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Kizuna 5 Brings the Voice of Youth from Tohoku

• “Kizuna 5: Voices of the Youth”, the fifth consecutive event was held on March 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center to commemorate the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and about 300 people got together.
• According to the National Police Agency in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami claimed the lives of 15,894 people, and 6,152 people are still missing as of February 10, 2016.

• Yoko Noge Dean, Co-Chair of the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, took an initiative to hold a series on the Kizuna Project in 2012 and continue to lead a team of the project. She said, “Today and always, we stand in solidarity with the people of Tohoku. Memories fade away, but they are something we should never forget. We are the messengers and have tried to tell the stories for five years. We’ve tried to convey the messages from the people in Tohoku and show the most current updates to the people of Chicago and the world.”

• In his remarks, Consul General of Japan Toshiyuki Iwado said, “We should never forget what happened in Japan. By learning its lessons, the world can be better prepared to deal with natural disasters.”
• He thanked them for all of the support from the people of Chicago, Illinois, the U.S., and the world, and talked about the current situation in Tohoku that was at the halfway point in its 10-year plan for reconstruction. “The future is in the hands of our youth. And Tohoku’s young people are embracing it. When you listen to the voices of the youth presented in 250 messages on the internet, you will hear their optimism, enthusiasm, and commitment.”

• In the commemorative ceremony, five of 250 messages were presented.
• The 250 full messages are available at bit.ly/1QRQSVg.

• Ed Grant, former President of the Japan America Society of Chicago and a very first supporter of the Kizuna Project said, “Tomodachi and kizuna, which mean friends and bond of emotions, say so much about the relationship between Chicago and Japan. The people of Tohoku have not been forgotten by Chicago, and we are here today to renew our message to Tohoku, that we stand by them as they do the hard work of rebuilding their homes, their businesses, their cities and their lives.”
• He also applauded Yoko Noge Dean, who spearheaded Kizuna Project and continued to be the irresistible force behind Kizuna in Chicago.

• Lisa Kohnke, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and Global Affairs, read a message from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who declared March 11, 2016 as “Japanese Earthquake Commemoration Day.”
• Governor Bruce Rauner, who committed himself as honorary co-chair of Kizuna 5, sent his message through his representative Dennis Jung, Outreach Coordinator of the Governor’s Office.

• Rev. Patti Nakai of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago offered memorial prayers to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
• The students from Montessori Language Academy sang songs for the students in Tohoku, and the students of the Sakura no Seibo School in Fukushima sang songs through a video.
• Photographer Kiyotaka Shishido, resident of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and photographer and curator Jamason Chen of Loyola University greeted the audience. Shishido has continued to focus the people in Tohoku and contributed to the Kizuna Photo Exhibitions. Chen also visited Tohoku and photographed the reality of the area.

• Wesley Julian introduced “113 Project”, a series of short documentary films highlighting Tohoku. 113 Project features over a dozen interviews and stories embodying hope and perseverance. The short films showcase the warmth and beauty of the region while sharing the voices of people and how their lives are today.
• Julian was attending a graduation ceremony at a school in Miyagi Prefecture when the great earthquake and tsunami hit the area. He was a JET teacher at the school until 2010 and was invited to the ceremony. He returned to Miyagi repeatedly and has been working to support the disaster areas.
• He created the documentary “Tohoku Tomo” and released it in 2013. The documentary was IDFA 2015 finalist.
• “113 Project” is available at www.113Project.org.

• Video Message Project

• Akihiko Tohei, a native of Chicago, brought the video message idea, and the project was realized with the cooperation from Wesley Julian and Hayami Shiraishi, who visited Tohoku and asked schools in the areas to videotape students’ messages.
• Tohei was an English teacher in Fukushima. After it was hit by the disaster, he decided to remain in Fukushima to help the people in the area. Currently, he has been teaching English at Sakura no Seibo School. They received more than 250 messages including Tohei’s school, and volunteers in Chicago worked to edit and publish the videos online. Their messages are spoken in English to communicate with people throughout the world. The site is bit.ly/1QRQSVg.

• One of the 250 messages was sent by Satoshi Ogata, a student of Koyo High School in Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture. He belonged to the school’s tennis club, and tennis brought him and Chicago’s tennis charity group “BuChicago” together.
• Makoto Imai, representative of BuChicago, has visited Kesennuma several time and invited Ogata to Chicago to attend the Kizuna 5 ceremony. All the travel fees and hotel fees were covered by the fund raised by BuChicago.
• Ogata was a first grader in middle school when the disaster happened. His family was safe and his home had no damage, but a huge amount of debris came just in front of his home.
• He graduated from high school on March 1st and decided to work in the Fuji Heavy Industries, an automobile manufacturer. He said, “I’m going to leave my hometown, but there are many people who are worrying about Tohoku, although Chicago is far away from Japan. So, I would like to do something for my hometown even though I no longer live there.”
• The volunteers in Kizuna arranged sightseeing for Ogata to visit the Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc., and the company welcomed him. It is an example of Kizuna, which brings people together.

• Kizuna 5 was presented by the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, the Japan America Society of Chicago, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, and the Japan External Trade Organization.


“Kizuna 5: Voices of the Youth”, the fifth consecutive event was held on March 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center to commemorate the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and about 300 people got together.


A video message from Tohoku


A video message from Tohoku


The students of Montessori Language Academy sing songs
for the students in Tohoku



Satoshi Ogata, a student of Koyo High School in Kesennuma in
Miyagi Prefecture, poses for a photo with Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado.

Yoko Noge Dean, Co-Chair of the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities Internationa


Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado


Ed Grant, former President of the Japan
America Society of Chicago