Punahou baseball team leaves for Japan goodwill trip

Across the water, Okawa Elementary is the only building left standing in what used to be a town. Watch video. (Photo and video taken September 2012)

Today I will be traveling with the 18-player Punahou Gold Intermediate Baseball Team, the coaches and their families on a goodwill trip to the tsunami-affected areas of Ishinomaki and Minamisanriku in the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan. This trip was born out of a partnership between Duane Kurisu, chairman and CEO of aio, and the Tomodachi Initiative, which is led by the U.S. government and the US-Japan Council. It has been almost 10 months since I first visited these towns on a previous volunteer project with aio, and I am anxious to see how things have progressed.

You may have never heard of Operation Tomodachi, but the people I met last year in Japan have. They expressed gratitude to the U.S. military for its assistance following the March 11, 2011, tsunami and earthquake and for clearing the roads to reconnect the coastal towns, a vital step in being able to receive food and water. The Tomodachi Initiative was created after the military operation ended as a way to continue fostering U.S.-Japan relationships, explained Irene Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council, to the Punahou team in the days leading up to the trip. "We felt that we could invest in young people. The government will do work to rebuild, but we were worried about the young people [in Japan]," said Inouye. The Initiative's goal has since been to continue building "people-to-people relationships through goodwill exchange and service."

The trip's agenda begins with a tour of Ishinomaki, immediately followed by two baseball games on a restored baseball field there. The Hawaii team will compete against the Ishinomaki team in the first game. The second game will feature mixed teams.

Related Links:
A little baseball, a little work and a lot of Aloha for Japan
(Star Advertiser)
Hawaii businesses sponsor Punahou baseball team for Japan community service trip (Pacific Business News)


More Photos from September 2012