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rising hope

rising hope
March 27, 2011 rene

rising hope

For days we have watched in awe the dramatic events unfolding in Japan, following the news that show big parts of that highly sophisticated and industrialised country laying in scatters what looks like aftermath of a war, one cannot but be impressed by the calm and altruistic spirit of the people reacting to this tragedy.

01-CR-www.designersforjapan.comWORD POWER [JAPAN] by Build and POSTER FOR JAPAN by Astrid Stavro & Richard Sarson

Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength:

Supermarkets cut prices, vending machine owners giving out free drinks and restaurant owners handing out free food as people work together to survive.

Nippon, that seemed in “hyber-nation” for the last decades of economic decline, with its population alienated and facing a lethargic new generation is putting an incredible collective solidarity on display. We can only guess what impact this catastrophe will leave on the collective consciousness of the japanese in the long run. As Japanese writer Ryu Murakami puts it in The New York Times:

“Ten years ago I wrote a novel in which a middle-school student, delivering a speech before Parliament, says: “This country has everything. You can find whatever you want here. The only thing you can’t find is hope.”

One might say the opposite today: evacuation centers are facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine; there are shortages of goods and power in the Tokyo area as well. Our way of life is threatened, and the government and utility companies have not responded adequately.

But for all we’ve lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope. So I choose to believe.”

(NYT of March 16, translated from Japanese by by Ralph F. McCarthy)

The altruistic spirit people encounter these days in Japan on their road to recovery manifest itself in a myriad of small stories. Inspired by this, Jun Shiomitsu, student at University of Cambridge created a blog “Voices from Japan” together with ten of his classmates and friends, sharing tweets from japanese twitter accounts. Some of these short messages, proof on personal experiences, we would like to share with you following. For more please see “Voices from Japan”.

This article is illustrated with posters from Designers for Japan, a collaborative bringing designers and imagemakers together to aid relief efforts “and to express our love and respect for our friends in Japan”.
The poster sales profit will go directly to The Red Cross and Shelterbox.

Direct donations for Japan can also be made at: Red Cross Japan

02-CR_www.designersforjapan.comDONATE... by Practice and TOKYO CROSSINGS by Fabian Monheim

The Goodness of Japan

This earthquake has reminded me of that Japanese goodness that had recently become harder and harder to see. Today I see no crime or looting: I am reminded once again of the good Japanese spirit of helping one another, of propriety, and of gentleness. I had recently begun to regard my modern countrymen as cold people … but this earthquake has revived and given back to all of us the spirit of “kizuna” (bond, trust, sharing, the human connection). I am very touched.  I am brought to tears.

(Original Japanese text) * 日本人の良さを再認識


My Boyfriend, Off with His Rescue Unit

Yesterday, I said goodbye to my loved one as he left for one of the hardest-hit areas, Minami Sanriku in Miyagi. He is a member of the Fire Department’s special rescue unit. As I bade him goodbye, I asked “Are you scared?” He simply answered “I just feel sorry for those people whose bodies are still buried and cold and lonely. I just want to help find their bodies as soon as possible so that they can be returned to their families.” This from my boyfriend who is normally so shy he can’t go shopping for clothes by himself. Seeing his quiet resolve, I stifled my tears and sent him off with a smile.

(Original Japanese Text)



Through the Eyes of a Child

A small child was waiting in line to buy some candy. As his turn approached, I saw him look intently at the cash register for a moment, deep in thought. He then trotted to the disaster relief donations box on the counter, dropped his few coins into it, and trotted back to the shelves to return the candies that were in his hand. As the employee called after the boy thanking him saying “arigato gozaimasu!”, I heard her voice tremble with emotion.

(Original Japanese Text)

Twitter / 松元恵: 子供がお菓子を持ってレジに並んでいたけれど、順番が近 …


子供がお菓子を持ってレジに並んでいたけれど、順番が近くなり、レジを見て考え込み、レジ横にあった募金箱にお金を入れて、お菓 子を棚に戻して出て行きました。店員さんがその子供の背中に向け てかけた、ありがとうございます、という声が震えてました。

The Bakery Lady

There was a small bread shop on the street I take to go to school.  It has long been out of business. But last night, I saw the old lady of the shop giving people her handmade bread for free.  It was a heart-warming sight. She, like everyone else, was doing what she could to help people in a time of need. Tokyo isn’t that bad afterall!

* パン屋



Card board boxes, Thank you!

It was cold and I was getting very weary waiting forever for the train to come. Some homeless people saw me, gave me some of their own cardboard boxes and saying “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these!” I have always walked by homeless people pretending I didn’t see them, and yet here they were offering me warmth. Such warm people.

(Original Japanese text) * 段ボールに感動



A Big Kind Voice

I’ve been walking for many hours now. I’m touched at how everywhere I turn, there are shops open with people shouting “Please use our bathroom!” or “Please rest here!” There were also office buildings where people with access to information were voluntarily shouting out helpful tips, like “**** line is now operational!”  Seeing things like this after walking for hours and hours made me feel like weeping with gratitude. Seriously, there is still hope for this country!

