Hiroaki Umehara is a Japanese instructor at Texas Tech and also the president of TTU Japanese Earthquake Relief. Umehara made his first visit to Japan a few weeks ago and has been helping victims to cope with the devastation.
"I wanted to actually see and feel what happened in the affected areas, I went to Ishinomaki as a bilingual volunteer sub-leader for eight days. My job was to work with volunteers from overseas (non-Japanese people) using English. We shoveled sludge and distributed necessities for people living in temporary houses. On top of these works, I organized a dance team to perform Soranbushi," Umehara explained.
Soranbushi is one of the most famous traditional songs in Japan. It is a Japanese sea shanty that is said to have been first sung by the fisherman of Hokkaidô, northern Japan. Sôran Bushi accompanies the bon dance in many parts of Japan, and it has its own dancing styles that date back generations. The dance moves depict fishermen dragging nets, pulling ropes and carrying luggage over their shoulders.
Umehara danced for the people in the devastated areas and he has used the dance to raise money for Japanese relief efforts.
"There were only a few people who could actually dance with me, but still it was great to show Tech spirit. It was simply outrageous to be among the damage. Everything was collapsed and it was beyond depressing to see how people are suffering there. But at the same time they told me that they will come back stronger and they are still thankful for being alive," Umehara continued.
Umehara and the TTU Japanese Relief organization have raised over $13,000 to help Japan and its victims. Umehara says he was shocked by how positive the people of Japan are, despite their hardships. "They still have a lot of hope and have not give up anything," Umehara said.
Umehara is trying to organize events that he will hold at Tech next semester and he is also planning to visit more affected areas to dance and uplift the spirits of those who have lost everything.
If you would like to help, you can contact Umehara at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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