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Photo Exhibit “Kizuna 3: Unbroken Circle
Testimony of Friendship and Commitment
Three years have passed from the great earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and the tragedy may have been forgotten. But Chicagoans’ commitment to help recovery efforts in Tohoku area never fades away.
A photo exhibit “Kizuna 3: Unbroken Circle” was held at the Daley Center from March 10 to 21, and an opening ceremony took place on March 11.
Yoko Noge, Chair of the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI), took the initiative to hold the Kizuna photo exhibit in 2011 and made an effort to bring it the second and the third year to share the resurgence and human connections in the disaster area of Tohoku.
The exhibit consists of three parts: a great tragedy and hope for reconstruction; interactions and friendships between Chicagoans and the people in Tohoku through JET alumni association and Kakehashi project; and a women’s group of Yarn Alive, who supports the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines from Tohoku.
Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed March 11, 2014 as Japanese Earthquake Commemoration Day of Illinois, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared the day as Japanese Tsunami Commemoration Day.

The ceremony started with the vibrant sound of taiko drumming by Tsukasa Taiko. The MC Leroy Allala, Executive Director of CSCI, led the audience to observe a moment of silence. Harpist Emily Ellyse Toetcke beautifully played a Japanese song of Sakura on her harp.

J.D. Bindenagel, president of the Japan America Society of Chicago, spoke about the need for continuous support for restoring prosperity in Tohoku, and the importance of deepening bonds between the people of the two countries.
The organization has been raising funds for the victims in Tohoku through a number of events. It has also supported the Kakehashi Project-The Bridge for Tomorrow for the future Japan-US relationships. The project is a youth exchange program, which offers opportunities for Japanese students to visit the U.S., and vice versa.
Bindenagel said, “Those things we can do as an individual, as an organization, and I include you to continue your support for the Japan-US relations and commemorate the tragedy.”

State representative Robyn Gabel said that she was very impressed by the photo exhibit to see the youth exchanges and the women’s group, the latter of which was knitting blankets for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.
She also said that the State of Illinois and Japan had a very special relationship. According to her, Japan is one of the largest foreign investors in Illinois with 410 Japanese owned companies, which employ 53,725 workers in the state. In 2012, Illinois exported $2.1 billion of goods and produce to Japan. Gabel said, “This has been an exceptional relationship and I look forward to continuing the operation.”

Consul General of Japan Masaharu Yoshida expressed his gratitude, saying, “This exhibition is very special because the people of Chicago continue to remember and care about the people in Tohoku.”
He also mentioned about Abenomics, which had made strong domestic demand and created a new air of optimism. He said, “Japan is moving at full speed.”
According to Yoshida, more than 20,000 US students have visited Japan, and the same numbers of Japanese students have come to the U.S. through Kakehashi project.
He said, “The photo exhibit is a window for Tohoku, which shows recovery efforts and the hope for the future through new connections.”

Two youths, Adam Adachi and Eric Yamane, who visited Tokyo and Hiroshima through the project, spoke about their first hand experiences. Adachi said that he learned the traditional background of his heritage.
Their most exciting experiences were having Japanese lifestyle with their host families. Yamane said that their visit to a high school inspired English study among the Japanese students, and one of the students is coming to Chicago to see him.

Wesley Julian from JET Alumni Association of Chicago talked about a documentary film “Tohoku Tomo”, which was screened on March 12 at the Adler Planetarium.
Julian had taught English at a high school in Tohoku until 2010 and was invited to attend a graduation ceremony the following year. He attended it, and the great earthquake happened on the same day. He returned to Tohoku many times to help with recovery and made a documentary film with the members of JET Alumni. It tells a story of friendship and commitment to Japan’s recovery.
Julian said, “People who made the difference, continue to make difference.”

Yoko Noge said, “Human kindness is unbroken. That is a duty of human beings. We have to remember it as our memory fades. We all came together to do something for Japan, and I wanted to do something as a Japanese who lives in Chicago.”

George Vitek was watching the exhibit diligently. He said that his daughter was in Japan and was going to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iwakuni Air Base, so he was taking his first Japanese language course at college to learn some Japanese and culture. He heard of the exhibit at the college and attended the ceremony. He said, “I’m very happy to see what they did.”

The photo exhibit “Kizuna 3: Unbroken Circle” will be held again at Japan Festival in Arlington Heights from June 7 to 8, 2014.

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The exhibit was presented by the Osaka Committee of CSCI, the Japan America Society of Chicago, the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Chicago, and the Japan External Trade Organization, and curated by Jamason Chen, and co-chaired by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel