Soul Flower Earthquake Fund 2011

Kansai roots-rock band Soul Flower Union, and their acoustic offshoot Soul Flower Mononoke Summit, have been featured here before. One of the original members of both bands, Hideko Itami, has been based in Okinawa for some time now but still takes part in band activities whenever possible and is also the driving force behind the annual Henoko Peace Music Festa. Following the big earthquake in Kobe in 1995 she and members of SFU unplugged to play acoustic music for the earthquake victims, thus beginning the Mononoke Summit offshoot. Inspired by these events, singer Takashi Nakagawa also wrote what has become their most popular song ‘Mangetsu no Yube’. It was around this time that I first met the band for an interview for Kansai Time Out magazine and they subsequently became personal friends. Hideko Itami, or ‘Hidebo’ as she’s known, provided invaluable assistance during my own move to Okinawa just over two years ago. She has been very active again lately in supporting victims of the 11th March earthquake in Japan, and her report and appeal for help appears, in Japanese, on the Soul Flower official website: http://www.breast.co.jp/soulflower/

With Hidebo’s permission, an English translation of her statement appears in full below:

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake happened in 1995. At that time we started a fund to raise money which focused on the elderly, disabled, and others in need of help. This was different from a big charitable fund. People were informed in a small-scale way but nevertheless we received a great deal of cooperation and donations of money. Some people made donations every month for many years while others kept donation boxes in their businesses. Thanks very much to everyone.

Those who experienced the earthquake hoped that this would never happen again but then there was another enormous earthquake in Japan. This time it was not just an earthquake but also a tsunami and then a nuclear power plant accident. Nobody knew what to do in Japan when we were faced with a disaster on such a large scale, but we remembered that in Kobe we had formed a circle around a bonfire in the cold and our smiles had returned. Now we are getting together, standing up and holding hands, in the hope that it will never happen again.

We want the Soul Flower Earthquake Fund which began in Kobe to be used from now on to help the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. As I write this, on the 20th March, I am getting information from a handful of people I know at the earthquake site. I am sending some goods to the site directly and also through the assistance of some trustworthy volunteers. Also, I am thinking about how to get involved in the care of evacuees to Okinawa.

I think that families with children from Fukushima Prefecture must feel especially worried and are unable to express this anxiety in words. I want to give my support to finding places where they can settle as soon as possible and to create a situation where children can go to school without fear. I want people to understand and support this idea to use the Soul Flower Earthquake Fund for this purpose. I am going to start calling this fund the ‘Soul Flower Earthquake Fund 2011’.

We all learned so many things through the experience of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake such as the warmness of people, the importance of local community, the importance of friends, the love of our homes, the arrival of deeply upsetting and traumatic situations, the fragility of human beings, and the strength of music. The victims’ feelings and the passion of their supporters will change over the course of time. But the recovery will take even longer if the damage is greater. This should not be forgotten by supporters such as us.

I hope that the Soul Flower Earthquake Fund 2011, together with our heartfelt feelings, will make a difference to the victims in Tohoku. 

Itami Hideko, Soul Flower Earthquake Fund 2011

Anyone who would like to support the fund can do so by making a donation to: Kyoto Bank (Yamazaki Branch). Futsu account number: 786282. Account name: Soul Flower Shinsai Kikin. The original statement and bank details in Japanese are at: http://www.breast.co.jp/soulflower/sfu20110328.html

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