Backpacks for Japan

UPDATE: Backpacks for Japan is still accepting financial donations to assist with the cost of shipping donated items to Japan. If you would like to make a donation contact Dr. Tomoko Iwai ( or email CJS and we can forward your message.

The message below comes via Dr. Tomoko Iwai in the EALL Department.

Dear all,

I’m sure many of you have already done your share to help out the victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

I ran across another way people are helping the victims in Japan and thought some of you may be interested. The Girl Scouts and others at Camp Zama, the US Army Base in Kanagawa, Japan are putting together backpacks filled with toys and other items for the children in the shelters.

I decided to send this to you because the other day I saw a picture of Japanese children in one of the shelters playing with a handmade sugoroku (Japanese board game). There were five or six kids huddled around this letter-size piece of paper. Having two kids of elementary school age, I thought those children need toys so that they can play especially in this trying time.

There is a contact person for this project in Hawaii. Major Nathan Ledbetter of the United States Army (and current UHM graduate student in Asian Studies), who used to be stationed at Camp Zama, is sending boxes to Camp Zama and will accept any donations (cash or toys, stationary, etc.) to include in the boxes. The items will be delivered by the members of the United States Armed Forces to the shelters in the affected areas.

All the second-graders at Manoa Elementary School are also writing cards to the Japanese children and doing extra chores at home to earn money to give to this cause.

If you would like to donate, you can contact Major Nathan Ledbetter ( I will be in contact with Major Ledbetter so you can contact me as well. Major Ledbetter asks that the donation be made on or before April 15th so there is enough time to pack and send the boxes.

Here is the website for the Operation Backpacks: the website has suggestions for what to donate.

In memoriam

CJS is sad to note the passing of distinguished local Okinawan musician Harry Seisho Nakasone. For years, Nakasone-sensei taught uta-sanshin at UH, and kept the Okinawan musical tradition alive, especially in Hawaii and California. The songs from his strings will continue to resonate. For more information about him, see:

Aloha for Japan

The following link is to ‘Aloha for Japan,’ a consortium of community leaders and organizations, coordinated by Lieutenant-Governor Schatz and Consul-General Kamo, who have mobilized to provide aid to Japan.  CJS strongly supports their efforts.

Director’s Statement

Ever since I was a first-grader, when Kobe and my home town of Seattle became sister cities, and I saw pictures of Kobe, and learned to count to five in Japanese, Japan has been a part of me.  And since 1974, it has been my career.  In the past 27 years, not a day has gone by where Japan was not in my thoughts – either because I was living there, learning about it, teaching about it, or just thinking about it.

I have found myself unable to articulate the pain and shock I feel at the current crisis that faces Japan after the Tohoku earthquake, devastating tsunami, and subsequent nuclear plant disasters.  Like so many others, here and in Japan, I feel tremendous frustration at not being able to do anything beyond throw money at it.  It is even more unsettling to me that as the catastrophe keeps unfolding, it gives us no chance to mourn what has already passed, yet I feel that we must mourn before we can move on.  I want the horror to stop so that I – we – can grieve for what has happened.

I was at Narita Airport yesterday, and I saw not the “run for your lives” panic the media told me I would see, but people going about their day-to-day as best they could, waiting for a time when they could say, “Okay, now let’s focus on re-building.”  In fact, I was there on my way back from conducting business in Okinawa as “normally” as I could because I did not want to admit that a disaster – even one of this proportion – could cripple Japan beyond hope.

The take-away is simple: at times like this, keep your head down, do your job, and whatever else might be asked of you.  Japan deserves our best efforts.

-Robert Huey, CJS Director

Two related notes: First, this recent opinion piece in the Washington Post expresses a similar sentiment that CJS wanted to share. Second, the comment function has been opened for both this and the previous post. Please feel free to offer any comments you might have. Inappropriate language or sentiments will not be indulged.


Everyone at CJS would like to extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to those in Japan suffering from the earthquake and tsunami damage. All of Japan is in our thoughts today as this tragic disaster continues to unfold. We will continue to follow the events and post relevant information as it becomes available.

TBS is also broadcasting a live stream of their coverage of the events online. You can watch via this link:

If you would like to donate toward disaster relief, consider the Red Cross, or the Japanese Red Cross (note – access to this site fluctuates as Internet access remains inconsistent in Japan); if you are trying to locate people you are concerned about, try Google’s people finder. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, and the Japan America Society of Hawaii are also  organizations where donations can be directed to aid the relief efforts.

Also, the US Department of State has issued a travel warning for Japan. That warning can be found via this link.