April Easter Workshop

April Easter Workshop

This Easter Sunday SOGO Team (Kevin, Elma, and Ruri) from Tokyo joined PlaceTo Grow workshops in Tohoku and led fitness games and activities to help continue to bring communities together.


This year our goal is to connect the communities through wellness and fitness. This was the second SOGO trip to Tohoku & we focused on Easter fitness games. We visited Shizugawa High School and Ooya Asobiba. We did Radio Taiso Xtreme version, which was a great way to get everyone together. We had so much fun moving around while sharing words in English and Japanese.

The children have practiced the Radio Taiso Extreme since they did it at the 1st SOGO×PTG workshop in February, so they were quite advanced already!Playing Easter games was new for kids in Minamisanriku, so the kids were very excited to find eggs and get snacks!!

At the Asobiba the US navy team of volunteers from Misawa Air Force Military Base spent two days building monkey bars for the children and setting up a swing and other climbing equipment. We celebrating the reopening of the children’s play center with over 20 local residents by having a BBQ and dancing and singing outside with guest performer Stuart O leading as the Easter Chick!.


25: Local Children

21: Local Adults

16: Volunteers


Easter Egg hunt

Radio Taiso X

Fitness Games

Communication Circle

Spring BBQ


8 Years On, Remembering 3.11

8 Years On, Remembering 3.11

Today marks 8 years since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Tohoku. In this time of remembrance, we’re also reflecting on the growth of affected communities and celebrating the hope with which they look into the future.

Our Wonderful World - Club Asobiba

Our Wonderful World - Club Asobiba

July 21st - 22nd, 2018

After arriving at Minamisanriku on Saturday, we went to Shizugawa High School to meet with the former principal who will lead the “Minamisanriku Junior Academy”. There, we discussed the details and goals of the program, how PTG will be involved, and presented this to the first prospective participant, his mother, and another interested community member.

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6: Local Children

4: Local Adults

5: PTG Volunteers

3: Activities

The program is set to start the first weekend of August, with plans for PTG members to collaborate and get involved with interactively teaching English during our weekend trips. The former principal seemed very excited and hopeful, and the Minamisanriku Junior Academy will become a significant part of PTG moving forward.

On Sunday we arrived at Asobiba around 10:30 and were met by a small yet eager group of kids. We started with introductions, teaching each person to say “Hi my name is____ what’s your name?” and explaining the importance of eye contact. Some of the kids were shy and unsure, muttering the words quietly, or repeating after Angela one word at a time.

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They started warming up as we moved on to watching a song on YouTube about the earth and learning the vocabulary words for the day “earth, planet, world, ocean, land etc.” After explaining each word and giving a Japanese translation, we told the kids to come back later with their notebooks to write them down.

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We moved on to the craft for the day- finger painting. Each kid got a big piece of paper, and we set up the finger paints in paper cups on the table. At first they were hesitant to dip their fingers in, but once Angela started to paint they all got involved. Everyone got creative in their art from paintings of music notes and Sakura trees to traffic lights and abstract splatters.

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Leaving the paintings to dry, the kids moved on to playing in their makeshift pool- blue tarp set up in a wooden structure. Angela, Lisa, and Leah joined in, stepping into the pool and splashing around with the kids to cool down. Kyal, Masaya, and Angela talked chatted with the adults while Leah and Lisa conducted interviews with some of the participants. After lunch of soumen and a group photo, it was time to say goodbye. Practicing their English, the kids said “see you again!” and waved to us as we got into the car to head home.

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Before going back to Tokyo, we stopped in to thank and chat to the owner of the local Taxi company who gives us prizes for Santa Soul Train and provides transport for large volunteer groups.

Local Interview #3

1.   Why is a community important to you as a mother?

Having a community allows mothers to meet and learn from various generations, to receive support from the community and grow with their children. Through interactions with people from different backgrounds, children can learn the basics manners, including greetings.

2.   What value do you think the Santa soul train event in MSR brings to your children’s lives?

Children are looking forward to Santa Soul Train every year. Santa Soul Train is where children get to meet and build friendship with people from different countries. Santa Soul Train became their children’s favorite event of the year, especially because there were hardly anything they looked forward to after the 3.11. They also enjoy the performance, food, presents, as well as the English learning opportunities there as well.

3.   Share your hopes or fears for the future around raising your children.

Our concern about the children’s future is that our community doesn’t have very many children now, and we aren’t sure how many people will remain in Minamisanriku in the future. Would there be schools in town? Would the community be sustainable? Would our children continue to want to stay in their hometown? Would our children come back after finishing trading school or college? Minamisanriku was able to recover to this point because of the support from many people, both domestic and international, so we would like our children to love their Minamisanriku, remain here, and revitalize their hometown when they grow up.

