Aid For Japan : Going Forward

posted in: News

Since the tragic and sudden death of the charity’s founder, Akemi Solloway Tanaka, the trustees are all working hard to plan for the future and direction of Aid For Japan. The charity’s mission to support the orphans of the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami will continue.

The charity’s cultural exchange visits will continue, with plans to host orphans and their carers in England in Summer 2022. (Of course, while monitoring the global Covid-19 crisis, which currently makes travel between the UK and Japan unfeasible.)

Aid For Japan will continue to send Christmas presents to the orphans from the affected disaster region of Tohoku. This has been a yearly tradition going back to the beginning of the charity and the children in Japan look forward to our British gifts.

We will continue to offer emotional support to the orphans and children who have been affected by the 2011 tragedy. If you would like to help then please contact us on or you can donate via our donations page here.

Thank you for your continued support.

Trustees of Aid For Japan

まず、具体的には今までの文化交流訪問活動を2022年夏に再開させ、その際には孤児だけでなく、その保護者も英国に招待することを計画しています。 (ただし、コロナ危機の状況次第による。現在英国と日本との行き来は不可能となっており、過去2年は活動停滞中)
つきましては、メールアドレス、 まで日本語または英語でご連絡頂くか、   こちらの寄付ページから直接ご寄付を寄せていただきます様、よろしくお願いいたします。

Akemi Tanaka 1958 – 2021

posted in: News

It is with great sadness that we must announce that after developing cancer, Akemi Tanaka passed away recently.

Akemi had been ill for some time, but had made the conscious decision to continue working to promote those ideals that she held close to her heart. This included the charity that she founded, Aid For Japan. Akemi’s passionate work for the orphans of the 2011 Japanese earthquake & tsunami covered ten years of fundraising, events and personal support for children whose lives were changed by the charity’s efforts.

Akemi’s passing impacts not just the charity, but also all the other lives she touched through teaching, lecturing and organising across a long career focussed on promoting Japanese culture. Equally, her support of Shiroi Ito, which meant challenging the problems of sexual violence in Japan, was also a strong cause that Akemi spent the last few years championing.

Her recent book The Power of Chōwa reached a new audience for Akemi’s wisdom, once again expanding her advocacy for Japanese culture; where she explored the Japanese concept of chōwa, which means ‘the search for balance’. The success of the book has been a testimony to Akemi’s passion and makes her absence all the more sad. However, the book also offers solace in its words. In one chapter, Akemi approaches the issues of life and death:

When we lose the people closest to us, it is perfectly natural for us to feel as if we have fallen down, and to feel like there is nothing we can do to get back up.
But chōwa reminds us that people come together in times of sadness. It teaches us that it is the people left alive that matter the most, and we must help each other back to our feet.


明美さんは健康状態が望ましくないにも関わらず、彼女が心から大切にする理想を実現するため、最期まで活動を続けられました。その活動は彼女が設立した、2011年の東日本大震災で被災した子供たちを支援する慈善団体「Aid For Japan」の10年間におよんでの募金活動や被災した子供達への個人的サポートなどです。彼女の惜しまぬ努力によって子供達の人生は大きく変わったと言えましょう。



近年の彼女の著書「The Power of Chōwa −−調和の力」では、新しい読者に明美さんの知恵を「調和」という 日本固有のコンセプト−−バランスの探求−−を用い、改めて彼女の日本文化の理解を深める活動を拡大。
この本は今も多くの人に読まれており、この成功は明美さんの情熱の証です。と同時に明美さんがもうここに いないという悲しみを私たちにより一層呼び起こすことでもあります。しかし、この本の中で明美さんは私たちに救いの言葉を残されました。明美さんはこの本の中で自身の死生観についてこう語っています。


1000 Origami Cranes Gallery

posted in: Fundraising

Let’s make origami cranes…

In Japanese culture one thousand origami cranes strung together symbolises hope, peace and healing. Here’s some of the beautiful cranes people have made as part of Aid For Japan’s 1000 Origami Cranes initiative. This includes the crane collage below which was created out of everyone’s submissions up to the 11th March 2021.

