Kirby Fukunaga says there is work to be done in Japan; some progress
Says many have 'forgotten' the devastation
"I'm just looking forward to going up again and seeing everybody," said Kirby Fukunaga, who lives on Oahu.
It will be the seventh time in 20 months Fukunaka will be heading back to Japan and back to the same areas most devastated by 2012‘s earthquake and tsunami.
"We packed a couple suitcases with toys for the kids, and lot of snacks from Hawaii, hopefully cheer them up," he said.
Weeks after the tsunami, Ishinomaki, in Japan's Tohoku Region, was unrecognizable.
KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada traveled there and met Kirby and his friends, who were on a personal mission to bring food and help.
Twenty months later, he's still on that mission, one filled with heartbreak, but not a heart broken.
"The debris is still there, piled up on the side of the road. You'll see it. mountains of debris," said Fukunaga. "For now, they're working really hard every day."
Today, there are temporary homes by the thousands.
For each road scraped clean there was a reminder of what happened, including a clock stuck in time.
For each town cleared of debris there was a shell left behind, including a school where 89 children had died.
Yamada caught up with Kirby again in that same trip, but this time in a fishing village called Kobuchihama, where countless oysters, considered some of the best in the world, were destroyed.
Today the oysters live again.
"It's good news. It's good news the oysters are back," said Fukunaga.
The Wakame, or seaweed, with no factories, is hand-picked now by the boat load and by the buckets.
"Some people are taking action, moving on on their own," he said.
In Ishinomaki, an hour from any another store, is a tiny shop named after Kirby's fundraiser "We are One."
That tiny store, thanks to a San Francisco nonprofit, is about to become five times the size.
"A lot of kids saw the wave coming. A lot of kids saw their friends get swept away," said Fukunaga.
It's what he said keeps his mission moving forward so many months later, that, and the people living beyond the nightmare.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen, but the people we met along the way, they're trying to move forward. They're just doing it," he said.
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