Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Write for Rights part II

Thank you, ladies.
13 people joined us at the event and a total of 150 letters(!) have been sent to Iran, China, Zimbabwe, North Korea (Switzerland), Mexico, and Bahrain. With your generous donation, all the postage was covered and the rest was donated to Amnesty International by Vera.

Approximately 265,000 letters were sent worldwide during this campaign and I am so happy to have done this with you all.

I hope that all the people we wrote to together will stay in our heart and prayers and they will be freed.

Lastly, thank you for your help with the letters, Ingrid.

Enjoyed meeting new friends.  Thank you for bringing sweets and snacks.

2011 Write for Rights with Amnesty part I

I have been an Amnesty International member for a while. Even though I have sent a couple of small cards to those falsely imprisoned, I have to admit I hadn't quite believed in the power of letters until I read an Enews about past Write for Rights,  and how it had saved lives and delivered hopes.

Immediately I thought of joining the event pledging I would write about 10 letters.

From time to time in life, valuable signs appear in unexpected moments and ways.

About a week later,  I was looking for a vegetarian restaurant my friend once talked about on the web and when I looked up its location, I realized that it was only walking distance from the Rothko Chapel.   This chapel is a beautiful, meditating place for people of every belief.

I am now sadly counting down my days in the US  and this was one of the places I had really wanted to visit but never had the chance. Wow, it's almost like it is telling me to come!  Yes, I am going this time. Then on the event schedule, I found the Oscar Romero award ceremony and the familiar name, Larry Cox.  He was the former executive director at Amnesty International and he will be speaking.

My oldest daughter and my two friends, Akiko and Hiromi, joined me at the ceremony. It was quiet and moving. We were captivated by the powerful human rights speech by award recipient, Madame Nassau, and that of Larry Cox.  The words were powerful because these individuals had seen the worst that I can never even begin to imagine. It was powerful because even though they had seen the worst, they see the lights.

The ceremony was quite long but at the end as I hoped, I was able to ask Madame Nassau for her hands. I wanted to hold her hands because her son has been missing since 13 years ago. She tirelessly kept finding to unveil the mystery behind this tragedy and finally traced where the families of all 7,000 missing men and women were in Algeria.

The kidnap was a job brutally done by the government.

Justice is still far away but beautiful and soft spoken Madame Nassau and the warmth of her hands will surely give me courage in difficult times.

Back to Write for Rights.

Instead of writing letters just by myself, what I experienced this day gave me a tap on the shoulder to plan and host a write-a-thon. I asked support from my very best friend Vera who strongly believes the power of the pen and despite her busy schedule, she helped me in so many ways.

This is the invitation.
Dear Friends,
Something is not going right. People are protesting all around the world. But what if just voicing your opinion could lead you to torture and imprisonment?

My friend Vera and I are hosting 2011 Global Write for Rights w/ Amnesty International. By writing letters we can save somebody's life. It's true. Aung San Suu Kyi says so! Also we can send those falsely imprisoned hope by including them in our prayers in this holiday season.

We hope it will be a meaningful morning shared among friends.
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 8th
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Place: Mariko's house
*Please R.S.V.P.
** Drink and snack will be served.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pray for Japan VIII: Showing Japan's Art and Crafts Sale at ICH Fair

わずか7ヶ月と大変短い期間ですが、仲間に入れていただいたショーイングジャパンにもそろそろお別れです。いつも地元の人々のニーズに応え、日本文化の発信に務めてきたヒューストンのこの団体に少しでも恩返しができたら?と思いクラフトセールの参加を打診してみました。さすがSJチーム、あっというまにメンバー集まる!この売上金を活動費の足しにできれば、と思ったのは私の勝手な考えですが、結局メンバーの皆さんの協力がなければ無理なのです。かえってご迷惑にならなかったことを祈ります。。。 しかし沢山のことを学ばさせていただきました。感謝感激雨あられ、とはまさにこのこと。

嗚呼、「毎日が実験」の私の生活。でもこういうことをキッチンの片隅でやってると本当に楽しー。(日本に帰ったらそんなスペースないぞ。。。) 多めに作ってクリスマスのプレゼントに友人に差し上げたら喜んでもらえました。でもやはりこちらの方々は「派手」なものがお好きなようで、「雪」をイメージして選んだ白地に美しい模様が透ける布で折ったものは一番人気がなかったです。私はこれが一番好きだったんだけどな。

11月17日(木) 10:00〜12:00
ヒューストンにICH(International Connection of Houston)という団体があります。これは海外からヒューストンに駐在している人々、もしくはアメリカから海外に駐在、滞在経験がある人々の文化交流機会を提供するNPOです。 毎年ICHはクリスマス前にArt & Crafts Fairを開催するのですが、なかなか人気のフェアということで、今回ははショーイングジャパンもブースを出すことにいたしました。

