Tohoku Earthquake – 5 years later

I had trouble writing this post.  It’s been nearly seven years since I left Miyagi-ken.  I haven’t gone back like I had planned, and now I don’t see my students coming to Southlake because they’ve grown up (also the age range changed).  As evident with the decreased frequency of updates, I’ve become distant with the country that is my second home.

Nevertheless, I can’t forget about how five years ago, I spent all night worrying about my friends when the casual status updates about an earthquake became something much scarier.  It’s hard to not think about the Tohoku earthquake when NPR was all over the 5 year anniversary and all of us Miyagi-ken JETs pay tribute on social media.  I think it’s good to be reminded though, as the people in the region are still struggling.  Thus, I’ve decided to make this post about some examples of aid and recovery.  There’s a lot of individuals out there who continue to dedicate some of their time to Tohoku through raising money or lifting spirits.  Let this be inspiration to all of us.

The one project that led to this post was the 113 Project.  It is a series of short films directed by Wesley Julian, one of my fellow Miyagi JETs who also created Tohoku Tomo.  The 113 Project provides glimpses of rebuilding from youth, local business members, and expats to show the power of collaboration.  To view the films, visit the 113 Project website.
 photo Sake-Urakasumi-TourBrewery-IMG_9130_zpsjbsip6gd.jpg From 113 Project

Visual kei band X Japan has always been active with charity work, having raised money for both the Tohoku earthquake and other disasters.  This year drummer/pianist Yoshiki put up a special drum set for auction.  He donated the proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross.
 photo Ydrum1_zpsgo1iphrf.jpg From Resonance Media

The question of where to send money often crops up with disaster relief.  While I don’t doubt the Red Cross’ valiant efforts, they have received some criticism, at least stateside.   One charity I can recommend 100% is the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund.  Not only does each project provide updates through emails from Global Giving, but the charity is run by the father of Taylor Anderson (who was another Miyagi JET).

Lastly, I wanted to highlight RADWIMPS’ annual tribute as an example of how art heals.  Listening to music that pays tribute to the survivors never fails to bring back emotions I thought I had forgotten.  Seeing images does the same.  With the returning sadness is a message of hope that the artists put into their work.  Tohoku is recovering, and the human spirit will triumph.  Since 2012, RADWIMPS has released a new tribute song on March 11.  Here is a list along with the video of the most recent:
2012 – “Hakujitsu
2013 – “Buriki
2014 – “Kaiko
2015 – “Aitowa
2016 – “Shuntou”

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Ladies of Power needs you!

ladies of power

Ladies of Power is a cosplay calendar project organized by Callie Calypso that celebrates female empowerment and women of all sorts.  Featured are women of all races, sizes, ages, and sexualities.  There are artists and scientists, mothers (and mothers to be) and daughters, cosplay newbies and veteran models, alt girls, shy girls,  and more.  They have all come together to express their love of all things geeky and raise money for the Genesis Women’s Shelter.  Photos have been taken by HendrixXHunter Photography and now the project needs your help to raise money for printing!

To donate, please visit the Ladies of Power Indiegogo: click here.  Every little bit counts and all proceeds from calendar sales will go towards the shelter.  Fundraising concludes at the end of this month.

Also, be sure to follow the Ladies of Power Tumblr and facebook for more updates.  You may just see a familiar face.

Listening to: “4STEPS TO BE” live by GANGLION

Tohoku Tomo

March 11 came and went fairly quietly.  However, no matter how good of day it is or how much fun I had the weekend before, a somber mood takes over as I remember what has been lost to the earthquake and tsunami.  Japan has made remarkable progress in rebuilding, but this isn’t something the country will get over quickly.  Just from talking to survivors during the Grassroots Summit last fall, I got a sense of how much pain is lingering.  I admire their strength, and I will continue to show my support.

With that, I present the Tohoku Tomo Kickstarter.

One of my fellow Miyagi JETs, Wesley Julian, is creating a documentary that highlight the volunteer efforts that has helped the Tohoku region get back on its feet.  The organization he focuses on are all founded by JETs: Save Miyagi, Smile Kids Japan, Volunteer Akita, and JETAA Chicago.  The film will focus on all the different individual efforts and highlight the love of Japan that has driven these people to lend a helping hand.

Please check out the Kickstarter, as well as the official Tohoku Tomo website.

