It has been 5 months since the Send LOVE project started, and Mobile KBC has gone to Rikuzen-Takata 10 times now. Heavenese finally had the opportunity to go up North to put on a live concert.
This concert was held during the first Bon Season* since the March 11th disaster. It was a prayer of hope for those who have been affected by this great catastrophe as the event's theme stated, "May our prayers of hope reach the heavens". The repeated visits by Mobile KBC laid the foundation for this concert to take place. With the help of the evacuation center staff at Hirota Elementary School and other volunteers this concert came about. (*The Bon Season is when Japanese people remember the dead.)
Driving through the center of Rikuzen-Takata on our way to Hirota Elementary School
In the distance there is a lone pine tree that survived the tsunami and has become a symbol of hope for the people of Rikuzen-Takata. This pine tree was one of over 20,000 that were planted along the coast to serve as a windbreak. Many of these trees had been planted over a hundred years ago.
50 volunteers, the most ever, gathered in front of the now very familiar Hirota Elementary School.
Prior to getting started on setting up for the concert, the skies opened up with an very surprising and unexpected downpour which thankfully was short lived.
It turned out that this rain would actually bring forth a dramatic moment at the end of the event.
In addition to KBC staff, we had additional support from outside people. The members of the Hawaiian band, KANEOHE GOOOOOOOD GUYS who performed at KBC this April and have a concert stage setup business in Utsunomiya city in Tochigi prefecture, graciously sent one of their workers with a truck full of concert equipment for Heavenese to use for this event.
Support from the East Japan Stage Corporation
Mr. Nihonyanagi who is a freelance soundman from Aomori prefecture has worked at KBC regularly and knows Heavenese well, contributed greatly to the concert. He, and all those who helped out worked this event without pay, and they all worked with the sincere desire to make it as excellent as possible.
Mobile KBC had support at this event from another group. It was comprised of people from the software company GrapeCity Inc., located in Miyagi prefecture, and people from Meisei Gakuen, a private K-12 school. They have been traveling throughout the disaster area with a big catering truck, cooking for those in need, and have become professional cooks, so to speak. Many of these workers who are foreign language teachers helped prepare meals for this event. For Mobile KBC, there was no better support than this.
People from GrapeCity Inc. and Meisei Gakuen helping out
Additional support from western Japan also arrived. As previously reported, there was a Send LOVE concert in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture on July 30th. The promoter of the concert Yoshimitsu Ryu, (the father of Shinichiro Ryu, a member of Heavenese and a performer at the concert) his wife and 3 others drove 2,000 km (1,240 miles) from Kyushu to bring relief supplies and fresh Kumamoto vegetables that were bought with the money that was raised from the concert.
People from Committed Japan in Hamamatsu arrived
Everyday items that were collected in Tokyo, Hamamatsu and Kumamoto and the fresh vegetables were divided up into 400 bags in the school gym.
After the rehearsal started, the sound of taiko (Japanese drums) started to draw people to the concert venue.
Workers from the recent Kids' Fests meeting local kids they have come to know.
The children helped with the distribution of relief supplies.
In the "waiting room" right before the event started, Marre reminded the band members of their purpose. "Listen, this concert is not to show off what we can do, but it is a prayer to God on behalf of the survivors of the disaster." This unified the band members' hearts.
At noon on August 15th, this long anticipated event started. Samuel, from GrapeCity Inc., opened the event in fluent Japanese. Then a couple well known ninjas from Kids' Fest took the stage and said hello.
At lunch, yaki soba (grilled noodles) and hotdogs were served.
The much anticipated taiko (Japanese drums) group, Taiko-Sho-Nin Medetai, began their performance.
Makoto Sekine and Lue Egami of Taiko-Sho-Nin Medetai trained with a prestigious taiko group and have performed many times at KBC. With Rikuzen-Takata being known for taiko, Heavenese especially wanted Makoto and Ruu to play for the people there.
Their performance is very dramatic through the use of large taiko. Because the local people are so familiar with taiko they make a great audience, enjoying and applauding the fine subtleties that only expert eyes can see. Rikuzen-Takata is a great taiko city.
Children playing "air taiko"
Makoto and Lue had a great performance for an equally great audience.
Next up was the main act of the event, Heavenese.
Even though Heavenese has an upcoming concert tour in L.A.,
they still saw this concert as very important.
At the traditional Japanese summer Gion Festivals held throughout Japan, the participants shout "enyarya" which initially was shouted as a praise to God. The "ya" ! at the end is the same "jah" from the Hebrew "hallelujah". Even to this day, wether they know it or not, the Japanese people have been shouting praises to God for ages.
