East Japan Earthquake    March 11, 2011

Send LOVE Concert in Minamata

July 30, 2011

On July 30th, the same day that Mobile Kids' Fest took place, there was another event of the Send LOVE project that took place a long way from Rikuzen-Takata. It was held in Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu.

It was a charity concert starring Shinichiro Ryu and his wife Mikayo called "Send LOVE Concert-Sending Love from Minamata"


Ryu, who is a professional opera singer and sings for the New National Theatre in Tokyo, is originally from Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture.
He also participates in the events at Kick Back Cafe and sings for Heavenese, the group that is scheduled to tour in the US this coming fall.
In addition to these things, he went to the city of Rikuzen-Takata to help with Mobile Kids' Fest. Ryu told his family and friends about his experience interacting with kids in Rikuzen-Takata.
After hearing of his experience, his family and friends wanted to do something for the city of Rikuzen-Takata, and they came up with the idea of a charity concert to be conducted in Minamata.

As Ryu reflects back on his motives for conducting the concert he said, "I just didn't want people to forget about this tragedy".

Minamata is more than 1,700 km/1050 miles fro Rikuzen-Takata. With it already being 4 months since the catastrophe, many people have started to lose sight of it. A charity event could be the means to help the people get their focus back on the needs of those up North once again as well as serve as an opportunity to tell people about the current state of Rikuzen-Takata.
Ryu was initially thinking of a small venue, but through the emphatic opinions of those around him, the Minamata City Culture Center, which holds up to 960 people, was chosen as the venue.
The overwhelming opinion was that thi message needed to be heard in a large venue to as many people as possible.
With only 2 months to get everything in line for the concert, which seamed to be too short for such an event, once the word got out supporters were knocking on the door as local corporations came forward to be sponsors for this event.
There was a press conference and 3 TV networks and 4 newspapers came.

7/30, the day of the concert, the city was filled with posters for this event. There were stores closing early for the concert; you could say that the whole city of Minamata "sent LOVE" through this event.

The venue was almos sold out as more than 800 people gathered, a record in recent years.

Ryu's close friends, classmates, and neighbors came to the concert, and when he saw them he felt the great warmth of his hometown. At the same time, he felt very strongly that this concert was not for self-promotion, but only a "tool" to deliver the message of LOVE through his music. Before the concert, those involved took each other's hands and prayed for the people of the Tohoku region, and specifically for Iwate prefecture, where Rikuzen-Takata is located.

This July, Ryu and Mikayo celebrated 8 years of marriage. As they stood on the stage together sharing their mutual passion for music, this even became an important milestone for their marriage.

The piano was played by Ryu's friend, Ken Tanaka, and Naoko Onizuka who is a local of Minamata.
All the performers played for free and all the expenses were paid for by the sponsors.
This way all the gate proceeds would be sent to Rikuzen-Takata.

"I believ this generous spirit provoked empathy in a lot of people."

The program consisted of a few opera songs like the popular "Sen no Kaze ni Natte" and "When You Wish Upon a Star". Ryu also sang the gospel song "Deep River", a song that is identified with him as a member of Heavenese.
Ryu said, "It all comes down to this song everything is in it."
This song goes back to the days of slavery in the US. The slaves sang of their hope in their ultimate promised land beyond the "deep river", a place of great distress and difficulty. Thinking of this hope, Ryu poured out his heart to the people far away in Tohoku.


The show ended in a moving way.

Ryu and Mikayo sang the theme song of the send LOVE project, "Taisetsunahitoyo" (You are an Important Person) by Heavenese, with the choir from Minamata High School, the high school Ryu graduated from. As the song was being sung, the moment was beyond description, as the entire audience sang th song together, as if to reach those in Rikuzen-Takata.

This concert was made possible by Yoshihisa Iwamoto, Ryu's former teacher and the director of the Send LOVE concert.

Even though the Minamata High School choir was preparing for a summer competition, they found the time to practice "Taisetsunahitoyo" which made this song even more inspiring.

To all the members of the Minamata High School choir, thank you for greatly contributing to such a meaningful event.

Minamata is most famous for the pollution-caused diseases that sprang up a few decades ago. This dark chaper in the history of this city has blemished the name "Minamata" forever.

However, the city has implemented measures that have significantly made the environment of the city better, so much so that it has become one of the few cities that are considered model environmentally friendly cities.

The citizens of Minamata have worked fervently to return the environment and especially the water to the high quality it once was. The people of Minamata can in some ways relate to those in devastated Rikuzen-Takata as they know how it is to go through a challenging time.

"This whole thing was done so that the March 11th catastrophe will not be forgotten. But I was wrong about the people here. The citizens of Minamata know to a degree what those i Rikuzen-Takata is going through. All these people have always wanted to do something for them. They were just waiting for the opportunity" said Ryu.

With the event behind us, there are already people desiring a second Send LOVE concert. The deputy mayor of the city said, "This should not be the only time we do this."

"Once in a life-time experience", "Not an experience that all choirs go through." said the members of the Minamata High School choir.

There are also talks of inviting Heavenese to do a concert next time, too.


Looking at this event Ryu said, "Today I understand the power that music has to unite the hearts and minds of people no matter who or where they are. I want to tell the people in Tohoku and especially Rikuzen-Takata that the people in Minamata care about them."
With this thought in mind, he is going to be performing with Heaveaese in Rikuzen-Takata on August 15th.


On-site Report ----------------------

Kana's Hometown
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)



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