Sunday, May 22, 2011

APRIL 2011:
To the many friends & customers who wrote or called me after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, I give my heartfelt thanks. Many of my relatives are actually located in Miyagi Prefecture, in the cities of Sendai and Natori, near the epicenter of the quake and the region that suffered the most extensive damage. Miraculously, they survived, but it was agonizing not being able to make contact for the first several days. We also have friends in Fukushima, not far from the Daiichi nuclear reactor. A few generations back, my family came from the coastal village of Shizugawa (now Minamisanriku,) which was almost completely erased by the tsunami. Life will certainly be difficult for most in the region for some time to come. Hundred of aftershocks continue to rattle Japan, including one of 7.4 magnitude on April 6. They are all in our thoughts and prayers daily. I know that many of you also have connections to Japan so I understand that this difficult time is being shared by many around the world. My former home of Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture also experienced widespread damage to many historic and working kilns, as well as the loss of much pottery. The kiln of the late Shoji Hamada was badly damaged at the Hamada Sankokan Museum. This small town is home to a reported 400 kilns and is one of the largest pottery centers in the Japan, and an important site in the contemporary pottery world. The life of a potter is difficult enough, but the loss of inventory and means of production are making it even more so at this time. A link to the newly established Mashiko Potters Fund to rebuild the town’s pottery industry, and those of other relief organizations are listed at the end of this message. I have also heard many inquiries and concerns regarding the safety of Japan’s next tea harvest which is set to begin later this month. Many questions surrounding this complex issue have been very detailed, so I’m providing you with as much information as possible below. Although the news reports in Japan are changing almost daily, there is currently no indication that any of the major tea growing regions have been directly affected by the recent disasters in NE Japan, including the challenges being faced at the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor in Fukushima. There may be production slow downs in certain areas due to the rolling electricity shortages. US & International Customs clearance is also expected to take longer as more stringent inspection methods are being put into place. Since radiation levels are being monitored all around Japan and US Customs is being increasingly diligent on incoming shipments, we are also confident that the incoming products will all be completely safe. So, we do expect to receive shipment of the new harvest tea early this summer. Should you still have concerns and would like to stock up on tea from the 2010 harvest, we still have limited quantities in inventory. As with all Charaku tea, these items are nitrogen-flushed fresh packed so they are still good into 2012. A few varieties are sold out already, but we still have some stock of most teas. Please feel free to e-mail or call me if you have questions about availability, or would like toplace a large order. More information in English on the current nuclear situation in Japan is available at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at You can also check daily radiation level monitoring by prefecture in Japan at the MEXT-Japan (Ministry of of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technolgy) website, So far, it shows nothing out of the ordinary in any of the tea growing regions which supply Charaku Fine Japanese Tea. Below, I am also providing distance information for our tea producers in relation to distance from the town of Ookuma in Fukushima Prefecture where the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor is located. You can then check by prefecture with the above MEXT site.-Saitama Prefecture: Sayama Sencha, Sayama City 355 km / 220 miles.-Shizuoka Prefecture: Tea farms from Okabe, 447 km / 278 miles, to Kakegawa, 506 km / 314 miles, produce our Ashikubo Sencha, Chashi Meijin Fukamushicha, Asahina Kabusecha, Asahina Karigane, Genmaicha, Kukicha, and Houjicha.-Aichi Prefecture: Premium Organic Matcha, Nishio 500 km / 310 miles.-Kyoto City: Uji Sencha, Kyoto 625 km / 388 miles.-Fukuoka Prefecture: Yame Sencha & Gyokuro, Yame City 1,125 km / 699 miles.-Miyazaki Prefecture: Takachiho Kamairi Tamaryokucha, Takachiho 1,126 km / 700 miles.-Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Sencha, Chiran Town 1,264 km / 785 miles, & Ei Sencha, Ei Town 1,277 km / 793 miles. And for those of you who would like to donate to the continuing relief work in what looks to be one of the largest recovery and rebuilding efforts in history, here are a few links to organizations where you can donate directly to Japan relief funds. -American Red Cross Red Cross (this is the English portion of the site and they do accept Paypal payments) Potters Fund: In the U.S., Mud Flat Studios in Somerville, MA (a 501(c)3 non-profit organization) is acting as the U.S. fiscal sponsor and can transfer payments by Paypal, credit card, check, etc. to the Fund in Japan. Click on the 2nd option, “Mashiko Potters Fund,” at the donation site, You can also wire money directly to the Mashiko Potters Fund in Japan. Please contact me and I can provide the Fund’s bank account information. Again, thank you all for your kindness and support during this difficult time in Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with those most affected by this natural disaster. I will keep you up to date on any new developments or changes in the situation. Until then, I hope we can all take comfort in the spirit of tea that connects all of us.
(woodblock print image: "View of Matsushima with a Distant Prospect of Mt. Tomi in Michinoku Province" by Ando Hiroshige, from the "Famous Views of the 60-Odd Provinces" (1853-1856.)

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