were going. As we got off the ship, however, we spotted a sign saying, ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ Imagine how surprised and impressed we were! Tears welled up in my wife’s eyes as she was overcome by relief at finding our brothers there to meet us at the pier.
“No sooner had we settled down in the Sports Hall in Koto Ward and telephoned Brother Nakamura than the branch representatives arrived to encourage us. This really impressed us, and we could find no words to express our appreciation.”
During the week, the relief-committee members visited all shelters accommodating the Witnesses and checked the needs of their fellow believers. They found that evacuated Witnesses were well taken care of by local congregations. Some Bible students were invited to the homes of local Witnesses for meals every day, and they appreciated such acts of kindness shown to them by Witnesses whom they did not know before this disaster.
This evacuation was successful because appropriate warnings were given and the people heeded them. But all mankind is facing a far greater danger that is coming with great speed. Warning is now being given, showing people how to escape this danger and preserve their lives. Will you heed this warning?
[Picture on page 7]
Jiro Nishimura checking the whereabouts of fellow believersa
a This much-loved witness of Jehovah died in February 1987.
[Pictures on page 8]
Mitsuo Shiozaki distributes relief supplies
Many evacuees slept on cold gymnasium floors