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Aid For Japan 2022 : The Year In Review

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A year in charity work…

Every year, Aid For Japan marks the day the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck Japan. To commemorate the anniversary for 2022, Aid For Japan staged a special event that combined a showcase for Japanese culture, alongside an exploration of Aid For Japan’s activities and goals for the future.

This event was, understandably, a little sadder as it was the first charity event that didn’t have the presence of charity founder Akemi Tanaka who sadly passed away in 2021. At the same time, Aid For Japan is getting ready for change as most of the orphans that the charity has supported have now grown up. On that basis, the charity is looking to the future and carrying Akemi’s legacy forward.

This year’s anniversary event was staged at the London Metropolitan Archives. The charity also shared the space with the Tsunagu/Connect exhibition, an oral history project featuring Japanese women who settled in the UK after 1945 (Akemi Tanaka was among the women who had been interviewed).

Richard Pennington, one of the charity’s trustees and Akemi’s husband, gave a talk explaining the history of Aid For Japan and its plans for the future: “Our intention going forward is to bring more stories about the emotional impact natural disasters have on individuals and communities. These people experienced and survived one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded in human history. This is why their stories are worth telling. Aid For Japan aims to raise awareness about natural disasters and to learn from them about how to cope with collective grief.”

Yuka Harada-Parr staged The Art of Translation, an activity that involved the attendees in translating a Japanese song. As an experienced teacher and translator, Yuka discussed the song ‘Share’. Tōhoku based artist asari wrote ‘Share’ to express how she still felt inexplicable sorrow for the losses incurred from the 2011 disaster: “I myself am a survivor of the Great East Japan Earthquake” asari explained, “I have often found myself wondering if I could share my thoughts and feelings with others, to do something to lighten their hearts and offer encouragement.”

Using the original Japanese lyrics, Yuka explained some of the trickier parts of translating Japanese, while also trying to maintain the nuance of the language. Yuka then invited the audience to help with providing a suitable English translation for asari’s lyrics.

Later in the year, Aid For Japan invited people to assist asari by submitting their own videos to create a special music video for ‘Share’.

One of the orphans who Aid For Japan has supported since the disaster is Maria-chan. As part of this event, she kindly contributed an interview for a special video presentation to let supporters of the charity get to know her better. This included chatting about her hobbies and interests which included her favourite film (Titanic) and favourite hobby (riding her motorbike!) At the moment, Maria-chan is studying fashion at a Tokyo university.

Headmaster of a school hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, Saito-sensei is someone with a keen personal interest in the aftermath. He is now running workshops on disaster management and disaster prevention, providing relief for the people of Miyagi Prefecture and the surrounding affected areas. Yuka presented what Saito-sensei is currently doing in Tohoku.

Recently, Saito-sensei conducted a lecture series titled Live and Let Live about how to continue with normal life after going through such a life-changing event. “That was the worst natural disaster in living memory for Japanese people. My community including myself have gone through great loss. We are changed people, but we must continue to live as normal.”

Rounding out the event’s activities, Yuka took the audience through a typical Japanese disaster drill, a reminder that natural disaster prevention is a part of the National Curriculum in Japan. Attendees walked away from the event with a stronger impression of the impact the events of 2011 had made on people’s lives – as well as the difference that Aid For Japan is trying to make.

In Japan there is the tradition of cherry blossom viewing called hanami 花見 where people gather beneath cherry blossom trees to appreciate the flowers’ fleeting beauty. In April 2022 Aid For Japan hosted such a hanami event at Greenwich Park. The cherry blossom trees were in full bloom, so that everyone could enjoy and appreciate them. The National Trust were also making a podcast about “blossom appreciation” and so their producer joined us to record at our event.

People brought along sushi, homemade Japanese food, such as dashi-maki tamago (egg rolls), onigiri (rice balls), and pink cake to match the cherry blossom. Fresh sushi was available (donated by the kind owner of Yuma Sushi).

Every year, Manchester’s Doki Doki Festival celebrates Japanese culture and also kindly donates proceedings to Aid For Japan. Doki Doki Festival is a non-profit project that is being run by the passion of the organisers. We were very glad to be partnered with such a pure and joyful event.

Aid For Japan had a stall offering to write people’s names in shodō (Japanese calligraphy) which was surprisingly popular! We also dressed people in kimono so they could take photos. We also sold copies of the book, The Power of Chowa – Finding you balance through the Japanese wisdom of harmony, written by our late-founder Akemi Tanaka to raise money for Aid For Japan. Rimika Solloway (Akemi’s daughter), appeared on the ‘Traditional Japan Panel’ alongside other Japanese specialists. She also gave a speech about the work of Aid For Japan, where Maria-chan also introduced herself to the gathered crowd.

In total, Aid For Japan benefitted from £5,963 from the event. We are very grateful to Doki Doki and their associates as well as all of our dedicated volunteers for raising this amazing amount of money.

In Summer 2022 the charity team welcomed Maria-chan from Japan to the UK. We even managed to fit in a dream trip to Disneyland Paris! Maria-chan’s primary reason for visiting England was to take part in a Vidal Sassoon Academy short course in hair styling. She passed the course and got a certificate, which will help her achieve her career goal of working in the beauty and fashion industry in Japan.

On the Paris visit, some of our Japanese speaking volunteers visited the Foundling Museum together with Maria-chan to see an exhibition called Superheroes, Orphans & Origins. It featured illustrations, comics and manga with characters whose origin stories were about being an orphan or “foundling”. Maria-chan told us she enjoyed the visit and had discovered some new manga artists as well.

While Maria-chan was home-staying in London, we met up with the charity trustees in Hyde Park. Before our meeting, Maria-chan had experience a very nice afternoon tea at The Dorchester Hotel. Her favourite thing on the menu was the clotted cream. During this summer’s activities, Maria-chan was as much as a help to Aid For Japan as she was a beneficiary. We’re very grateful for her reciprocity; in giving back her time and skills to benefit the charity. The summer trip was a wonderful experience for all involved, and we also could not have done it without the generous support and donations received from everyone over the years.

With Christmas approaching, there was one final task for the charity to complete. Every year, Aid For Japan arranges for Christmas presents to be sent out to Japan for the orphans of the Tsunami. To wish the orphans and their carers a Merry Christmas we sent them British biscuits in the shape of Scottie dogs. We also wrote them Christmas cards in both English and Japanese wishing them well for the New Year. These gifts would not be possible without the kind support of the people who donate to the charity.

Aid For Japan is grateful for the continued support and generosity from the following people and organisations: Emma Markiewicz and Symeon Ververidis and the staff of London Metropolitan Archives, Doki Doki Festival Manchester, Meian Maid Café, Genki Gear, Kumiko Mendl, Lian Wilkinson and the team behind Tsunagu/Connect; Peter Berry, Johanna Mattick and the team at the Chancery Lane branch of Wasabi, asari, The Griffin Federation, Peter Berry, Johanna Mattick and the team at the Chancery Lane branch of Wasabi, Yukio Saito (Saito-Sensei) Yuma Sushi and Zonta International.

We would like to thank The Rotary Club of Chiswick and Brentford, the Duggan family, Andrew Gaskell, Risa Rokuhara, Genevieve Edwards, Aidan Clifford, Yuka Harada-Parr, Richard Pennington, Sumika Hayakawa, Matt Perkins and Paul Browne. Special thanks to Maria-chan.