March 16, 2011

Socks for Japan

Filed under: Events — yoga @ 12:29 pm
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After much persuasion I’ve finally got my very own .com Please do update your bookmarks to my new blog


Socks for Japan ~ let’s do it!

We’ve all heard about the tragedy that has befallen Japan and everyone has been asking “How do we help ?” but has done nothing about it. Well here’s one way we can contribute directly to those who have been left homeless. It’s raining in Sendai and will soon be snowing. Hypothermia can set in at any time for the victims.  The quake has shaken Japan. But it has not shaken our faith in what us fellow humans can do for one another. Its raining now in Sendai and soon it will be snowing. Hyporthemia can set in anytime for the victims if they are not kept warm. Jason Kelly, an American author living in Japan has initiated this campaign and all his friends as well as strangers are helping out.

I learnt of the following Socks for Japan campaign via Poesy and Evelyn :

Read it closely and see how you can chip in.

Alternatively here it is from Jason’s site

Here’s a way you can help Japan, directly and meaningfully. Please do send proper warm socks and not give away socks you want to throw away. These are desperate people in desperate need.

Japan in crisis: Live Blog ~ Al Jazeera Blogs

In Ishinomaki, Patrick Fuller, of the International Federation of the Red Cross, says:

It is the elderly who have been hit the hardest.

The tsunami engulfed half the town and many lie shivering uncontrollably under blankets. They are suffering from hypothermia having been stranded in their homes without water or electricity.

Snow is expected within the next few days.

Hundreds of my readers in the United States and other parts of the world have asked me how they can help the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Japan on March 11. There are many places to donate money, and that’s a wonderful thing to do, but direct aid is also cherished by victims.

My office location is perfect for managing a direct-aid operation because it’s close enough to the primary damage zone that we can physically get there to help, but far enough away that mail delivery is working. So we quickly set ourselves up to run this operation, called Socks for Japan.


  • Send only new socks. All human beings are comforted by a fresh, clean pair of socks. Other advantages socks offer this operation: their sizes are easy, they don’t break, people need lots of them in disastrous times without running water, people can keep them forever and remember that somebody from far away cared. Please do not send any other items of clothing, food, etc. Just socks, but go ahead and choose nice ones that will brighten somebody’s day.
  • Group similar socks. To help our inventory management, put all socks of the same type together. For example, “men’s large,” “girls’ medium,” “boys’ small,” “baby girls’,” and so on. Different colors and styles are fine in the same group, but keep the gender and sizes consistent, please. If you’re sending only one group, then all together in one package is fine. If you include several different groups in a single box, please separate and identify them for us. In the care letter creation page linked below, you’ll learn how to pack each pair of socks with your letter.
  • List package contents on the package. Write on the outside of the package exactly what’s inside. For example, “ten pairs, men’s medium socks” or “one pair, girl’s small socks” and so on. This will enable us to quickly group inventory for efficient distribution without opening packages.
  • Enclose a care letter. Japanese people treasure letters, especially ones from foreigners. Victims of the 1995 Hanshin quake in Kobe said that care letters were among the most uplifting items they received. If you enclose a care letter,provide a copy of it for each pair of socks you send. This will enable us to hand each recipient of your socks a letter from you. For help composing and translating your letter, please visit our care letter creation page.
  • Write your email address on the package. The most efficient way for us to keep in touch with you, and track the status of your package once we receive it, is via your email address. Please write it on the outside of your package so we can communicate with you without opening the package.
  • Write “Urgent: Relief Supplies” boldly on the package. This will avoid import duties, guarantee priority handling at customs, and achieve rapid processing through hubs. Packages are arriving more quickly than usual. Everybody is dedicated to getting this nation back on its feet — in clean socks!

Please ship your package to my office:

Jason Kelly
Plaza Kei 101
Wakamatsu-cho 615-6
Sano, Tochigi 327-0846

Thank you for your support! When your package arrives, we’ll send a note to you at the email address you wrote on it.

Need to reach me by email or phone? Please see my contact page. Note that we’re still experiencing aftershocks and rolling blackouts, so it might be hard to get through and I might not be able to respond quickly.



Several reasons. Many of the victims ended up barefoot after fleeing in a hurry. In the disaster zone, feet get wet and then extra cold at night, especially in currently freezing weather. People often forget about socks in favor of more obvious items like blankets and jackets. Receiving a new, fresh pair of socks provides a moment of comfort. If those socks arrive with a caring note as well, it’s very heartening for victims. If you’ve ever been stuck in a pair of wet, cold socks or no socks at all, perhaps you remember how soothing it felt to pull on a warm, dry pair. Victims have already requested socks on TV news.

Socks aren’t primary support, but a token of care that will last beyond their small mid-crisis comfort. All supplies exist here in Japan, so we wanted something that delivered meaning past the need of the moment, something more special than what people get from emergency teams and government supplies. Military socks are not the most comfortable. Small joys matter. A March 17 CNN article observed about the victims: “It was the little things that helped them retain their sanity as an end to crisis still seemed distant.” The next day, an AP story said a city hall worker reported his town needing “gas, vegetables, socks, underwear, wet wipes and anti-bacterial lotion.”

