Japan Society Announces Earthquake Relief Grants, 3/11 Commemorative Programming

Approaching the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Japan Society announced seven new grants from the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (JERF) totaling $1,779,694. Of the funds that have been donated so far, the Society has earmarked a total $11.1 million to 33 organizations in support of 41 projects on the front lines of relief, recovery and reconstruction in Tohoku.

“The earthquake and tsunami of 2011 has had a profound effect on Japanese society that will be felt for many years to come,” said Motoatsu Sakurai, Japan Society President. “We have seen tremendous progress since the triple disasters, but the hard work continues. Through the Relief Fund, Japan Society is committed to areas where support can have long-term impact: economic and community revitalization, healthcare, including mental healthcare, and youth initiatives.”

Japan Society, The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, NYC, Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster, 3/11, 3.11, JERF

The latest JERF grant recipients:

  • Ashoka Japan’s Tohoku Youth Venture provides opportunities for junior high, high school and college students who have creative and innovative ideas for revitalizing the Tohoku region to pitch their idea as part of Tohoku Youth Venture initiative, and potentially receive seed funding to put their ideas into action.
  • ETIC, a leading organization in Japan that trains young social and business entrepreneurs, is using its third grant from the Relief Fund to nurture and support “hubs” that emphasize human resource development to promote self-sustaining economic and community revitalization.  This grant builds on previous grants to tap into ETIC’s extensive network of a younger generation of business and social entrepreneurs to identify the most vulnerable (the elderly, disabled, those with special medical needs) and match them with the critical services, as well as to match fellows with specific expertise, to small businesses, entrepreneurs and NPOs in an effort to help revitalize local economies.
  • Iitate Village was evacuated as a result of radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Although located outside the radiation exclusion zone, radiation carried by wind contaminated the village.  The village’s dynamic Mayor, Norio Kanno, is determined to bring the village back to life, but until it is safe for villagers, the Relief Fund will support reunions organized by the village to help residents stay connected and maintain their sense of community.
  • Created by five leading Japanese architects, Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, Riken Yamamoto and Hiroshi Naito, KISYN builds communal “Home-for-All” spaces in communities devastated by the tsunami. Partnering with a younger generation of architects and in close collaboration with local residents, “Home-for-All” provides a place of comfort for sharing information and for discussing recovery and reconstruction. The Relief Fund will support the construction of a “Home-for-All” for fishermen in Kamaishi city.
  • NPO Riku Café began as a small community space where local residents could relax, come together over tea or coffee, and share information in Rikuzentaka. Given the success of the space, the Relief Fund will provide support to build a larger café that will be designed, pro bono, by architect Yuri Naruse, so the organization can provide more services and activities for the community.
  • re:terra created the Kesen Tsubaki Dream Project, which encompasses community, job creation, forestry conservation and tourism. Partnering with a small refinery damaged as a result of 3/11, an NPO that helps the disabled find employment, and a group of women doctors, re:terra developed and sells Kesen Tsubaki hand crème using oil from camellia. re:terra also supports the conservation of the cedar forests in Kesen where the camellia plants grow.
  • Sweet Treat 311 is an NGO that provides educational support to children affected by the 3/11 disasters through the Ogatsu Academy.  The Academy will provide academic support, farming, fishing and nature programs, and IT training programs for children of Ogatsu. Additionally, Sweet Treat will bring visitors from outside the region to their programs so that visitors can interact with the local community and stimulate the local economy through tourism.

Click here for the full list of organizations and projects supported by JERF.

Japan Society, The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, NYC, Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster, 3/11, 3.11, JERF
Tomoko Mukaiyama

In addition to the latest round of relief fund grants, Japan Society also holds a series of programming March 10 through 12 to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the disasters. Hope, Struggle & Rebirth in the Shadow of 3/11: Film, Concert & Lecture explores the impact and aftermath of 3/11 as seen through the eyes of an award-winning film director, an acclaimed pianist and visual artist, and a leading scholar on Japan.

On Sunday, March 10, the Society screens the New York Premiere of The Land of Hope, famed Japanese director Sion Sono’s impacting fictional film about the human and emotional toll from the Fukushima crisis. On Monday, March 11, composer/performer/visual artist Tomoko Mukaiyama gives the U.S. premiere concert of her powerful multimedia work Nocturne that combines classical and contemporary pieces and other music for solo piano with soundscapes from the impacted Tohoku region, such as a children’s choir. The concert opens with classical works performed on a violin made from tsunami debris. Finally, on Tuesday, March 12, MIT’s Richard Samuels discusses his book 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan, considered the first broad assessment of the effects of the 3/11 disasters on Japan’s government, society and on the US-Japan alliance.

Discussing the series, Mr. Sakurai said, “With these special events around the second anniversary of the disasters, we take a moment to reflect on the resilience of the Japanese peopleand the long road of recovery still ahead. Through programming like this and our efforts through the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, Japan Society is committed to providing support over the long term.”

Launched March 12, 2011, the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has received $13,125,378.79 (as of February 5, 2013) from over 23,000 individuals, companies and foundations. Contributions have been received from all 50 states and nearly 60 countries around the world. One hundred percent of the fund goes directly to support people affected by the disasters.

In June 2012, the Society premiered a short video highlighting work of three of the JERF grant recipients, including JEN, which supported four fishing villages on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki; the Japanese Medical Society of America in collaboration with Iwate Prefecture University Medical Center delivering of mental health services to Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture; and the Supporting Union for Practical-use of Educational Resources and its partners to organize and implement the Fukushima Kids Camp.

In a 2012 Reuters profile of the Society’s relief work, Mr. Sakurai stated that focus of the relief fund should be on local entrepreneurship and lasting sustainable projects. “It is very, very evident in Japan this recovery process will continue for more than 10 years,” he said.

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