Aid For Japan 11th Anniversary Event

posted in: Events, News
2022 marks the 11th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

As well as the loss of life that this devastating event resulted in, hundreds of children also lost their parents and families. To commemorate the anniversary 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 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.

For this year’s anniversary Aid For Japan was kindly given space at the London Metropolitan Archives. The LMA is the archive repository for Greater London, and the earliest record they hold dates from 1067; the archives today charts the development of the capital into a metropolis.

We also shared the space with the Tsunagu/Connect exhibition, an oral history project featuring Japanese women who settled in the UK after 1945. Curated by New Earth Theatre, a theatre company for members of the British East and South East Asian community, Akemi was among the women who had been interviewed. Tsunagu/Connect provided a fascinating backdrop of migration stories and impressions of the UK from a unique Japanese perspective.

Order of events

The charity event was preceded by an introductory talk from LMA Director, Emma Markiewicz, on the purpose of the archive. Aid For Japan was the first community event that the archive had hosted since the advent of the pandemic.

Covid-19 continued to be an issue as Rimika Solloway, Akemi’s daughter and director of the charity, had unfortunately come down with the illness and so was unable to attend. Richard Pennington, one of the charity’s trustees and Akemi’s husband, dutifully took over the coordination of the event on the day in her absence.

To begin with, Richard gave a talk explaining the history of Aid For Japan and its plans for the future. This included the fact that some of the orphans that Aid For Japan has helped in the past have expressed a willingness to take a more active role in the charity and thus to help others.

As Richard explained:

So, the charity’s aim is to let them tell their stories about how they survived the earthquake, how they coped afterwards and thrived. 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.

The event then gave Kumiko Mendl, curator of the Tsunagu/Connect exhibition an opportunity to talk about why the project was created and their future plans. Tsunagu/Connect Live represents the next phase of the endeavour where the New Earth Theatre will stage what it describes as “an immersive promenade adventure”, which will showcase the stories of those Japanese women who have settled in the UK.

The assembled attendees took a lunch break, giving them a chance to look at the Tsunagu/Connect exhibition themselves, as well as enjoying some tasty Japanese food kindly donated by Wasabi at Chancery Lane. Plus some home-cooked traditional Japanese food that charity trustee Yuka Harada-Parr provided.

Art of Translation

Yuka hosted the next segment of the afternoon’s activities titled The Art of Translation. As an experienced teacher and translator, Yuka discussed the soon-to-be released song from Japanese singer and musician asari. Using the original Japanese lyrics for ‘Share’, 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.

Maria-chan’s Interview

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. Maria-chan would like to support others who have suffered emotional hardship due to the disaster, and by telling her story she is allowing others to share theirs.

During the video, Maria-chan chatted 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. The video shows Maria-chan has blossomed into a bright and engaging character. Aid For Japan is very proud of what she’s achieved!

Saito-sensei and Natural Disaster Workshops

Saito-sensei is one of the people that Aid For Japan has been in regular contact with over the years. As part of the afternoon’s talks, Yuka presented what Saito-sensei is currently doing in Tohoku.

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.

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. This drill was not only for earthquakes, but also for other natural disasters that might affect the Japanese populace. Natural disaster prevention is a part of the National Curriculum in Japan. In Tokyo local nursery, primary and secondary schools must conduct a disaster drill 11 times a year. In the high schools, they must have drills more than 4 times a year.

Following the drill demonstration, Yuka invited the audience to take part in a quiz to see how much they had learned. One lucky attendee scored high points and, as a result, took home a special emergency survival pack used in times of disaster in Japan, which included a bottle of water and some dried noodles.

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.

Aid For Japan would like to extend its grateful thanks to Emma Markiewicz and Symeon Ververidis and the staff of London Metropolitan Archives for their kind assistance; 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 and Saito-sensei. Special thanks to Maria-chan.

