Suddenly city’s Japan Day has tragic new meaning

Japanese students
Japanese students

THE annual Japan Day in Sheffield assumes a much greater significance this weekend as cultural activities are linked to fundraising for victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

The event was started five years ago as a celebration of Japanese culture hosted by the University of Sheffield’s Japan Society.

It is being held in the Octagon Centre on Sunday from noon to 5pm when visitors can donate to a cause that has affected many of the organisers personally.

Sheffield University has 262 Japanese students on exchange visits.

Yuya Shino, a web journalism student, said: “We’ve been glued to the TV and internet over the weekend watching the terrible events at home. Luckily my family is OK but communications are difficult and some people have not been able to contact loved ones.

“The main worries for people in the damaged area of north-east Japan is the possibility of a big after-shock over the next few days and all over the country people are concerned about the risk of radioactive leakages from the damaged nuclear plants. Of course the worries about radioactive contamination remind people of the nuclear bomb attacks in World War II.”

Will Christophers, aged 27, the half-Japanese owner of Sheffield-based Japanese food supplier and retailer Willyaki, ran the first Japan Day in 2006.

Now heading the fundraising group Save Japan, he said: “I used to live in Kobe until I was 11 years old. The news reminds me of the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. I want to take actions for Japan, not just watching the news.”

Already students have been collecting for Save Japan. On Sunday alone, Kyushu University student Naho Iwata and 15 volunteers raised £975 in Sheffield city centre to be sent to the Red Cross. “I would like to do anything for Japan as soon as possible,” she said.

Japanese teacher and University of Sheffield graduate Amelia Cook, aged 27, said she had been impressed by people’s generosity.

“Even in a time of great financial hardship, people in Sheffield have shown genuine concern and support for a country that most have never visited. Japan Day is an opportunity to experience Japanese culture for yourself and understand what we are striving to protect.”

Adults and children are being invited to the event, which will include hands-on activities, public demonstrations and workshops. Performances will be given by Taiko drummers, koto players and traditional martial artists, the arts of origami, calligraphy and traditional tea ceremonies will be displayed and there will be opportunities to dress in authentic yukata.

“It isn’t a benefit, it’s a cultural event,” said Mike Paxman, a member of the Japan Society, who is leading the fundraising. “It was going to happen anyway but it was decided very quickly that Japan Day would become a fundraising event.”

Tickets cost £5 in advance (from the student’s union box office), £6 on the door, and admission is free to children under 12.