THE foreign and local community in Niseko is rallying to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
Locals have donated thousands of dollars in cash, food, blankets, clothes and other things that survivors living in the devastated disaster zone will need.
Now two Australians volunteers are on their way to deliver them and also try and locate friends of friends who haven’t been heard from.
Sydney’s Jay McGregor and Brisbane’s Aaron Jamieson (pictured), both business owners in Niseko, have filled a truck with the donations and spare fuel and caught a ferry across to the mainland.
Jamieson said he was ‘pretty scared’ before heading off on Friday and hoped to make it to Kesenuma while dealing with the cold, and petrol and food shortages.
“Several friends have people missing in Kesenuma and some of the worst hit areas,” he said.
“We have a connection down there who is going to take us into an area that needs it.
“We’re going to try and make it as far as possible, hopefully all the way once we make contact with Jay’s friends in Morioka.
“We’re going to look for names as well – Jay’s sister has an exchange student living with her who hasn’t heard anything from her family.
“It all just came out of that, it’s the least we can do.”
Jamieson said the mood in Niseko was positive but many foreigners there for the ski season were leaving earlier than scheduled – the main ski season ends at the end of March and the lifts run until early May.
“Some seasonal workers are leaving due to pressure from parents and others back home, but everyone is helping with anything they can,” he said.
Business owners and long time foreign residents are preparing other relief efforts, including offering local housing for displaced victims of the disaster.
Fundraising events are being put on such as traditional taiko drumming performances and ski film nights, and makers of Niseko T-shirts are donating all proceeds to the relief effort.
About 100 foreigners now live in Niseko year round, and that number swells to several hundred during the winter, on top of the massive influx of tens of thousands of international ski tourists.
The permanent foreign community is made up of Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, British, French, Dutch and more.
Information about how and where to donate can be found at Google Crisis Response.