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Southwest Japan woman, 81, knits hundreds of socks, dishcloths for typhoon victims

Keiko Minomo is seen smiling in front of boxes full of socks and crochet dishcloths she knitted in hopes to keep the victims of Typhoon Hagibis warm, in the city of Takanabe, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Dec. 4, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuka Shiotsuki)

TAKANBABE, Miyazaki -- An 81-year-old woman here has made 165 pairs of colorful socks and 160 crochet dishcloths that she hopes will help keep victims of October's Typhoon Hagibis warm this winter.

"I hope they will convey the feeling that we are connected to one another," said Keiko Minomo, a resident of the town of Takanabe in Miyazaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan. Her hand-knitted pieces are set to be delivered by people she knows and through other means to reach Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan.

Minomo, who grew up in a handicraft-loving household, has been knitting items such as sweaters for her family since marrying her husband Masato, 88, when she was 23. Her crochet socks are especially popular with her friends, to the point that she has to start preparing in summer to hand them out in time for winter.

After Typhoon Hagibis tore through the Kanto, Tohoku and Shinshu regions in eastern, northeastern and central Japan, she felt heart-broken seeing images on TV of an elderly person with dementia hanging their head despondently while staying at a school gym serving as an evacuation center.

At that time, Minomo already had 35 pairs of socks she was planning to drop off at a nearby care facility for the aged. Thinking that the winter cold would set in earlier in the devastated areas, she got her family to drive her to a craft shop in a neighboring city where she bought a bunch of yarns. She began kitting with a goal of making 100 pairs of socks.

For about a month until late November, Minomo would wake up at 6 a.m. to create one sock before making and eating breakfast, and worked until nighttime. She would complete up to six pairs in one day. "I have to work fast or it's going to get cold over there," she recalled thinking. She applied medicine to relieve the pain in her shoulders and kept on knitting.

Though Minomo initially made socks to be worn by elderly women, she realized that their husbands, in-laws and even grandkids could be affected, and ended up making six sizes including ones that fit adults and children.

Socks and crochet dishcloths made by Keiko Minomo are seen in the city of Takanabe, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Dec. 4, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuka Shiotsuki)

She used a technique called double strand knitting for comfortable and cozy-looking socks, and also made socks with yarn of various colors including bright colors like orange, calming colors like grey, and soothing colors like pink and beige.

Around the time Minomo had made 120 pairs of socks, she saw an image of victims using cleaning cloths to wipe sentimental objects that had been covered in muddy water. She instantly decided to also knit cleaning dishcloths.

She made a total of 100 circular dishcloths in red and green, so that they could also be used as Christmas ornaments when hung up on trees. She also chose another 60 pretty-colored dishcloths from a batch she made on an earlier occasion.

In early December, she finished packing the items in boxes and sent them off for delivery to Miyagi Prefecture. "I hope everyone can feel the warmth," said Minomo, as she waited for her socks and dishcloths to reach disaster victims.

(Japanese original by Yuka Shiotsuki, Miyazaki Bureau)

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