Dozens of volunteers donned white disposable jumpsuits, rubber boots and hard hats at the 370-year-old Jionin Buddhist temple cemetery Friday, sacrificing holiday time to help shovel away layers of tsunami mud and debris.
Others did more intricate work, tenderly wiping dirt off Buddhist statues and stone carvings.
It's not the way out-of-towners normally spend the start of the so-called Golden Week holiday, when Japanese commonly leave big cities to visit their home towns, take hot spring vacations or travel abroad. But after last month's earthquake and tsunami decimated northeastern coastal towns and left an estimated 26,000 Japanese either dead or missing, these are not normal times.
"I saw the devastation on TV and felt I had to do something," said Junko Sugino, 49, as she dragged a crate of mud through the narrow lanes between the tombstones.
"This is hard work, but it's something that has to be done by people. Machines can't fit into these tiny spaces," she said.
Please keep praying, going and giving.