Tohoku Tomo photo 1461d417-c478-4c88-bf5c-6a8f96681cd0_zpsfc85f202.jpg
Listening to: “Ninja ri Bang Bang” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

A message from Tohoku to the world

Those of you who follow me on my social media accounts have seen my posts, but I want to share this with as many people as possible. It is a beautiful tribute to a friend who lost her life, and it shows the impact Assistant English Teachers have on their students. It also highlights the beauty of cross-cultural bonds and gives hope for world peace.

The video was made by Executive Director Tsutomu Karino of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc.

Tohoku has made leaps and bounds in recovering from the earthquake and tsunami, but the people still need help. Please consider purchasing a charity calendar as a holiday gift. There’s also a cookbook (Peko Peko) and a literary anthology (Fable for Japan) that will donate proceeds to relief funds. You can also spread a little holiday cheer to the kids in Tohoku by sending them Christmas cards; instructions can be found at JETAA USA.

Listening to: “Kizuna” by Kazuya Kamenashi

Southlake, TX holds benefit concert for sister city, Tome

In response to the Tohoku earthquake, community initiative Southlake Working As a Team (S.W.A.T.) joined forces with Southlake Sister Cities, the City of Southlake, and the Carroll Independent School District to form Southlake 4 Japan. The organization dedicated itself to helping the town’s sister city, Tome, which suffered damage to its buildings and roads and struggled to accommodate the evacuees from neighboring cities. Southlake’s relationship with Japan began in 1991, long before Toyoma and neighboring towns merged to form the city of Tome. Since then, the two cities have engaged in cultural and education exchange programs.

Southlake Sister Cities had already set up an earthquake relief fund and collected messages for a scrapbook, but more needed to be done to raise awareness within the community. Carroll Senior High School students Harrison Edwards and Carter Humphrey proposed the idea of a benefit concert.

Edwards felt a connection with Tome as a former student ambassador of the Sister Cities exchange program. He and Humphrey already had experience organizing such an event, having been the masterminds behind last year’s Rock for Haiti earthquake relief concert. Southlake 4 Japan was quick to help with providing a venue, publicity, and volunteers. S.W.A.T. founder and Southlake Baptist Church Lead Pastor Clayton Reed was in charge of the event programming while Edwards and Humphrey sought out bands to fill the line-up.

S4J benefit concert21

The concert was held on May 7 in Southlake Town Square. Attendees were encouraged to donate at least $5, which got them a wristband and a cell phone screen protector. There was an origami booth with bumper stickers for sale and food supplied by Qdoba Mexican Grill. Southlake Sister Cities provided information about Tome and collected signatures for a banner being sent to Tome’s mayor.

S4J benefit concert07 S4J benefit concert15

Alternative metal band Quoth the Raven opened the event. They played all original songs with the exception of a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”. Despite being only high school students, Quoth the Raven impressed even the non-rock fans of the audience with their complex melodies and Aubrey’s strong yet vulnerable vocals.

The next band, Don Cabo, was made up of students. They were less serious, as the frontman read his lyrics off a sheet of paper and cracked jokes between sets. Nonetheless, the band demonstrated creativity as they combined African beats with their idiosyncratic rap lyrics (one song was about lobsters) and threw in a jazz-inspired number for variety.

S4J benefit concert05
S4J benefit concert06

Edwards’ band, Vibe Zoo, was a crowd favorite. Their fusion of funk, blues, and hard rock was reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom they covered, and 311. However, they also acknowledged old school influences with a rendition of “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Before the final band took the stage, Reed and Edwards spoke, along with members of Southlake Sister Cities. Then Event Horizon put on an explosive performance. Founded by father and son/guitarist and drummer Marty and Zak Hanan, the cover band strictly plays for charity events. Kevin Richards got the crowd on their feet with his soulful and energetic vocals while Zak proved once again that a teenager could play classic rock solos (Event Horizon also played “Purple Haze”).

S4J benefit concert12 S4J benefit concert18

The night ended on a somber note. After being informed of the benefit concert, Tome’s Mayor Fuse sent a video message thanking the citizens of Southlake for their efforts and updating everyone on the situation in Tome. It served as a reminder that Japan was still struggling.

Nevertheless, hope lives. The benefit concert proved to be a tremendous success. Qdoba Mexican Grill donated all their earnings. $2,144 was made from on-sight donations, making the total (which included wristband pre-sales) near $3000. Although Southlake Sister Cities may have begun as a way to obtain cultural exchange opportunities, Southlake used the relationship it formed with Japan to make a difference.

More photos can be found on Flickr.
If you would like to donate to the Tome Earthquake Relief Fund, please visit Southlake 4 Japan’s website.

Listening to: “Sympathia” by Versailles