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Aid For Japan 2019 : The Year In Review

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A year in charity work…

2019 marked the 8th Anniversary of the 2011 Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, a year in which Aid For Japan continued to do the work that it had set out to do since its formation.

Once again, the charity arranged a special event on 11th March to coincide with the anniversary of the tragedy to help raise awareness. This year, the event was conducted at Islington Yoga School with the generous help of longtime supporters Battodo Fudokan.

The activities at the event included the screening of a series of short films, including a video with a teacher recounting his own story about the tragic events of 2011. Yukio Saito is headmaster of Ishinomaki Nishi High School. Ishinomaki town was severely damaged by the tsunami in the disaster. Saito Sensei has written about the experiences of those at the school during and after the disaster. As the school buildings were on higher ground, many local people took shelter there and the school gymnasium became a mortuary that eventually held more than 700 bodies. The title of his book Ikasarete Ikiru (lit. ‘Allowed to live so Live’) describes the mission of those who survived – both children and adults.

Artist and Battodo Fudokan student Dominika also kindly donated prints of her artwork to help raise funds at the event (her work can be seen on her Instagram page). As a result, the generous donations from attendees raised over £600.

There was also sad news to report when one of Aid For Japan’s trustees, Paul Algar passed away after a long illness. Paul was a tireless supporter of the charity and had regularly offered his services at many of Aid For Japan’s fundraising events. For those that attended these events, Paul was a gracious and welcoming presence who would often be seen manning the entry desk or merchandise tables. Paul was also a regular attendee at Bunkasai Club, Aid For Japan’s weekly English/Japanese Social Club.

He also assisted charity founder Akemi Tanaka in her many tasks and responsibilities. Paul’s kindness and willingness to help was always appreciated and his loyalty to Akemi and to Aid For Japan was a vital part of the charity’s strength. We all appreciate Paul’s warm and kind help to the orphans and the loss of his presence at Aid For Japan will be keenly felt by all.

Much of Aid For Japan’s ability to help the orphans of the 2011 tsunami/earthquake is through the work of volunteers and fundraisers. Grassroots initiatives help to raise funds so that the charity can continue its vital work.

Elizabeth Morgan is one of those supporters who was inspired to help when reading about Aid For Japan’s mission. As a result, she set out on a to run for Aid For Japan in October. “I am running 10 miles along the Portsmouth coast” commented Elizabeth, “a running route I know well as I have suffered it before!!!” As a result, Elizabeth raised £30 for the charity.

During another fundraising initiative, students at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls in Elstree staged a Japanese cultural event to raise funds for the charity. Some students at the school have formed a Japanese Club that regularly stages activities on aspects of Japanese culture. This includes language lessons, origami and presentations on anime.

In May, the students ran a sakura-themed cafe at the school. The event featured a handcrafted sakura tree, sakura-themed decorations and the students even wore pink and white clothing to fit in with the theme. The cafe event was such a success that the students sold out halfway through the lunch hour! As a result, the event raised £149 for Aid For Japan.

Part of Aid For Japan’s mission is to reach out to some of the orphans from the tragic events of 2011. While the charity aims to connect with these children through the annual summer residential courses, it’s also beneficial for the orphans to visit the UK when the charity can arrange it. For children that have lost their parents, this is an important step that not only broadens their view of the world but also reminds them that the world remembers them.

This year saw Maria making the journey from Japan. Maria is one of the children that Aid For Japan has supported since the early days of the charity (as seen in this special TV coverage). As ever, Maria initially stayed with Aid For Japan founder Akemi and husband Richard who both did their best to make Maria feel at home.

For any curious teenager, it’s always interesting to take in the sights around London. On that basis, Maria was taken on visits to the National Gallery, Tate Modern and the ever-popular Harry Potter tour. But there was also time for shopping, which included trips to Piccadilly, Covent Garden, Camden Market and Old Bond Street. She was also lucky enough to get a tour of St Martins Art College and to take in a musical in London.

Exploring food is also an adventure – and Maria managed to show off her own baking and cooking skills. As well as making lemon cake and brownies, she prepared a special Japanese-style hamburger dinner as a thank you to Akemi and Richard for looking after her. On one particularly pleasant summer day, Maria was also treated to a special picnic in a London park. For a brief afternoon, it allowed her to enjoy the tranquility and peace of nature – and also to enjoy a tasty picnic lunch!

Maria, like so many of the orphans of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami, is faced with the memories of that tragic event on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to enjoy a few days in a different environment, which brings them happier memories, is an important step in the road to recovery.

In September, Akemi’s first book The Power Of Chowa was published this September. Chowa is a Japanese concept that is often translated as ‘harmony’, but more accurately means ‘the search for balance’. Chowa is both a philosophy and a set of practices that can help us get to the heart of what is most important to us, and, change our way of thinking about ourselves and others.

In one of the chapters of the book, Akemi talks about Aid For Japan, and how these ideas helped her to help others. “The concept of chowa played an important part in my goal of establishing the charity| comemented Akemi, “In particular, the act of bringing some form of meaningful balance to the lives of others.”

This November saw the return of the annual Doki Doki Japanese Culture Festival in Manchester. Once again, Doki Doki welcomed Akemi Tanaka as a guest speaker – and also featured Aid For Japan as the event’s selected charity.

Akemi gave a talk about the charity and also took part in a panel answering the audiences questions about Japanese life and culture. It was also a good opportunity for Akemi to promote her book The Power Of Chowa.

An impressive £7,000 was raised by Doki Doki directly for Aid For Japan. Funds were also raised by Genki Gear, who donated sales of their Doki Doki T-shirts which raised £356.95 (shirts are still on sale via their website: https://genkigear.com) and also the Meian Maid Cafe who donated proceeds from their cafe event. The Genki Gear T-shirt is also still on sale via their website: https://genkigear.com.

Every year, Aid For Japan arranges for Christmas presents to be sent out to Japan for the orphans of the Tsunami.This tradition continued in 2019. These gifts would not be possible without the kind support of the people who donate to the charity.

2020 will mark the 9th anniversary of the Tsunami, which we will (as always) commemorate with a fundraising Japanese cultural event. If you would like to help the children in Japan, then please follow this link to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/AFJ-TsunamiOrphans

Much of Aid For Japan’s activities this year would not have been possible without the tireless work and dedication of the charity’s small team of volunteers and helpers. This includes Angela Shaffer, Sumika Hayakawa, Bree Van Zyl, Paul Browne, Richard Pennington and Shiori as well as all the other people that have assisted throughout 2019.

Aid For Japan would also like to extend its grateful thanks to Doki Doki, Genki Gear, Meian Maid Cafe, Elizabeth Morgan, Dominika, John Evans and the students of the Battodo Fudokan dojo, the staff and students at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls and the Japan Centre. Thanks also to all those that donated or helped Aid For Japan in other ways throughout 2019.