Yokota, Japan partnership proves powerful in Ishikawa earthquake aid

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexzandra Gracey
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake shocked thousands when it rattled through Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture on Jan. 1, 2024. A day that would usually be spent joyfully partaking in “Hatsumode,” the first shrine visit of the New Year, was instead spent mobilizing disaster and evacuation plans.

The Jan. 1 earthquake falls shortly below Japan’s strongest in recorded history; the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.

The initial quake on Jan. 1 triggered a tsunami and flooding, led to fires breaking out in some cities and sparked dozens of aftershocks throughout the area, according to the Japanese Red Cross Society. Over 200 fatalities were recorded and more than 1,000 Japanese residents had been injured. Additionally, more than 9,000 houses were reported to have collapsed or have been damaged, resulting in about 16,000 displaced people being relocated to evacuation centers. 

In the wake of the devastation, Chad Griffin, 374th Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis section chief, was inspired to help those impacted by the natural disaster. He came across a video via social media from Enson Inoue, an old friend.

Inoue is the head of a charity non-profit founded to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The video Griffin had seen depicted the preparation and implementation of a trip Inoue made to Ishikawa Prefecture in early January, delivering essential supplies to victims after the initial quake.

“He took $2,000 out of his own account and went to a home center and started buying stuff for these people,” Griffin recounted from Inoue’s video. It was enough for Griffin to want to be involved and encourage others from Team Yokota as well.

“I got together with Inoue and we put up an announcement on social media to collect donations,” said Griffin. “It was all individual donors and we were able to get a lot of stuff in seven days just from the generosity of the base community.”

After only a week, a massive amount of donations-including about 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, 50 packs of diapers, and 30 blankets-had been collected from a drop-off zone at the Reports and Analysis office. On Jan. 15, everything was carefully packed into Griffin’s personal vehicle headed for Inoue’s residence north of Tokyo. Once there Inoue, Griffin and his son, and other volunteers transferred the supplies to a bigger cargo van, there was no wasted time in beginning their trek north. With navigation guidance from another non-profit, humanitarian and disaster relief organization, Inoue transported everything up to the Ishikawa Prefecture despite damaged or collapsed infrastructure, blocked roads, and inclement weather conditions.

“We went to three evacuation centers that were either housing people or they were used as a drop-off place where the people could come and pick up goods within,” said Inoue.

After 10 hours, the efforts of Griffin, Inoue and other volunteers came to fruition when all supplies had been distributed. Inoue explained that when dropping off all of the supplies, many of the earthquake victims were surprised and moved by the donations made by Team Yokota.

“To be able to provide them with the essentials that they really need is huge, but what’s one-hundred times bigger is the fact that they see the people at Yokota care,” Inoue communicated.

Witnessing the contribution’s positive effect on peoples’ morale and needs affirmed in Griffin and Inoue that this wouldn’t be the last time the pair organized and supplied disaster relief, including support from Team Yokota. The next on-base donation event is expected to be carried out in late February with the run to Ishikawa Prefecture following soon after. By that time, both men expect to have a more specified list of needed supplies and more accessible, time-effective routes to the evacuation sites.  

“Most people sometimes live without knowing that the true joy in life is the joy of giving,” Inoue stated. “The satisfaction and happiness you feel being able to create even one smile is priceless.”

Team Yokota is encouraged to email Chad Griffin at chad.griffin.4@us.af.mil for any information about getting involved in the February Ishikawa supply run.