Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Spirit of the Japanese

I've long admired the spirit of the Japanese people. Thirty years after losing 10 million people in World War II, they had rebuilt and become one of the strongest economies in the world. Now they are faced with a huge disaster that is ongoing thanks to the aftershocks and nuclear dilemma. Yet the spirit that brought them out of World War II is alive and well.

My Japanese sister Yoko wrote that the latest 7.1 aftershock happened while she was on the phone with her daughter Maki. Yoko could hear Maki's children shrieking with laughter in the background while the earth was shaking. Maki explained: "We have 'seismographs' that you gave us. Three marionettes hang from the window frame and dance on the window every time a quake hits. And the children begin to dance with them. Thanks to the marionettes, the kids are not scared of quakes. The marionettes are very useful tools for earthquakes."

Yoko had bought the marionettes for each of her grandchildren. Little did she know how valuable they would be.

All of us with ties to Japan have been searching for worthwhile ways to help. The local Japanese school in Sheridan, Oregon, was planning an Earth Science program when the 9.0 quake and tsunami hit. One of their teachers has ties to a school in the devastated area, so they are having a fundraiser for that school tomorrow night (Friday, April 15) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. as they showcase their Earth Science projects. The Sheridan Japanese School is at 430 Southwest Monroe Street.

Danielle Castro, a student at the University of Portland with family and friends in Japan came up with the idea of creating a t-shirt design honoring the spirit of Japan and selling the t-shirts to raise money for the Red Cross and its disaster relief. They can be purchased online at

Danielle describes her shirt design: Rays of sunlight from a Japanese sunrise come over the father and his child, revealing shadows of a Samurai spirit. This design acknowledges the history of Japan and what Samurai embody: Honor, Endurance, Tradition, and Hope. In the sun, you’ll see the seismograph drawing of the 9.0 earthquake to acknowledge the tragedy, but the father and son walk on.

And that's what the Japanese have learned to do over the centuries no matter the tribulations... walk on. Or, sometimes, dance on with the marionettes.

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