This is only tangentially related to combat sports, and I apologize in advance if you aren't interested in things like this taking up space on your favorite blog. But this is a story that needs to get as many eyes on it as possible, and I will do whatever I can to help out.
Enson Inoue should need no introduction to fans of combat sports. He is a colorful legend in the sport of MMA and very well-known in Japan. While he was born and raised in Hawaii, Enson embodies the Japanese samurai spirit that is the very definition of Yamato-Damashii. He is a man that was deeply hurt by the destruction of the March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and wanted to help. In response to this tragedy, Enson became a one-man charity, for lack of a better explanation. He went straight up to Tohoku, the region that suffered the most damage, and provided all the assistance he could. But it was just the beginning.
Inoue conducted an interview with veteran Japanese MMA correspondent Dan Herbertson, which led to a gigantic amount of donations pouring in. He now had a lot of money at his disposal to do even more, and he decided to head back up to the Tohoku area on April 11th. Mr. Herbertson chose to tag along and report on the entire trip, a trip that was quickly threatened by a disagreement with the payment processor of the donations. Undaunted by this, Inoue and Herbertson forged on.
These incredible stories are full of unspeakable horrors, the reality of the situation on the ground, and the touching gestures of strangers just trying to do anything they can to help. Herbertson's descriptions of Enson and his actions offer far more insight into the man than anything I've ever come across so far, and these acts of heroism on the part of both men (and many others) need to be read to be believed. I urge all of you to check them out. Here are links to each part, and a small sample of each:
With his PayPal account frozen, Enson not only had no access to the donations, he also had no access to all his other money from his rosary making business. Funds that were also for the people of Tohoku.
Despite the wishes of the hundreds who tried to help, Enson would have to fund this trip with his own cash for the mean time. He was forced to return all of the donations, and had friends working on the PayPal issue, but as we were now making our way into Fukushima, it seemed folly to focus on legal matters.
Kirby was finishing his trip around Tohoku just as we were starting it. Talking to him gave me my first insight into the real situation in the disaster areas. Kirby's stories were horrifying.
Groups of armed gangs (some reportedly related to Chinese mafia) had been entering the evacuation zones to loot vacant homes and businesses. Kirby had heard stories of rape and murder by these gangs, but as all the police were occupied, they had gone unnoticed and unpunished. None of the large charities had reached the people in need. He had just returned from one village that had received no aid whatsoever and had hundreds of dead bodies stuck in harbor gates. This was not the picture that was painted on TV in Japan. The news in Japan was showing the Fukushima power plant. It was not showing this.
Enson talked a lot about his willingness to die. He also talked a lot about age. As an incredibly proud and strong man, the weakness that inevitably comes with age seems to scare him. Dying in a manner benefiting of a man bearing the alias of "Yamato-damashii" or "samurai spirit" is everything to Enson. He talked at length about how death can define a man.
Over the past two days, we had seen two cities damaged beyond comprehension and two cities completely wiped off the map. There was nothing positive to take away from the situation. There were clearly thousands and thousands of bodies stuck in those wastelands and there are only a handful of military personnel looking for them. We saw no police, no aid workers and no other press.
Enson and I talked at some length about the crushing feeling of hopelessness.
"If everyone could just see and experience this," he started. It was tough to finish sentences.
The darkness in the evacuation center seemed to evaporate. An excited but orderly line was formed and the supplies were quickly snatched up by evacuees with Enson talking to each person, asking what they would need when we return later in the week.
Young people were again socializing and laughing, children were playing with new toys and the elderly were lacing up their new shoes. Enson could barely contain himself, "This is the best present I could ever hope for," he would say every few minutes.
If these stories inspire you to want to help, Enson asks that people please donate to the Red Cross since he is unable to take donations directly right now (this is explained in the stories). If you'd like you can also donate to Save The Children or anywhere else. Even the simple act of passing on Dan's stories to others is helpful. You can get updates on this saga by following Herbertson and Inoue on twitter. I consider myself a pretty hardened and unemotional person but these stories have really, for lack of a better phrase, cut me deep. I will help out however I can, which is why I'm writing this today. Thank you for your time.