Aid for Japan: 10th Anniversary Testimonials

posted in: Events

Recollections, thoughts and memories from 10 years of Aid For Japan…

On the 11th March 2011, the Tōhoku region, northeast Japan, was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The earthquake and tsunami led to the deaths of around 25,000 people and left over 500,000 people homeless. Over 1,200 children lost at least one parent, and over 250 children lost both parents.

On my first visit to Tōhoku, I met children who had not only lost parents, but grandparents, siblings, as well as beloved pets and belongings. Adoption rates in Japan were, and remain, extremely low. The chances were that the children would spend their childhood in orphanages. In a culture where the nuclear family structure is so important, they would also likely face difficulties when it came for finding work, or looking for a partner later in life. I resolved to set up a charity to support these children. This was the beginning of my charity, Aid for Japan.

We organised summer residential courses in Japan, inviting English volunteers to interact and have fun with the children in Tōhoku. The courses provided a wide range of activities promoting confidence-building and English learning. Events included team-building exercises and learning about the cultural differences between the UK and Japan. Many of our international volunteers and the children became good friends. We also organised a successful home-stay programme in which orphans were invited to come and stay in the UK, which gave the children we supported a much needed break from challenging conditions at home.

It is now ten years on from the disaster. Several of the children we met in 2011 are now in their teens, and some are children no longer, having legally come of age in Japan. It has been wonderful to be part of their lives and to have watched them grow in confidence. But we have not wanted to disappear from their lives, and have continued to send small annual gifts, even to those who are now adults, as many of them still have fond memories of their visits to the UK.

This year, on the tenth anniversary of the charity’s being established, the money we raise will continue to support orphanages in the region in their valuable work, and to fund trips to the UK for those children who have not yet come of age, who we hope to welcome back to the UK in the near future.

Please follow the links below to see how you can participate in Aid for Japan’s Ten Year Anniversary events, and for a link to the donation page.

Thank you for your continued support!

Akemi Tanaka

Memories of being a host family for Maria

We’ve been a host family for Maria 4 times from 2016-2019 and it’s been lovely seeing her grow up over those years.

We first met her at Heathrow in 2016 – our son Alex had been in Japan with 2 other boys (David and Zac) on a trip organized by Akemi to help raise money for Aid for Japan and they flew back with Maria and Ryota, another boy the charity was helping. Maria stayed with us for the trip, and luckily we had Sumika from the charity staying too to help with communication as our Japanese is non-existent! When Sumika wasn’t around, we managed with a combination of Alex’s 1 year of Japanese and Maria’s ability with translation apps on her phone. Maria was (understandably) quite shy on that first trip, but she enjoyed a trip with us to Hampton Court, and as she was a big Harry Potter fan we took to her to Kings Cross to have her photo taken at platform 9¾’s.

In other trips we saw Maria increasing in confidence – if we were busy she went into London on her own, sightseeing and shopping. As she got older, she became very interested in style and clothing (I think she told me she wanted to become a stylist) and it was interesting to see she had developed a strong individual style of her own. Alex and I went with her to Camden Market (she wanted my opinion on getting some body-piercing!) and helped her track down a clothes shop in Soho that she’d found out about online.

On one of Maria’s visits we had a memorable trip to the Harry Potter studios (we’re all fans), and took her on the Eurostar to Paris for a night. Akemi had a student (Joachim) who had gone back to Paris for the summer, and he was happy to meet us at the station and spent 2 days showing us round and helping us track down photo sites for Maria’s Instagram. He was able to speak Japanese to Maria which made things much easier.

Alex went back to Japan for the summer in 2018, and stayed with Sumika during his time in Tokyo – Maria came to stay with her too and he enjoyed catching up with her.

