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Memorial Concert For Japan Earthquake & Tsunami 2016

Kakehashi Project: “The Unity Bridge Project”

Japan Memorial Concert 2016 pic 1111th March 2011 was a devastating day in Japanese history. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful to ever be recorded in Japan, hit the country’s east coast and triggered a massive tsunami that devastated the Tōhoku region. The wave travelled 10km inland in some areas of the country, and over 15,000 people were killed by the event. To this day, Japan is still in shock about the disaster but they are determined to remain brave in the face of adversity.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the disaster, and on 14th March the Unity Bridge Project held a charity concert at the Assembly Hall, Islington, London in honour of those affected by the event. Organised and presented by Japanese pop singer Naomi Suzuki, the event offered up the best of traditional Japanese culture in the UK, from fan dancing to the shamisen.

Japan Memorial Concert 2016 pic 1 - Japanese Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi

Japanese Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi

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Singer Naomi Suzuki

Japanese Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi opened the live show with a message thanking those that have shown and continue to show support to the victims of the 2011 earthquake & tsunami, and spoke of his appreciation for the event’s organiser singer/songwriter Naomi Suzuki who herself was critically ill in the UK and fighting for her life at the time of the disaster but fought on encouraging those affected by the devastation with her music, turning their tears into smiles.  The special memorial concert was filled with a wide range of music and dance, kicking off with a powerful performance by Joji Hirota and the London Taiko Drummers. Formed in the 80s, the group are a highly regarded in the UK and have performed all over the world at festivals and events, and their energetic presentation was a great way to open the show. Hirota also performed numbers on his own, not using Taiko drums but a shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese flute), and the sombre melodies illustrated the event’s origins well.

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Musician Joji Hirota

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Naomi Suzuki performing with Joji Hirota

It was violinist Diana Yukawa who provided the most ethereal performance, though. Presenting her own compositions for the audience Yukawa’s songs were deeply moving, and her second song was particularly effective. The violinist was then joined by Naomi Suzuki on stage, and the pair performed an upbeat cover of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ to create a lighter atmosphere.

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Violinist Diana Yukawa

Japan Memorial Concert 2016 pic 7 - Hanayagi Ryu Satonoko-kai

Traditional Japanese dance troupe Hanayagi Ryu Satonoko-kai

Yukawa was not the only person that Suzuki collaborated with onstage. The event saw the children’s dance troupe Hanayagi Ryu Satonoko-kai present their traditional Japanese dances (or Nihon-Buyo) with accompaniment from Suzuki. The group, who came from Fukushima for the event, performed various dances with her, using fans and umbrellas (from the organisation Merry Project, a communication-art project to spread the wave of MERRY under the theme of “Smile is a universal language”) as props for each song – the highlight of which was their dance using umbrellas with pictures of children from Japan for Suzuki’s ‘Our Song’.

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Master shamisen player Hibiki Ichikawa

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Hibiki Ichikawa and students

The group were also accompanied by Hibiki Ichikawa, a master shamisen player who is one of the most well-known Japanese musicians in the UK. Performing on his own and with his students, Ichikawa proved why he is a master of his craft with his performances alongside the dance group being the highlight of the event.

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Hanayagi Ryu Satonoko-kai

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Naomi Suzuki performing with Hanayagi Ryu Satonoko-kai

Funds were raised for the Children’s Smile Project, a charity which Suzuki has worked with over the past five years to help comfort those effected by the disaster with music. Their collaboration with the Rainbow Bridge Project for the concert aimed to build a bridge of friendship between the UK and Japan, and as the concert was broadcast live around the world it certainly felt like this was the case.

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Naomi Suzuki

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Thames Taiko Drummers

An especially moving moment was when recorded messages from those that were helped by the charity was shown, but it was the closing message from the youngest member of the Fukushima Nihon-Buyo dance group that was the most poignant. Speaking in English, the girl conveyed her thanks to the UK and the charities involved in the night’s event for helping support the areas affected by the 2011 earthquake, and it was a touching way to close the event.

Japan Memorial Concert 2016 pic 14

Naomi Suzuki performing with Diana Yukawa

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Memorial Concert for Japan Earthquake & Tsunami 2016 performers

Watch the full concert here:

Photos by SLPeet Photography

Websites:

Naomi Suzuki

Diana Yukawa

Hibiki Ichikawa

Merry Project

Author Profile:

Roxy Simons is a journalist who has been in love with all things Japanese ever since she first set her eyes on Sailor Moon at the age of five. Since then she has become fascinated with the culture, cuisine, and history of the country, and has a particular obsession with Rurouni Kenshin, Shaman King, and Bakuman. When she’s not watching things to review or playing Touken Ranbu, she can be found plotting her next trip to Japan.

Websites: www.mainichientertainment.com, www.viewofthearts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viewofthearts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/roxysimons

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