Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the "Conspiracy of Kindness" fundraiser for Japan at the Skirball Museum in LA. This very emotionally moving evening not only raised funds for Japan, but it also showcased a remarkable documentary on Chiune Sugihara - the Japanese Consulate stationed in Lithuania who saved thousands of Jewish refugees during WWII.
Both the Consulate General of Japan, Mr. Hirotaka Kakita, Advisor to Consular Affairs and the General Consulate of Israel, Jacob Dayan introduced the evening along with Mr. Carl Hartill, the Consulate General of Canada, sharing the heroic efforts of this man, Sugihara, who lost his career and his family by risking it all to use his diplomatic power to save as many lives as possible. The film showcased Sugihara's kindness firsthand and the plight of desperate refugees - many of them women, children and elderly who swarmed his consulate begging for visas so they could survive. He risked his life and his family's life by issuing as many visas as possible without waiting for approval from diplomatic headquarters in Japan. As a result, he was stripped of his position with the consulate and forced to live several years separated from his family taking menial jobs before returning in his last years to his wife and family in Japan a broken man.
Though he died virtually unknown in Japan, his courageous efforts are noticed today with honors/memorials made in his honor in Israel, Lithuania, and in his hometown of Yaotsu, Japan on the Hill of Humanity. It is especially important for young people to know this story and this man's remarkable courage to follow his heart in the name of humanity, equality and love for all. Therefore, it will definitely be included in MY LITTLE JAPANESE FRIEND for the Pals series.
The speakers tonight emphasized the remarkable parallels between the Russian and Japanese cultures and how today the cycle of "giving back" between cultures continues. This moving and educational event was wonderful to witness, especially the reaction of those who viewed the screening and the realization that these two diverse cultures really aren't so different after all. The same aha moment occurred the day before when Russian Supermodel Julia Lescova was reading/celebrating Pals Around the World with the students at Lankershim for their 100th Anniversary and several of our Hispanic students started to connect the similarities in words and culture between Russia, France and Spain/Mexico - so it was beautiful to see the adults tonight make that same realization too :)
Before the screening of SUGIHARA - CONSPIRACY OF KINDNESS began, tonight's evening started in the reception area, where I met the two amazing souls behind: AI LUV JAPAN: https://www.facebook.com/AiLov eJapan Ken Matsui and Darrell Miho. The two photographers decided to start the organization after taking a trip to Japan in the wake of their recent tragedy to see if they could help out and document the recovery. The slide show of the devastation they witnessed was truly a shocker. From large cruise ships tossed thousands of miles away with parts of their hull missing, to dilapidated buildings - the pictures moved me to tears beyond words. Something I learned from Ken was the enormous amount of group effort he witnessed among the people in the aftermath of Fukishima. Although 40 years earlier, their village was wiped out from a similar natural disaster that started of the coast of Chile, Ken explained that many older people are so tied to the land that they will rebuild again and stay. This sense of honor and pride shows the strength and courage of the Japanese people and how they are truly survivors. The guys will be sharing their documentary of survivor stories around the world.
Ippon Matsue means "the lone pine tree" in Japan - as only 1 tree survived the magnitude of the 9.0 earthquake in tact while all the other nearby homes and pines trees were snapped like toothpicks. As a result, the lone pine tree has become the symbol of the Japanese strength and spirit. In its honor, AI LUV JAPAN has developed screen prints of this symbolic tree that will be available soon - with all sales to benefit the victims of Japan. In addition, the event featured creative PRAY FOR JAPAN jewelry from Jewelry by Veronique - like the main character in PALS AROUND THE WORLD - MY LITTLE FRENCH FRIEND.http://www.jewelrybyveronique.com/jbv-blog.html