It has been lovely to get to know Maria, we’ll be happy for her to stay again any time in the future. Although we can’t speak Japanese, her English improved every trip, and we got by with translation apps. I learnt what food she liked (not English food!) and when we were in the house she enjoyed helping with baking and playing with our cat. Even though we couldn’t chat very much, she was happy to spend evenings with us rather than staying in her room.

Sarah and Alexander Duggan

Little Dom’s Big Adventure

There are few days I remember as well as the 11th of March 2011. I was working that day and first heard the news of the Earthquake and Tsunami over the radio. I remember how I felt the spanner I was holding slip out of my hand as I ran to my phone to try and call my friends in Japan only to discover the same thing millions of others had – I couldn’t get through.

Later in the day when I could get to a TV I saw the images of the wave and the destruction I just sat on my bed crying and feeling utterly useless.

Seeing the images of buildings, businesses, livelihoods, lives and families being ripped apart in just a few minutes cut into me deeply.

At that time there were many things in my life stopping me from flying to Japan to help out but I vowed I would help out in some way in the future.

In 2013 I heard about Aid For Japan helping out the orphans and thought “This is how I can help!” and began planning a solo motorcycle journey from the UK to the east coast of Japan called “Little Dom’s Big Adventure” to help raise money and awareness for the charity.

Before setting off on Little Dom’s Big adventure the furthest I had ever ridden on a motorbike was to a friend’s holiday home in northern France. Every time I mentioned what I was planning to do people were shocked at the distance involved but strangely it was never a worry to me.

The only real worry I had was about who I would meet and any hostility that I may encounter on the way (after all I was going to cross the border of 2 countries at war!).

Having spent my whole life in the UK (aside from a few holidays to Japan and 1 trip to France), the stereotypes of people from other countries were well ingrained into my mind – Germany (still bitter from the WW2) Ukraine (former soviet country – everyone is poor and they will all try to rob you) Russia (everyone is miserable, drunk and they all want to kill you)!

Thankfully in the battle of worry which was raging in my mind I had a counter offensive. I had been to meet a number of famous overland adventurers and read the books of those who had dared to venture to the less travelled parts of the world. All of these people said time and time again that the stereotypes are all totally wrong!

As it turned out the overlanders were correct! in Germany nobody was bitter towards me, Ukraine – is a well-developed modern country who’s people are VERY friendly and kind and in Russia I found warmth and kindness on a scale I’ve never seen before! Travelling across so many different countries and meeting with so many different cultures taught me that in the end, after all the differences, opinions, religions and beliefs are set aside everyone is trying to achieve the same thing – a good and happy life for everyone.

We all love each other one way or another. Weather that be for one’s spouse or brother or sister or friend or even friend of friend or a total stranger on a motorbike from a far-off country we all have the capacity to show the love for each other which at the end of the day was the very reason I got on my bike in the first place.

Dominic Farwell-Cooke

Opportunities and Happiness

Christel and I still remember the shock and horror that we felt when, 10 years ago, we learnt of the earthquake and tsunami that had just hit Japan. The scale and the extent of the damage and loss of life were unlike anything we had ever experienced, seen, or even contemplated, up to that point in our lives.

When we met Maria for the first time, and, a few years later and after Akemi-sensei had explained to us her circumstances, we felt it was our responsibility to help. Of course, we could not repair or undo the damage that the tragic event had done, but perhaps we could support and bring some opportunities and happiness to Maria. She had left quite an impression on us, and we came to deeply care for her after meeting/hosting her in London every year after that and until we moved to Tokyo.

We have now known Maria for several years and we see her in Tokyo on a regular basis. She used to be a quiet, withdrawn kid, but she has grown to be an outgoing, capable young woman that we are proud of. This is, at least partly, thanks to what Aid for Japan did for her and for many other children, and that is simply amazing.

Matteo and Christel

Photo Memories

Photos: Roger Payne – Head of Mid Sussex Martial Arts School

Aid For Japan extends its gratitude to all those that contributed stories and memories.

If you would like to help the children in Japan, then please follow this link to donate: or visit our dedicated Donations page.

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