* 呼びかけ


Goth Youth

A goth youth with white hair and body piercings walked into my store and shoved several hundred dollars (several tens of thousands of yen) into the disaster relief fund donation box. As he walked out, I and people around me heard him saying to his buddies, “I mean, we can buy those games anytime!” At that, we all opened our wallets and put our money into the donation box. Really, you cannot judge people by their appearances.

* いつでも買える


今日、募金箱に金髪にピアスの若い兄ちゃんが万札数枚入れていた。そしてその友人に「ゲームなんていつでも買えるからな」と言っていたのが聞こえて私含め周りの人達も募金していた。人は見た目じゃないことを実感した。そんなお昼でした。 この話感動しました。

More Food than We Ordered

My family in Sendai (close to epicenter) had ordered some food from Nagoya (in the south, not directly affected). Today, because the postal system was down, my sister went to the postal service center to collect the package. When she returned, my family was surprised to see how big and heavy the package was.  Upon opening it, we found much more food than we had ordered, together with a hand-written note saying “Don’t give up!” Amazing!



At Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland was handing out its shops’ food and drinks for free to the stranded people nearby. I saw a bunch of snobby looking highschool girls walking away with large portions of it and initially though “What the …”  But I later I found out they were taking them to the families with little children at emergency evacuation areas. Very perceptive of them, and a very kind thing to do indeed.

* ディズニーランドでの出来事


 03-CR_www.designersforjapan.comA LIGHT IN THE DARK by Peter Crnokrak / The luxury of protest and FOR JAPAN by Martin Venezky

Total Strangers

My oldest daughter was making her way to Yokohama’s emergency evacuation area. Total strangers were helping each other out and showing each other the way to the emergency evacuation area. She told me she was moved at how strangers, who can seem so cold at times, showed her kindness and care. I was reminded at the Japanese peoples’ inherent ability to immediately unite in the face of adversity. Today, I have discovered a newfound faith in my nation and my people.

* 避難所



The Backrub Society

The little children in my evacuation facility, where we all still live, came up with the idea of a “Backrub Society” for the elderly. I could see that the elderly were strengthened just by even spending time with the little ones, talking and laughing with them. To all the little children in the “Backrub Society”, well done!!

(Original Japanese Text)

避難所にいる子供たちが考えた「肩もみ隊」 お年寄りはこういうふれあいだけで元気が出るのだと感動しました。 その子供さんたちにエールを送りたいです♪

Strawberries for a Little Girl

A few days after the earthquake, in Sendai City (directly impacted area) when food was scarce, I remember seeing a little girl, about 2 years old, staring longingly at some strawberries that an old lady sitting next to her was holding. The old lady suddenly noticed the little girl and without hesitation said “Here darling, you have them. We all have to help each other in times like these, okay?” I know the old lady had been in line for several hours to buy those strawberries, but she did it just to see the overjoyed look on the little girl’s face. It was a heartwarming sight.

(Original Japanese text)

震災直後の仙台市。食糧が全くない頃。2歳くらいの女の子が、横にいた見知らぬおばあさんの持つイチゴをずーっと見てる。するとおばあさんが、「お嬢ちゃん食べなさい。困った時はお互いさまよ」 おばあさんだって、数時間並んで手に入れたイチゴ。女の子はすごく嬉しいそうにしていた。 感動した。

Looked Absolutely Delicious!

I too saw the guy handing out free rice balls and miso soup on the way back from Akihabara. I was on my bicycle so I told him, “I’m okay, please give it to other people!”  On hindsight, I should have taken one … they looked absolutely delicious!!

* 絶対うまいはず


The Beauty of Helping

I went out last night to help some friends who were volunteering as security personnel between Machida City and Sagami Ohno City. I saw total strangers, both young and old, helping each other along everywhere I turned and was heartened with an overwhelming feeling of encouragement. I was so touched I hid behind the toilets and cried.

* 助け合い



A Strong Voice

Yesterday, I was impressed and touched by the actions of my neighbor’s 13-year-old-boy. He was home alone when the earthquake hit. But instead of hiding, as soon as the earthquake quieted down, he jumped on his bicycle and road around the block repeatedly shouting at the top of his voice, “Is everyone alright?  Is everyone okay?”  At the time, there were only women and children and the elderly in the homes. I cannot describe how comforting it was just to hear a strong voice asking if I was okay. Thank you!

* 声をかけること


昨日、裏の家の高1になるお兄ちゃんに感動した。 家に1人で居たらしく、地震後すぐ自転車で飛び出し近所をひと回り。 【大丈夫ですか―――!?】と道路に逃げてきた人達にひたすら声掛けてた。あの時間には老人や母子しか居なかったから、声掛けてくれただけでもホッとしたよ。 ありがとう。

The Power of Accumulated Gratitude

Many countries have come forth to help Japan in its hour of need.  We the people of Japan must never forget what has been done for us. The touching moments shared and the gratitude accumulated between our countries are the most powerful force behind mutual understanding at a “populational” level. They build a bond far deeper than and on an entirely different dimension from the strategic alliances our governments may form.

(Original Japanese Text)


The Stars

The rolling power outages brought wonderful things too; the stars are just breathtaking!

(Original Japanese Text)




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