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YASUHISA KAWAMURA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, Consulate General of Japan in New York
Remarks at "Voices from Japan Exhibition" at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Devine
14 June 2012
Reverend Dr. Kowalski, Ms. Schubert, Mr. Tsujimoto, Mr. Nakagawa, Ms. Sole, Dr. Heinrich, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank you all for being here to join us in remembrance of that terrifying day over a year ago, when millions of lives were forever changed both in Japan and around the world. Tonight's exhibition crosses lines of genre and art form to display various perspectives of the March 11th tragedy in a multitude of artistic mediums, be it the written word, a hand crafted visual artwork, or a photograph. To all of the artists who lent their ample talents for the sake of this exhibition, you have my deep thanks.
Over a year after, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is "Is there still anything people in the US could do for Japan?"
My answer is always "Yes, there is "
Yes, what we need to do now is to look into the micro picture of Japan, in particular, the regions, villages, towns and yes, the individual people there. And more importantly, the minds of those individuals.
Last November when Tsujimoto san, Nakagawa san and Amy came to the Consulate and explained the idea of the exhibition. It was a nice trial. But to be honest I was not on a par with them in terms of enthusiasm because the country back home was then preoccupied with the sense of urgency on the issue of unemployment and the rampage of nuclear radiation. But a moment after when I heard Nakagawa san's experience with the locals I realized that I was wrong.
Mr. Nakagawa visited refugee houses one by one and drew portraits of the people who stayed there. It took him 5 minutes to finish each person's portrait. He just drew and drew for hundreds of people and gave them the portraits. Most of those people who saw the pictures were extremely happy by having them in their hands, and tearfully thanked him saying "Thank you so much. I am very grateful because you shared a few minutes out of your busy time with me by making face-to-face contact. You are the first and only person who has done so since 3/11. I lost everything including photos of myself. Now I am relieved to have this portrait because I am smiling and look nice in the portrait. I could even show this to my friends as a substitute memorial photograph at my funeral in the future. Thank you. This will be my treasure."
This story eloquently tells us we need a lot more personal contacts, speaking to them, listening to them, sharing time with them, probably through drawing, writing poems , restoring photos, dancing, singing and so on. Personal and humane communication will be much appreciated.
The Voices from Japan exhibition is the most valuable venue to respond to this. It will keep the memory of that day fresh in our minds and raise awareness of the continued struggles of the people of the Tohoku region. As long as we never forget the tragedy, we will never forget our obligation to help those in need, and the true power of friendship. This will also help to brighten the spirits of the Tohoku people so that they could look toward a brighter future(前向きに行こうぜ!).
I would like to recognize the great efforts of Mr. Tsujimoto, the organizer, in putting together this timely and significant exhibit. I would also like to thank the institutional supporters, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Asian Cultural Council, U.S.-Japan Foundation, Japan Society, New Heritage Theater Group, NY de Volunteer for their help in making tonight's event a reality.
Thank you all once again for your attendance, your efforts, and your friendship to the Japanese people. Please have a good evening.
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