‘Smile for Nippon,’ a volunteer organization, came to speak at the University of Southern
California’s Annenberg Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 13, to remind people that the relief
efforts in Japan are far from over. Check out the slideshow.
By Sara Clayton
A man from Tokyo and
his ‘Smile for Nippon’ team
are on a mission —
a mission to do whatever they can to support tsunami victims and keep them smiling despite the hardships they have faced.
It has been ten months since the tragic magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Tohoku, the northeastern region of Japan, and though many of us saw images and footages of cars, houses and people being swallowed up by the relentless tsunami waves, this disaster has been abandoned by the media and the rest of the world after almost a month of coverage.
But one small organization, Smile for Nippon, which came to speak in the Annenberg Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 13, is determined to remind the world that Japan still needs as much help as possible.
A group of graduate students from USC and UCLA have been touring around Los Angeles and giving presentations in order to educate people on what has happened since media coverage of the tsunami area halted. But these students would not have come together if it were not for a certain Mr. Tsun-san, who goes by the name Chonmage, the hairstyle featuring a shaved pate and a small ponytail that most sumo wrestlers don before a match.
Chonmage has visited Tohoku 17 times since the tsunami, and with every visit, he brings up amenities – shoes, sausages, games, etc. Because he lives in Tokyo, each trip he makes up to Tohoku and back covers approximately 1000 miles, but Chonmage does not mind making the trip because all the smiles he sees whenever he visits Tohoku makes all the traveling worthwhile.
“I heard that the people who lived in Tohoku needed shoes, and since I am a shoemaker myself, I decided to bring up 200 shoes to give to them,” Chonmage said in Japanese, “When I delivered the shoes, I made a pinky-promise with a little boy that I would come back. Since then, I have returned sixteen more times.”
With donations and money out of his own pocket, Chonmage has been able to brighten the lives of people from all ages in Tohoku. And along with the supplies and entertainment he gives to those in the disaster areas, Chonmage also noted how much they enjoy his presence. “They love to see my goofy outfit. It gives me a reason to talk to them and gives them a reason to laugh. Everyone remembers me.”
Chonmage, with the help of the Los Angeles team, among others, will continue to help those in Tohoku for many years to come. “My ultimate goal is to take the kids to Tokyo Disney!” exclaimed Chonmage, with a brilliant smile.
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