From the United States, the Postal Service is the most economical, and its one-week delivery time is fine for the extended operation under way. People are shipping every day, so we’re receiving a steady supply of new socks. There’s no need to pay extra to get yours here quickly. Japan’s country price group is 3. Packages sent via First-Class Mail International cost $10.76 for one pound, $17.64 for two, $24.52 for three, and $31.40 for four. One donor wrote: “Priority Mail flat-rate shipping is per box, so if you box each size and gender separately, you will be paying a LOT more than if you bag them separately and then put the bags into one box.”

From Jiun: “Airfreight cost is calculated by actual weight or dimensional weight (WxLxH/5000), which means the tighter you compress/pack your socks the cheaper they will be to send. Vacuum bags are the best way to compress socks. A 20cm x 20cm x 20cm box of socks might weigh only 2.2 lbs, but its dimensional weight is 3.5 lbs.”

Other tips: from Canada use the Canada Post calculator to find what’s best, from China use eBay for free shipping, from Malaysia use FedEx or POS Malaysia,more to come

No. Despite the image created by ninja movies, most Japanese socks are of the regular variety. The split-toe, called tabi, is seen most commonly as a carpenter or construction worker boot, called jika-tabi. Regular socks are fine.

No. We’re encouraging people to join us in addition to helping bigger organizations via financial donations. After making financial donations, however, many people want to do more. We’re channeling that desire into a simple plan that will benefit victims by providing socks for their feet and cheer for their hearts.

In Tualatin, Oregon, south of Portland, The Times reported on March 17: “When she learned more about the earthquake, Tualatin resident Carly Cais donated to a charity. But her strong personal connection to the country deserved a personal gift, she said, and she found another way to give: sending socks. … [Cais explained,] ‘You don’t want to give stuff that people really, really don’t need. But the thing that people really need most is that sort of boost, that someone’s out there and cares.’”

No. Before we started, we checked with the postal service to be sure our area could receive packages without harming relief efforts. They said yes. We asked if an enormous volume of packages from all over the world would hamper the operations of the postal service. They were confused by the question, finally explaining, “Of course not. What do you think we do every day?” When we double-checked by saying that possibly thousands of packages will be involved, they assured us that they can handle anything. After a chorus of critics said the post office was wrong, we returned to the main office in Sano on March 17 to be sure nothing had changed. It had not. We received the same answers as we had four days earlier.

No. We’re targeting the areas closest to us so we use as little fuel as possible, taking as many socks in one trip as possible, and driving less in town to save up the fuel we need to make trips into the field. We’re also using shipping services when an area makes an urgent request for socks, as one shelter in Ibaragi already did, and shipping services are making the trip anyway.

No. Direct aid is bothersome when it’s delivered to relief groups by thousands of individuals offering hundreds of different items because the scene forces aid workers to manage the crowd, take inventory, and figure out what to do with the flea market scene that unfolds. We’re not doing that. We’re receiving just one type of useful clothing — socks. Properly packaged, they arrive one pair per sealed plastic bag with letters enclosed. We separate them into five categories: man, woman, boy, girl, baby. We work with regional offices to learn where we should drop off such well-organized contributions in bulk, or where we should go ourselves to distribute them directly.

No. We spoke with the Ibaragi Prefectural Government, which manages the part of the zone nearest to us. We explained our operation. They said they’d be delighted to receive our contributions and expect that we’ll be able to distribute some, possibly all, of them directly. To understand why, look at the huge number of shelters in northeast Japan. Below, the left image shows the whole region while the right shows the area near our Sano base. We’re located at the left edge of the right-hand map near Tochigi. Click to enlarge, then use the back button to return and continue reading:

Shelters in northeast Japan - click to enlarge Shelters near Sano - click to enlarge
With more than 100 shelters within a half-day drive of our base, no wonder we’re finding regional coordinators receptive to our operation. See the live map.

No. Foreigners are not replacing sock purchases they would have made in Japan with purchases made in their home towns. Any Japanese citizens that use us will buy their socks locally within Japan’s economy. We’re also buying local supplies but, frankly, we’re not big enough to meaningfully affect the world’s third-largest economy.

Do what, exactly? Provide my mailing address, set up an office to receive mass quantities of packages, gather volunteers to sort socks and translate letters, make phone calls to find groups of victims who need the socks and letters, then organize transportation of the socks and letters to the victims? Yes, I’m qualified to do that.

Not unless you think I go through a lot of socks.

Yes. We have plenty of people and plenty of space. We’re using my office, and borrowed a nearby vacant accounting office as well. Socks and letters are small. When taken out of boxes and put in compressible bags, socks can be packed into ordinary vehicles by the thousands. Here’s the vacant accounting office, ready to go:

Front of Yamaguchi accounting office


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