PACOIMA — San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center’s observance of the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on Feb. 27 brought a message of hope to orphans in northeastern Japan.
All proceeds will be sent to Ohana Ouenzyar in Fukushima, where orphaned special-needs children cannot go outside to play. The radiation remains a source of danger for residents, animals and crops.
Ritsuko Shinbashi brought white and pink blossoms from her garden to bring spring joy into Sakaguchi Hall with accents of purple iris and yellow mums.
Young ballerinas from Valley Japanese Community Center’s YK Ballet taught by Yukie Kanagawa, SFV JACL’s Suzume no Gakkou directed by Nancy Gohata, Helena Jeen of SFV Japanese Language Institute accompanied by her mother, Atsuyo Jeen, were all energetically introduced by Miss San Fernando, Kelsey Nakaji Kwong.
The Meiji Club ondo group encouraged the audience to participate in “Gokigen Ondo.” Sensei Masako Rodriques was joined by the Chiba family, who lost five members on March 11, 2011.
Special messages were delivered by Consul Kazutoshi Hayashi of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles; Hermes Ayala, field representative of Assemblymember Patty Lopez; and the “Disaster Guy,” Ken Kondo of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.
The Southern California Disaster Preparedness Foundation filled the gym with 15 exhibits coordinated by Bill Hopkins and Mikkie Lo.
Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Glenn Miyagishima introduced Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Chief Michael Takeshita, who provided helpful tips on disaster preparedness.
Memorial prayers were offered by Revs. Spring and James Iwata of Sunrise Foursquare Church and Rev. Roland Hazama of Crossway Church, and a traditional candlelighting ceremony was conducted by Rev. Ruy Mizuki of Chatsworth West United Methodist Church.
The most poignant part of the program came from master of ceremonies Kimiaki Chiba’s cousin, Koichi Saiichi, who said, “Many young people returned to their home town and villages to help out with the rebuilding process. Those who were in middle school and high school when the earthquake and tsunami struck have grown up to become or aspire to become firefighters, nurses, or enlist in the defense force to help others.
“The seafood industry in the area has recovered back to the level of operation before the disaster. Houses have been rebuilt on higher grounds and new towns are being built. If you ever have the chance, please visit the ‘rebuilt’ Tohoku.”
Souvenir T-shirts in limited quantities are available for $10. Donations will be accepted until April 15. Make checks out to J.E.T. Relief c/o San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center, 12953 Branford St., Pacoima, CA 91331.
To see a seven-minute clip by Gregg Kita, click here.