Father’s Day Workshop @ Asobiba

Father’s Day Workshop @ Asobiba

When volunteers Aki, Kayleigh and Lucia arrived at Asobiba at 1pm on Saturday we were greeted by children on the playground and two donkeys that they take care of.

While the children were having late lunch we prepared for the workshop beside them. They were so curious as they watched us dissolving a large amount of salt into bottled water, which was to be used later in the day.

Asobiba Easter Workshop

Asobiba Easter Workshop

6 years ago the community of Oya was hit by the tsunami of 3.11.  Hundreds of families came together at the Teragai community center where OGA for Aid worked to coordinate food and water supplies. Temporary housing was built near by and hundreds moved into the courtyard of the elementary school – the facilities stand there to this day.

The Asobiba no kai began as a project to look after the young children whose parents were working. From daily activities to providing soup lines monthly for families in need the Obachans behind the Asobiba no Kai are energetic, friendly and dedicated. Place To Grow held its first workshop with the Asobiba no kai, and shared the games and celebrations of Easter with the children.

The PTG volunteers arrived at 10:15 and set up the egg dying station inside the greenhouse/Asobiba no kai meeting space. The obachans helped set up the room, make decorations, invitations and banners.


12: Local Children

6: Local Adults

8: PTG Volunteers

2: Partner Volunteers

Did you know? In the 16th century painting eggs with colors was meant to signify bringing spring into the home. Flower petals were added to the water – creating a simple dye effect.

After the preparations Angela led the whip-around of introductions of volunteers and participants. Then teacher Aika explained about spring and the tradition of Easter. We talked about coloring eggs, what games we play with eggs and how there are many ways to decorate them now. 

The grandmothers cut out paper rabbits to string up while the children dyed eggs, used crayons and markers to add pictures and shapes, while others still preferred to cover theirs in glitter for a delicate and sparkly look.

The craft time was followed by the Easter Egg Hunt -15 reusable plastic colored eggs were recycled by volunteers and grandmothers, who kept up a steady assembly line filling and hiding these eggs for the children to hunt.  

This was by far the highlight of the event, but we also got in some games like the spoon/egg race and redlight/greenlight (another favorite!)

The winners of the final game received “party OGA sunglasses” and ALL the children received an Easter chocolate egg to eat. 

We wrapped up the workshop with a short reflection huddle where the kids were asked to give us feedback on their favorite part of the day.

“What was the activity you enjoyed the most?” Lucia asked. “The egg hunt!“  “The spoon race!” “The egg hunt!” ….and while unanimously kids gave favorite of the day to the egg hunt, it was Miwako Suzuki who on behalf of the obachans said her favorite part was hiding the eggs for the kids.  

Also we received feedback from the obachan that most events are Japanese cultured related events so it was good and beneficial to bring in and introduce an  international environment and atmosphere.

“Volunteers talking to the kids in English is a rare opportunity” said community leader, M. Suzuki, “its very stimulating to the children’s minds. “

Playing with eggs also seemed to be a brand new activity.

“I’ve never done this”, said 10 year old H. “I didn't even know you could play with eggs!”

“I liked all of it! “Said G, 16years old. “Me too, echoed his buddy,” 14 years old

The energy, excitement and curiosity from the children and volunteers alike made this a truly memorable workshop. The weather was warm, sunny with bright blue skies. We are happy to have the Asobiba no kai join Place to Grow as a local partner and beneficiary community.

Satoumi Farm - BBQ & Wool Workshop

Satoumi Farm - BBQ & Wool Workshop

For PTG’s August workshop, we partnered with Satoumi Farm to enjoy outdoor activities with families in Minami Sanriku.

Iriya Umeboshi Workshop

Iriya Umeboshi Workshop

PTG’s July workshop took place at Iriya Community Center on Sunday, July 24, 2016. There were approximately 26 participants, of which two were children—a six-year-old girl and her little brother.

Nagoya Mosaic Workshop

Nagoya Mosaic Workshop

PTG’s June workshop was held on June 11th at Hotel Kanyo. This event was focused on bringing children and their families in Minami Sanriku (MSR) together to enjoy mosaic art.

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

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Kamiwarizaki Day Camp

Kamiwarizaki Day Camp

PTG’s May workshop was held on May 28th at the Kamiwarizaki Camp Site.  It was a large event that focused on children and families in Minami Sanriku (MSR), in celebration of spring time together, and with members of the international community.

Ohana Art Workshop

Ohana Art Workshop

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