時節柄プレゼントを探すお客様が多く、折り鶴のピアスや同じく鶴のクリスマスオーナメントがよく売れたようです。売り娘(?)の着物や法被姿を喜んでご覧になって行ったお客様が多かったです。参加者もブースをぬけては買い物を楽しみました。 短い準備期間で品物作りや値付け等にご協力頂いた皆様、ありがとうございました。売り上げの一部を震災の復興費としてグローバルギビング経由で寄付させていただきました。

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pray for Japan VII: Craft Sale at Noriko's

You think you know someone until one day....

Highly talented Sugar Land ladies planned once again a charity craft sale for Tsunami Relief.  They are Noriko, Mitsuko, Yuko and Masako.
From left: Yuko, Mitsuko, Noriko and Masako

It was another fun day with friends and guests discovering talents of someone you know. It made me feel so warm and excited just looking and touching such delicate and beautiful works of art.  Many other ladies also helped out by baking sweets and bread for the sale.  Every body's favorite, Mitsuko's jewelry was not in the photo here...  They sold out quickly but she received many orders, and the good part is they  will custom made for your taste and size!  She will be so busy in the next few months.

 I don't have anything and any talent for the sale but joined anyway (just for the sake of it and also as a craft experiment) by making flower vase/diffuser and origami crane ornament.

Flower vase/diffuser. 

Love and peace both in Japanese and English
 are printed on the wings

My girls and their friend Alexis also made bracelets and we all enjoyed the process.

Yuko's wine glass marker sold out very quickly.

Noriko's beautiful Pumpkins.  The one in the middle was quite a size.
Fun decoration for the season.

Noriko's father (in Japan) made beautiful key holder from sea shells

Masako's gorgeous pillow: I got the one on the right!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pray for Japan VI: Tea Ceremony and Dance

Terada-san's beautiful whisking technique
It started out as a simple thought, "I wonder if I can have a charity tea ceremony at my house?"  When I got a chance to talk to Okuhara-san, the head of Showing Japan, a group of volunteer ladies who does Japanese art/culture presentation,  she needed only 15 minutes and one phone call to Tamura-sensei, the tea master, and my mere thought began to take perfect form.

 I was so impressed with how quickly things went that I got goose bumps.  Well, I always do every time I see these ladies go for a presentation anywhere.  I mean everywhere; schools, hospitals, libraries, festivals and so on.

 Now that I have the privilege of having those ladies' help, I started immediately to work on spreading the word out on this event and hoped many people would come.  On top of that I had a lot to learn, because I knew nothing about tea ceremony!!!  The reason I came up with this idea was I had tatami mats at home.  That's it.

Sacchan's homemade sweets
along with flower-shaped sugary cake from Japan

Anyways, it's true what they say in the movie.
"If you build it, they will come."

 I was so honored to have the presence of wonderful friends and their friends as guests and experienced ladies from Showing Japan as tea ceremony hosts and dancers at my house. I admit, that I must have been the one who had the most fun that day!
 The term the famous tea master Sen no Rikyu used in tea ceremony is “Ichigo ichie.” It means that we must treasure every encounter, as it can be the last time in our life time.

Ever since March 11th, I have felt this great sense of oneness and global friendship in people around me and I am so fortunate to have that, because that is something which keeps me going every day and without that, all this wouldn't have been possible.
 Despite of the huge tragedy, when we are willing to open our eyes, there is so much beauty in this world and this day was surely one of them.

 As an expat from Japan, I don't know how much time is left for me here in the US. This experience is something that I'll take home and cherish for the rest of my life. All the people who took part in this event have such open hearts. Please keep radiating your light and kindness to the people around you! Also I would like to thank my friends who brought delicious lunch and dessert for the break. You rock.

The proceeds of this event was $746 and it went to Global Giving Foundation as Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.  Huge thanks to those of you sending me checks even though you couldn't make it that day.  Thank you, again.

Pictures from the ceremony: Please find yourself
About Japanese Tea Ceremony:

 Showing Japanの機動力を垣間見、その意思決定のスピードに感激しながらこのイベントはスタートした。

 そんな訳で尊敬するShowing Japanのメンバーや友人・お客様に囲まれ、一番この日を楽しんだのは他でもなくホストである私でした。

 7割以上を様々な国籍のお客様が占めていたが、彼らは和敬清寂・一期一会の精神に触れ、日々の生活を振り返る大変良い機会を得た、と大変喜んでいらした。また参加できなかったが趣旨に賛同頂いた方々からも寄付金を頂き、お陰で746ドルをGlobal Giving Foundation に寄せることができた。この寄付金は被災地で活動するNGOの資金として即役立っています(。多くの方々の温かい心とお力添えのお陰です。この場をお借りいたしまして心より御礼申し上げます。 

The left is the speaker, Yuko-san. 
So much to learn from her. 

