JQ Magazine: JETAANY Artist Showcase Unites Fukushima, New York

Sculpture by Lisa Benson. (T. Brooks)

By Carolyn Brooks (Ishikawa-ken, 2006-11) for JQ magazine. Carolyn is co-author of the blog MadSilence–a cross-cultural blog written with her father–and a current culture/education related job-seeker in the New York area available for full-time or consulting work.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for [those in need], who suffer greatly at the present time….We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, brackets by author.

It was in the generous spirit of the holiday season that over 150 guests, including former New York City mayor David Dinkins and a visiting delegation of dignitaries from Fukushima, joined together Dec. 1 for a reception and silent auction to show support for Tohoku as it continues to struggle after the Great Eastern Earthquake last March. The event, organized in partnership by the Consulate General of Japan in New York and the New York chapter of the JET Alumni Association (JETAANY), was held at Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki’s residence on the east side of Central Park.

JETAANY utilized its extensive network to get 14 artists involved, displaying and auctioning off more than 30 pieces of art including sculpture, prints, paintings and antique ceramics. The artists and donators really showed the scope of people who have connections with Japan, ranging from JET Program alumni and parents to Japanese expats and students. All in all, the auction raised $700, and with other donations received that night totaled more than $1300.

Fukushima local products and disaster photos. (T. Brooks)

During the second half of the evening, guests wandered up to the second floor of the ambassador’s residence to view photos of the disaster as well as examples of local specialties from Fukushima. The beautiful lacquerware, carefully carved geta shoes and detailed kokeshi dolls showed the efforts of local artists to sustain their cultural heritage as well as bring money and life back to their area. The only thing missing was some pieces guests could buy!

The guests probably felt the same about the delicious Fukushima sake that was being served there as well. Filtered, unfiltered, sparkling, flavored…every type was represented and all were praised by the guests. TBS cameramen wandered through the group, asking people how they felt about drinking sake produced so close to the nuclear zone. “I feel perfectly okay about it. If the government didn’t think it was safe, they wouldn’t distribute it. We have to trust them.” said Thomas Brooks, one of the attendees.

The reception helped to confirm a true sense of kinship between the peoples of Fukushima and New York, both of whom have lived through disasters that have shook them to the core of their beings and will continue to do so for generations. It is that relationship of love and support that will carry both places through the continued aftermath of their disasters, and will help usher in a bright new future. As Tiny Tim said in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “God bless us, every one.”

For more photos from the JETAANY Artist Showcase, click here.