Friday, January 5, 2018

Tomo Donation Updates: Sokoage and Penguins Art

Happy 2018!

Six years ago, in 2012, the Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction anthology was going to press. In a period of just ten months from the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, I had proposed the anthology, Stone Bridge Press had agreed to publish, and I'd selected, compiled and edited the 36 stories, plus conducted interviews with most of the author illustrator and translator contributors. The aim of the Tomo anthology was to raise awareness outside of Japan about the need for longterm support for coastal communities in the Tohoku region by sharing Japan-related fiction for teens, and, most critically, to provide funding to NPOs serving teens in the hardest hit communities of Tohoku.

Until 2017, Tomo proceeds went to the NPO Hope for Tomorrow Japan, which in addition to providing educational expenses (including university entrance exam fees, travel costs to exam centers, etc.) also provided mentoring, tutoring, and foreign language support to high school students in hard-hit areas of Tohoku. But in 2017, the NPO Hope for Tomorrow closed its doors after its planned five years of supporting teen education in Tohoku.

Now, although Tomo is no longer available in print, the Kindle edition is still available for purchase, and sales of Tomo still generate small sums of money for donations. Recently, additional funds were generated through adoption of Tomo material via the international Copyright Clearance Center for educational purposes.

So in 2017, I set out to find other NPOs to receive Tomo donations.

In late October, I drove north to Tohoku to visit the cities of Ishinomaki and Kesennuma in coastal Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture. My aim was to revisit some of the areas severely ravaged by the March 11, 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Such a trip is haunting, moving and painful, yet at the same time, energizing and inspiring. Signs of loss and devastation are evident in the violently scarred coast, in elevation markers for inundation levels even high in the hills, in remaining ruined structures and temporary housing, and in the massive seawalls and ambitious city reconstruction projects underway. The reach of the monstrous tsunami left cruel before-and-after, have-and-have-not markers throughout communities up and down the jagged coast. People are left coping with unspeakable trauma. Yet there is evidence of brave determination among so many citizens to nurture their communities into wellness and vibrancy, to take actions toward healing, remembering, learning and growing.

Torï at Hiyoriyama Park in Ishinomaki
From Ishinomaki's Hiyoriyama Park: a fence shows the view before 3/11 photo, and the current scene
In Ishinomaki downtown streets, where in the spring of 2011 (see my Peace Boat blog posts) I'd shoveled tsunami muck out of surviving shops, businesses and homes, a lively downtown is now evidenced with new and revived stores, restaurants, and community initiatives. Practically across the street from a soba shop I'd helped muck out in 2011, is the new Penguins Art Kōbō, a studio where everyone is welcome to create, and there I joined a morning clay workshop.
Penguins Art clay workshop
In the Ibarazu neighborhood where I'd helped gather tons of rotting fish that had been strewn with wreckage far inland from the destroyed fish market, new parks and houses had sprouted. The pristine new Ishinomaki fish market (Ishinomaki uoichiba) nearby is now the largest in Japan and visitors are welcome. I ate an incredible sushi lunch at Fukizushi (富喜寿司) near Ishinomaki Station. I made new, dear friends in Ishinomaki, and I dined and stayed at the NPO-run Long Beach House not far from Ibarazu.

In Oginohama, where in 2011, I'd helped clean the Inari shrine grounds and assist with myriad tasks for a late summer festival, a new café sits opposite the sea below the torī leading to the steep set of stairs up to the hilltop shrine.

In Rikuzentakata, I paid a visit to the Miracle Pine.

Miracle Pine in Rikuzentakata
I watched the constant, mind-numbing parade of construction vehicles essentially reshaping the land into a new elevated city. I also spent time in the children's section of Rikuzentakata's beautiful new library in the Abasse Shopping Center high up on raised ground.

Rikuzentakata library
Rikuzentakata library
And in Kesennuma I visited the Rias Ark Museum of Art for its contemporary art and local history exhibits, as well as the exhibits relating to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and tsunami history in Tohoku.

Photos from the Rias Ark Museum of Art website:
My Tohoku visit led to more questions, more explorations and more NPO discoveries.

And now, at the start of 2018, I'm proud to share with you two NPOs that I have selected to receive Tomo funds.

In December 2017, a donation of 100,000 JPY (about 900 USD) was made to the NPO Sokoage, based in Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture.

Sokoage website photo:
Sokoage (底上げ) meaning "raising up" engages high school students in community building and problem solving by encouraging students to take initiative to become thoughtful changemakers and by supporting their projects to create a vibrant new society. Projects have included the creation of a meeting and gathering space near the high school for students and Sokoage staff members; holding monthly community meal events with guest speakers; guiding students in getting to know their community, as well as creating materials to promote the region and record experiences of 3/11; providing volunteer academic support in temporary housing sites and elsewhere; encouraging students who have graduated from high school to stay involved in Kesennuma issues and events; holding supportive training camps for college students.

And in early January 2018, a donation of 30,000 JPY (about 270 USD) was made to the NPO Penguins Art Kōbō (ペンギンズアート工房), based in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

Penguins Art Kobo website:
Kazuko Miyakawa, Directory of Penguins Art Kobo
Penguins Art Kōbō is housed in an Ishinomaki downtown studio with a charming penguin logo on the shop shutter. Penguins Art aims to foster artistic expression in differently abled children, to create exhibition opportunities for them, and to enable group art experiences for all individuals in greater Ishinomaki. Established by former art teacher Kazuko Miyakawa, Penguins Art Kobo is a warm, supportive and welcoming oasis for everyone to explore creative expression.

I hope you'll visit the websites of these NPOs now receiving Tomo support.

Thank you to all of the Tomo contributors and friends, wherever you may be. May the Tomo anthology continue to create friendships through fiction as together we strive to support teens in Tohoku, Japan.
                                                                   Tomo Anthology Editor Holly Thompson

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