Traditional dance "Sakura Sakura" Okuhara-san (left) and Inao-san (right)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pray for Japan V: Movie "Gaia Symphony I"

My daughters Hana (4) and Maya (1) waiting for the movie to start.
In front of them is the poster I made.
Highly acclaimed Japanese documentary "Gaia Symphony" was screened at Japanese Supplementary School of Houston on April 30th.  Close to 80 people gathered and watched the movie. Many said they would like to see the other 6 sequels in the future,  hoping family members and more people would join them.   My dear friend Akiko, organizer of this event and her husband's rare set of DVDs of this documentary made it possible.  They are amazing friends to me and their passion to spread the message "Gaia(the Earth)" has moved me in so many ways.
 Great support  from the headmaster Mr. Nakashima and Takada-san, and always super Sugar Land friends.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pray for Japan IV: Ema's artwork sale

My oldest daughter Ema, 8 years old

"Pink Lily" by Ema Sunada
(Water colour and pastel)

As I was helping out Noriko and Mitsuko's craft sale, Ema asked me if she could do something to help.  We had my mother in-law and sister in-law visiting us at that time (they were fortunate not being in Japan when the earthquake hit. ) and I asked them to make chopstick pouches for the sale.  I thought she could help them with this but it required such delicate work that Ema told me she would rather paint and sell. 

 As soon as she said it,  she started scribbling on the back of a small paper which was a handout from school.  I told her if she wanted to sell a painting, we got to do it right.  So I took out a flower vase and set up stuff for painting.  Of course the 2 little ones wanted to join their big sister so it became a huge business and mess. 

 Girls were having fun and I made sure to check on Ema from time to time, encouraging her to stay focus on the flower, its delicate petals and colors.  After the paint was dry, I suggested adding pastel and showed her how to do it, and I think that was the only part I touched.  The painting came out absolutely beautiful.

 Even though the picture priced $30 wasn't sold at the sale event, Ema's teacher who knew her small project bought her artwork for $100!  What a wonderful gift not only for the people in the disaster area in Japan but also for this young soul.  This experience gave her a great sense of accomplishment and confidence that she can make a difference in the world.  Thank you so much, wonderful Ms. M.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pray for Japan III: Brown Rice Veggie Sushi

3 kinds of sushi; regular roll, hand roll, and gunkan maki

Some of my friends have been asking me for a while to show them how to make sushi. 

Here comes the perfect opportunity, and I thought "I will do this! "

I loved every minute of preparation and actually enjoyed the teaching part of it.   Thanks to my friends,  I have learned a lot myself.

 Cooking and teaching how to cook are completely different things.  I don't measure.  Oh- oh.  I use electric rice cooker most of the time.  Oh-oh.

  Before this event, I had cooked brown rice in my Le Creuset pot at least 7 times as I adjust water and heat.  I have to be convincing, don't I?

 I wanted my wonderful and generous participants to go home confident that they can do it with what they have at home. 

Also I tried finding the right ingredients and did a lot of experiments.  I made sure that everything we used are found at our local store. 

 We made 3 types of Kind to the Earth, Brown Rice Veggie Sushi.   It was so much fun, conversation going everywhere as we cook, eat and enjoy new found friendship. 

Proceed from this 3 hour event is $465!!!! (went to Global Giving Foundation as Japan Tsunami Relief Fund) 

 Some ladies wanted to join but they couldn't make it. Do you know what they did?  They still send me checks. I am so touched. Thank you. Thank you.

Grape Kanten for dessert

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pray for Japan II: Charity Sale

Akiko-san and baked delights by Sugar Land neighbors

 2 days Crafts sale at my friend Noriko's house.  Contribution from so many people and the proceed ($2164.75) went to Japan Red Cross through Japan Business Association of Houston.
  It was also a great opportunity to meet new friends.  Hope to see many of you in the upcoming events!

Japanese items were donated by many people

Chopstick pouch made with origami paper.
My mother in-law and sister in-law spent long time
making these by hand for this event.

Beautiful jewelries made by Mitsuko-san and Noriko-san.
Major contribution to the sales

More of Mitsuko and Noriko's accessories


Ikebana flowers by children. Vase are made of plastic bottles.

Cheerful cashiers: Makiko-san and Ritsuko-san