September 4, 2018
Hiji, Oita Pref.- Haruo Obata, called a "super volunteer," was honored on Monday by the town of Hiji, Oita Prefecture, for his actions and spirit of volunteerism, after he surprised many people by finding a missing two-year-old boy last month while police had yet to find any clue to the whereabouts of the boy.
Receiving a citation from Hirofumi Honda, mayor of the southwestern Japan town where he lives, Obata, 78, said, "I will continue volunteer activities as long as my body allows."
His range of volunteering activities have made people call him a super volunteer.
A big lover of mountain climbing, he has prepared mountain trails on Mount Yufu in the prefecture since 30 years ago. Stairs he created now allow climbers to mount steep slopes.
In the aftermath of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, Obata went to Minamisanriku of Miyagi Prefecture, one of the three most severely affected northeastern prefectures, to try to find affected people's keepsakes, such as photo albums, buried in debris and return them to owners.
He hardly took a break after finding the missing boy in Suo-Oshima in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan. Through the end of August, Obata volunteered in Kure, a city in Hiroshima Prefecture that was hit hard by heavy rain.
Obata eats and sleeps in his micro minivan during his volunteer activities. "It's a matter of course that people take care of themselves," he says.
"I'd like you to join mud-cleanup work, just for an hour is fine," he also says. "You'll see your job greatly appreciated by disaster-hit people and think about doing cleanup work for half a day next time." Jiji Press
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