New Earth Theatre’s Tsunagu/Connect Live takes place between 23rd and 20th April 2022 at Shoreditch Town Hall. More details:

asari collaborates with Aid For Japan

posted in: Feature, News

The Tōhoku based artist asari has shared her latest creation with us at Aid For Japan. The song is quite appropriately called ‘Share’ and contains all the hope, sadness and anxieties of someone who survived the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011.

asari is a special breed of artist who believes that music can help share the burden of loss and grief that others have felt. Aid For Japan and asari are currently working together to translate her song lyrics into English, so that a whole new audience can listen and understand the song’s meaning.

asari wrote ‘Share’ to express how she still felt inexplicable sorrow for the losses incurred from the 2011 disaster:

Through working with school students on the production of the song ‘Share’, I was moved to learn that many of them were struggling with the responsibility to tell their stories, and, in spite of these uncomfortable feelings, continue to face up to the disaster and participate in disaster prevention activities.

I myself am a survivor of the Great East Japan Earthquake. 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. I feel very grateful to the students for allowing me to get back in touch with this feeling.

This is why she published ‘Share’ without taking out any copyright; with the intention that as many people as possible can re-create the song, adapt the score and share the meaning of the lyrics, even beyond Japan.

Aid For Japan are staging an event in London on the 11th anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, in association with New Earth Theatre, which will include asari’s video and a discussion of how she composed the song. The event will also feature presentations and talks on the aims of the charity and its future goals.

‘Share’ will be released on CD in April.

Aid For Japan 11th Anniversary Event:

Aid For Japan Rotary Club Talk

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We were invited by the Rotary Club of Chiswick and Brentford to give a talk about the continuing work of Aid For Japan.

This Rotary Club in West London have supported the charity for many years, and this year they have generously donated the cost of a flight ticket for an orphan to come from Japan to England. We intend to use this ticket this Summer 2022, when we are planning to host some orphans and carers in England. We really hope they can come this year, as previously planned trips had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

We spoke to the Rotary Club about the unexpected and tragic loss of Akemi Tanaka, the founder of the charity, which placed us in a difficult position of how to carry on without her leading the way.

After working together with our solid team of trustees and volunteers, we have managed to find a way to continue the good work, while continuing to support and connect with the original orphans of the tsunami.

“At the moment, Aid For Japan is getting ready for change, as most of the orphans have grown up into amazing adults. The charity’s aim is to let them tell their stories about how they survived the earthquake, how they coped afterwards and thrived. Our intention going forward is to bring more stories about the emotional impact natural disasters have on individuals and communities.”

This was the introduction to our talk. We hope to grow in numbers of orphans and survivors of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami who want to share their stories, as we give them a platform to be heard. This is what long-term emotional support looks like. We won’t forget about the orphans once they have become adults. Also, there is so much we could learn from their lived experience of natural disasters and coping with collective grief.

If you would like to find out more about the development of the charity, please come to our 11th Anniversary Event on 11th March 2022 held at the London Metropolitan Archives. Find out more here

Akemi and Tsunagu/Connect

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Akemi Tanaka (the founder of Aid For Japan) features as an interview as part of the Tsunagu/Connect project.

Tsunagu/Connect is a multi-phased, multi-year project that explores the lives of Japanese women living in the UK since 1945. The project began in Spring 2020, and since then has gathered oral histories from over 30 Japanese women. Inspired and informed by these interviews, New Earth Theatre who champion performing arts created by British East and South East Asian (BESEA) artists, have created an immersive theatrical adventure and multi-media exhibition.

Tsunagu/Connect: The Exhibition explores the themes of culture, preconceptions and belonging, revealing the joys and struggles, triumphs and hardships of creating a new life in a foreign land. Featuring personal objects and interactive audio from the women we interviewed, this exhibition is an intimate glimpse into the worlds of these women and poses a vital question: 

“What price must we pay to create a third space, neither one nation nor the other, where we finally have room to be ourselves?”

The Tsunagu/Connect exhibition was on display at the London Metropolitan Archives and artsdepot in London in Spring 2022. The theatre experience Tsunagu/Connect Live was performed at the Shoreditch Town Hall in April 2022.

More details:

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