Tohoku Tea Relief Caravan

TOKYO, Japan

The final stop for a caravan of tea growers was Tokyo. y to bring disaster relief and a cup of warmth to the people of Northern Japan still recovering from the March earthquake and tsunami.

The group spent its last night in Minami-Ashigara before stopping Tokyo to hold a tea event "and share our love and hope with the victims in the area," says organizer  Yasuharu Matsumoto, vice president of Koyoto Obubu Tea Plantations. "In Tokyo, we will hold a meeting to share information on the project and current conditions of Tohoku," said Matsumoto, known by his many friends as “Matsu.”

Matsu traveled 20 days with an entourage of volunteers from his garden in southern Japan to the Tohoku region of Northern Japan, hard hit by the March 11 disaster. The group and local partners are holding tea parties to give warmth and hope to those who lost so much in the last year.

"Tea is relief," says Matsumoto.

The tour is supported by the non-profit organization International Tea Farms Alliance and a few of its members including Lochan Tea (India), Dignitea (Taiwan), and Harendong (Indonesia). The caravan is presenting messages of hope from around the world translated and printed onto New Year’s cards.

Matsu is compiling a daily journal of his travels available online. Ian Chun is traveling with Matsu through Jan. 9 and is translating these entries into English. Elyse Peterson translated the visit to Minami Sanriku, on Oshima Island which was decimated by the quake and tidal wave. Those interested in revising the caravan’s travels can follow on Twitter with hashtag: #tearelief or visit   

The caravan visited a different location each day. Chun writes "that it gets pretty emotional sometimes talking to the survivors."

The caravan traveled from Iwate Prefecture to the Kanto Region visiting places such as temporary shelters, gardens and senior citizens homes. "Our project aims to warm the hearts of people in Tohoku in the cold mid-winter months with our tea and to gather together people in Japan and overseas with the same aim to share your warmth with them. It will be something delightful for the communities there who are living in temporary shelters and who have just moved from evacuation areas," writes Chun.

The final stop is Koyoto where the caravan will meet with the public to describe what they saw.

To donate a cup of tea, visit:

To learn more, email Ian Chun at

Yamada Elementary School Happy Ending

The skeleton structure at left was a former elementary school and a wonderful story: The school children had evacuated to the second floor according to standard procedure, but the fishermen, realizing that the earthquake would generate a devastating tsunami, hurried them out and into the much higher hills behind, saving all. – Yasuharu Matsumoto

Yamada Damaged Building Yamada Shore Yamada Rubbish
Scenes from town of Yamada in Japan  10 months after the Mar. 11, 2011 quake and tsumani.


Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.