What started fancifully from a single CD and a rock singer's idea to trade it up to a fishing boat, turned into a fairy tale ending for a fisherman in disaster-stricken Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture.
“It is coming! It’s here!” said Zenemon Yamazaki, 87, as he spotted the boat approaching Kirikiri fishing port in Otsuchi on June 25. About 30 townspeople were waiting along with Yamazaki, sporting "tairyo-bata" (good-catch) flags.
Yamazaki said he had “spent time doing nothing,” after he had his new fishing boat, equipment and workplace washed away by the tsunami spawned by last year's Great East Japan Earthquake.
Seeing the boat, he said, “I feel youthful. I will actively go fishing again.”
Asami, lead vocalist of the Nana Carat rock band, came up with the idea, based on the old folk tale “Warashibe choja” (Straw millionaire), in which a poor and honest man tries to trade "straw" until he finally becomes a rich man.
Asami called for cooperation on the Internet for the project. She wanted to trade up to a fishing boat, which would be sent to a new owner in a disaster-stricken area in northeastern Japan.
The trading game started with the band’s first single, “Yume no Kakera” (Fragments of a dream), which is priced at 1,000 yen ($12.70). The CD was traded for a computer, then for a diamond pendant and ended in a used but still seaworthy fishing vessel, worth 2 million yen, in two months.
The owner of the boat was Kazuaki Takama, a former schoolteacher who lives on Izu-Oshima island, 100 kilometers south of Tokyo.
“I would be happy to provide it if it can be of use for disaster-stricken people,” said Takama, 64.
The project, reported on TV and in The Asahi Shimbun, draw the interest of prospective recipients for the boat.
One applicant’s e-mail in particular touched the organizers.
“My grandfather is a fisherman based in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture,” the e-mail said. “The boat he purchased on March 11, the day the (Great East Japan) earthquake struck, perished in an hour. I want to give a gift of a boat to him, who has been a fisherman all through his life.”
With the recipient decided, the next step was to raise funds for delivering the vessel, which would cost more than 400,000 yen.
The band held a live concert in Yokohama on June 17 to raise funds and collected about 360,000 yen in 10 days.
On June 21, Nana Carat members--Asami, Tetsuya, the guitarist, and UNA, the drummer--went to Izu-Oshima to collect Takama’s fishing boat in exchange for a diamond pendant.
They headed north in the boat, which had to wrestle the fury of the sea, due to an approaching typhoon. The band members, not used to the rough seas, lingered on deck during the storm.
It took three days until they arrived at Onahama Port in Fukushima Prefecture, where fans welcomed them. It took another day for them to reach the Kirikiri fishing port in Otsuchi and the boat's new owner.
Yoshiki, his grandson who sent the e-mail, said, “It has been a long time since I last saw Grandfather so excited. I am grateful.”
Even though they had not fully recovered from bouts of seasickness due to their stormy voyage, sun-tanned Nana Carat members perked up when they saw Yamazaki.
“Our wishes have been granted. It is a great feeling to see grandfather Yamazaki smile,” one band member said.
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