Marre encouraged the crowd to sing along, and the venue overflowed with the "Hallelujah Chorus" as if everyone there was unified in lifting a prayer of hope heavenwards.
On this day there was something that Marre really wanted to share to those in the audience.
"Right after the catastrophe, I was in the U.S. and people there were astonished by how you (the Japanese people) evacuated calmly and didn't loot/riot and by how pure-hearted and strong humans can be. People from all over the world were moved by your behavior and received a dose of courage watching you. You are a light to the world."
Marre has shared this several times on local radio, but he had been waiting for the opportunity to share it with them in person.
Heavenese is a band that meshes Japanese soul music and Gospel music into what they call "Japanese Gospel". Kumiko's vocals drew special attention from the audience as they reminded them of traditional Japanese ! folk music. The audience also greatly enjoyed the "jam session" that the taiko (Japanese drums) drummers and the shamisen (Japanese "guitar") player performed.
For the closing, all the members of Heavenese played taiko and received a great round of applause.
After the performance by Heavense, Mobile KBC served cheesecake, parfait and iced coffee.
The people in attendance received a bag of relief goods which included the fresh vegetables.
The place people came to receive their relief goods had messages of support from the people of Minamata.
After the performance, members of Heavenese talked with the local people.
A lady with tears in her eyes said, "I am so glad to be alive so I could see this wonderful event. This has been the best moment of my life."
It wasn't clear if "the best moment of my life" truly meant her whole life, her life prior to the disaster, or her life since the disaster. Nonetheless it was a heavy and moving thing to hear.
Many people thanked us, but we are the ones who should be doing the thanking. How these people ar handling the great difficulties their are facing brings us hope.
Since Heavenese is based out of KBC in Sengawa, Tokyo (Kick Back Cafe is a cafe and a live music venue) they have wanted to take their show to the people up North who were affected greatly by the disaster. Heavenese was not sure when the right time was to have a concert or how their music would be received, so they genuinely sought the advice of the local people. This concert was held as a result of a lot careful thought and consideration, and it all paid off as the event was a complete success.
A representative from the temporary housing unit said, "This live concert (out of all they have had) has unified the hearts of the people like never before."
The concert was more well received than had been expected, and this representative was surprised by how many people came to the concert. Needless to say, this came about through the help and support of the local people who passed out flyers and spread the word about this event.
A major key to the success of this concert was the close relationships that came out of our previous 10 visits to Rikuzen-Takata over the past 5 months. These trips have resulted in relationships being built with the people, enabling the KBC workers to have open conversations with them. Even though these relationships came about as a result of great loss and suffering, KBC workers are thankful that they have been able to get to know these people and want to continue strengthening these relationships. Looking over the venue there were familiar faces scatter throughout. One of those familiar faces was Susumu Sasai who has been tagged as, "The Manager of KBC Rikuzen-Takata". He has been written about several times in previous trip reports.
Ms. Sugawara received a supply of baby formula on June 18th as she was pregnant. She and her baby who was 18 days old came to the concert.
There was a God orchestrated encounter after the concert when the head priest and a representative from the local Shinto shrine asked Heavenese to play music at an upcoming "day of prayer for the Tohoku area" event at the shrine. Gospel music will rock a shrine! A great venue has been prepared for Heavenese (all the details of this upcoming event will be announced later).
Children playing with bubbles which were in the bags of relief goods.
Right after getting the stage broken down and packed up there was a cloudburst that cooled everyone down. The day's events ended with a rainbow seeing off all the volunteers.
The people of Rikuzen-Takata have witnessed both the magnificent beauty and the terrifying power of nature. It is a place where people are humbled before God.
On-site Report ----------------------
A building stands in the rubble in Rikuzentakata, northern Japan after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011.
Rikuzen-Takata:5,000 Homes Under Water and 15,000 People Missing
On March 12th, the Self Defense Force of Japan started its rescue efforts of most all of the households of the city of Rikuzen-Takata that has been demolished by the recent earthquakes which is estimated at 5,000. From the rescue efforts in Takata area, the most damaged area, 52 bodies were recovered on the 12th, and on the 13th, 114 more bodies, totaling 166 in the 2 days. The rescue effort, however, has been slowed because of the debris blocking all traffic to the city whose population is 23,000. According to the task force of the city, roughly 8,000 people are staying in emergency evacuated areas. The city is doing what they can to locate the the rest of the population. The City Hall, a 4-story building, was engulfed by the tsunami and out of 300 workers there, the whereabouts of 100 employees hav not been determined. Also, the city resident registry has been lost causing difficulty in identifying who the victims are.
There has been some positive news as the Self Defense Force of Japan has been successful rescuing 37 people isolated from roofs of buildings. Rescue efforts will continue. (March 13, 7:48PM(JST), NHK)