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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA to hold benefit for Japan relief

Robert Alcaraz
Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Daily Wildcat Mikihiro Shimane, an international student from Japan, talks about how the catastrophic disasters have effected him on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Shimane knows people that were directly hit by the tsunami.

UA community members with ties to Japan are holding a benefit concert to raise money and promote healing on Saturday.

Students from the UA School of Music and other local musicians will perform and collect donations for the Japanese Red Cross Society. The organization is helping Japan’s recovery efforts after the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Laura Tagawa, a violin doctoral student in the School of Music, said she brainstormed the idea with Japanese friends at a dinner a few days after the earthquake. Tagawa’s husband is from Japan and she taught English in the country in 2004.

“”I was so surprised to hear the news,”” Tagawa said. “”The images really concerned me.””

Tagawa said she continues to be overwhelmed even though her family and friends are safe.

“”They didn’t live in the area,”” she said. “”But the images feel very close to home. The devastation is so great. I felt distraught watching the news.””

Her friends who helped organize the concert shared Tagawa’s feelings. Emma Noël Votapek, who plays violin for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and is the wife of UA assistant professor of music Mark Votapek, was born in Japan.

“”It’s heartbreaking,”” Votapek said. “”I know from being a kid in Japan that they had very detailed earthquake codes … but to see that much destruction …””

The concert will not only raise money for Japan but also unite the community, Votapek said. Performances will include music by classical and Japanese composers as well as Japanese dance.

“”Japan is so far away,”” Votapek said. “”We feel like we’re helping out in a very small way. We feel like we’re making a difference.””

Japanese exchange student Mikihiro Shimane said he is touched by the willingness of the Tucson community to support Japan. He said his American friends immediately contacted him after hearing the news of the earthquake and tsunami to ask if his family was OK.

“”I felt really happy when a lot of not just Japanese but a lot of other nationalities consider Japan,”” Shimane said. “”They really were worried about Japan and were talking to us, texting me (to see) if there’s anything they can do. They wanted to support me.””

Shimane is from a city near Tokyo and was able to contact his family soon after the earthquake.

“”I heard that there was a big shake in Tokyo as well,”” he said. “”The houses were OK, but I heard they had to turn off electricity about three to four hours a day every day, which is kind of tough because electricity is the most important to living. My mom said she had to prepare hot water beforehand so that she could make food.””

Shimane will return to Japan at the end of the semester and said he hopes the country receives the assistance it needs to recover.

“”I heard that our university in Japan had a new building that was built two years ago,”” Shimane said. “”There was already a big crack in that as well. It kind of reminds me that this was a pretty big earthquake.””

Shimane said events like the benefit concert show the community’s willingness to help.

“”Even though Tucson doesn’t have a big Japanese population, people really consider our country,”” he said.

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