All smiles are three BFFs showing off their oh-so-kawaii character tees from illustrator Randal Sahara of Hacienda Heights. (Courtesy of Amai-mal Co.)


By Gail Miyasaki
Rafu Craft Editor


A feel good four letter word.

Donations have been funneling through our hands here at the Rafu on behalf of the Japan America Society of So. Calif. and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF via Japanese Chamber of Commerce of So. Calif. From $10 to 5,000, making a difference to provide HELP to countless Japanese people will become a reality.

Thanks to folks throughout the U.S., right now we’re able to pass along over $145,000.

Have YOU donated yet? Be a part of the giving … the caring. Your donations will help the efforts of various Japan disaster relief funds — from the many non-profits and community centers, to celebs, retailers and real people.

Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park did it his way. Aid for Japan comes in the form of specially designed tees. On his “T-Shirts to Benefit Survivors” video at, he relates how fans responded by tweeting suggestions.

A Japanese flag with the words “Not Alone” appear on one tee, a spin-off design for Haiti relief. Two gender-specific tees have a white origami image of a butterfly. “The butterfly is a symbol of rebirth, from caterpillar to butterfly,” he said.

Shinoda, an Art Center College grad, tweeted that 100% of the proceeds go directly to Music for Relief’s Save the Children efforts. That means help for needy children and families in Japan. Each tee is $25, plus tax and shipping, with a ship date for this Friday.

Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda responded to the Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster with black graphic tees directed to Music for Relief efforts. (© 2011 Linkin Park/Mike Shinoda)

Click “Download to donate $10!” You gain access to a growing music collection from a range of musical talents. Like R.E.M., Counting Crows, Grammy-award winning B’z, Sara Bareilles, The Ting Tings. Check it out!

Artist/illustrator Randal Sahara heads the Amai-mal Co. His three adorable characters are on white tees and onesies, blankets, mini-backpacks and stickers. Not only is amai-ness on the front of these tees, but on the flip side too. Screen-printed locally, the use of water-based inks is a nod to concerned parents.

Cast members begin with Tora, the grumpy tiger, who likes peppermint drops. Striped, she packs a bite. A cheerful, impish monkey is Saru — he devours fruit drops. In contrast is the shy, cuddly Kuma, the panda who loves his taffy.

Sahara is an educational tools illustrator by day. A biology degree got him into vet school, but an overwhelming love of art directed him to the Animation Design Center. So, he gets to draw stories about the animals that he cares about.

He gives a thumbs-up to Hello Kitty designer Yuko Yamaguchi and Walt Disney. “My heart and soul are represented in these characters I’ve created,” he said. “The joy from seeing someone look at them and smile is beyond explanation!”

Pottery “Form follows function” is the credo for ceramist Joy Imai of Palo Alto with a soda glazed teapot, tea cup and vase. (Courtesy of J. Imai Studio)

Drop by the Gardena Elks Lodge on Sunday to see his animals and lots more Asian arts- and-crafts selections at A Time for Sharing spring show.

Up north in San Jose’s Japantown, over 60 artisans will be selling their wares at the 34th annual Nikkei Matsuri, also on Sunday. Joy Hana Imai brings her pottery stash.

Happiness is … Joy + clay! The tactile, squishy qualities of this earthy by-product,  clay, allows her to express her innermost feelings in 3-D. This love affair has been going on for 35 years.

No wonder. Her studio/shop is within a relaxing garden setting at the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, a site where she has held residence for 25 years. Schmooze with local birds who habitate in one of her popular hanging bird houses.

“I paint leaves, flowers, grasses, birds and fish on my pots,” she said.

Soda-glazed pottery is her current focus. Not Coke, the cola. She literally sprays baking soda and water on pottery, then fires them in a super-hot, 2,300-degree kiln.

Imai continues to be surprised with the finished results! No two ever fire the same. Yet, each has an orange peel-like texture and you can see a flame pattern. This German technique is over 300 years old.

Her roots go back to high school, where she started making earthenware. The urge to get down and dirty led her to many a ceramics lab. The rest is history.

“Excellence in pottery is a full-time pursuit. My aim is to gain mastery in all aspects, from forming, to firing, to selling my work,” she says.

Sunday, May 1, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
A Time for Sharing Spring Boutique
Elks Lodge
1735 W. 162nd St., Gardena
(310) 329-5874, Stephanie Nakayama


Sunday, May 1, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Nikkei Matsuri
5th & Jackson, San Jose
408-241-0900, Warren Hayashi




1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much Gail, for allowing me to share my story and company with all of your readers. I had an absolute blast at the show and many people mentioned the article. I am so grateful to you for allowing us this amazing opportunity to be featured in your newspaper. It was such a thrill.

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