Children from Yamakiya Taiko Club to perform taiko in honor of Japan at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
By Shigeko Bork
America showed an unforgettable act of humanity when the tsunami disaster hit Japan on March 11 last year. In Washington, there were numerous charities to help Japan, such as a fundraiser at CityZen with local Japanese restaurants and Hon. Esther Coopersmith’s Japan Aid. Each event was a seed of hope to the Japanese.
More than 15,000 people lost their lives, and 3,000 people are still missing. After the nuclear disaster, northeast Japan appeared to be totally destroyed. But, one year later, hope is coming out of rubble even in Fukushima, which has suffered an incredible amount of damage.
On April 14 at the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival on the National Mall, Yamakiya Taiko Club, a children’s drum group from Fukushima will perform taiko, a traditional Japanese drum. Ages 13 to 18, these children are all from the evacuation zone. They lost everything — their homes, neighbors and schools — to radiation contamination. They were scattered into temporary homes all over. They will never be able to go home. But, the drums connected Japanese citizens and encouraged them to be strong.
Understanding their struggle and hoping for the future, a few of us, including JET program alumni, JSAW and Masako Mori and members of the Diet in Japan, got together to talk about the possibility of bringing them to DC to perform at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Mrs. Irene Hirano Inouye from the US-Japan council responded, and Ambassador Roos visited these children in Fukushima. The US Embassy in Japan recognized this project as part of its Tomodachi initiative, and many Washingtonians wanted to help bring them to DC.
Last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival was a symbol of what was lost. This year’s festival will be a symbol of love and hope. Yamakiya Taiko Club is an award-winning drum team in Japan, and they can’t wait to perform in DC! They will be performing on April 14 at the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival and April 16 at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage.