On March 11, 2011 the worst earthquake and tsunami in modern Japanese history devastated the Tohoku region of Japan. With 14, 000 dead and tens of thousands more still missing, the scale of this tragedy numbs the mind and silences the heart. Furthermore, the partial meltdown of the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima gave rise to serious (if not apocalyptic) discussions around the world about radioactive contaminated food stocks, including fish. Within days, a group of prominent writers, artists, performers, social activists met at the home of Joy Kogawa, the renowned Japanese-Canadian writer, and immediately formed a collective to raise funds and offer support to Japanese victims in the wake of the events of March 11.
I was one of its founding members and co-chair of the collective, Toronto To Japan, whose main event, Hope Blossoms at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday April 21st, featured some of this country’s top literary, cultural and musical icons, including Adrienne Clarkson, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, David Suzuki, Jim Cuddy and Bob Wiseman, Metric and many more. Here is the stunning animation designed by Studio Blackwell:
As one of many ancillary events for Toronto To Japan, I devoted two sushi-making fundraisers for the cause. Proceeds were directed to the Japanese Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Second Harvest, relief agencies that rapidly mobilized in affected areas immediately following the disaster. The sold-out classes on April 2nd and the 16th of almost one hundred participants at Liberty Noodle spoke to the generosity of spirit of the people of Toronto. As one of the biggest sushi-loving communities anywhere in the world, Toronto rallied to the side of the great and resilient people of Japan. I was deeply moved by this testament of solidarity. Below is a short video message of love to the Japanese during those two sessions, filmed by artist Mony Zakour:
The events finished with lively discussions about radioactive contamination of fish stocks, especially iodine-131 which drained into the ocean from the reactors at Daiichi. An open-minded group of children and their parents, couples, and environmentalists asked pertinent questions and spoke of their concerns and fears about consuming sushi. The result was a positive and informative discussion around the environment, sustainable sushi and personal health. As an added bonus, every one of them had a grand ole time, while doing their part to spread the love and raise the hopes of the Japanese people.
Only one word comes to mind thinking of these participants: